As we enter the home stretch of the legislative session concerns are abound about the cohesion and discipline of the House Democratic Caucus. Cracks began appearing in February when a contentious leadership race ended with Rep. Daryl Rouson defeating Rep. Mia Jones by a single vote for Minority Leader Designee. Then in the early weeks of session Democrats sitting in marginal seats in addition to the uncontrollable conservative first-term Broward County Rep. Katie Edwards repeatedly bucked the party line. Edwards in particular has been defiant in explaining her votes often taking to social media to engage enraged activists.
Last week’s shameful vote by several Democrats on a symbolic measure related to guns was intended by the GOP majority as a slap in the face to not only Florida Democrats but also to the President if he even noticed. Even after loud and inappropriate cheers filled the House floor with such slogans as “Let Freedom Ring” following word of the US Senate’s disappointing rejection of the bi-partisan attempt to institute minimal background checks on guns, several Democrats sided with the Republicans. This spineless display by many Democrats showed a continued unwillingness of some to put the greater good over temporary self-preservation within the House.
But glimmers of hope showed late last week as the caucus stayed unified on several votes on abortion and Sharia Law (I have my own opinions on Sharia Law from my travels but will save that for another time) and appears to be coalescing on several other issues. Leader Perry Thurston (D-Plantation) unlike his predecessor Ron Saunders is a true progressive whose value system matches that of progressive leaders and activists throughout the state.
Thurston’s biggest test are upcoming. Typically in the last week frenzy of session deals are cut by individual Democratic Reps. to trade votes on critical issues for “take-home” legislation or some future political favor. My hope is that we see the cohesion of late last week continue through the end of session, allowing the Democrats to clearly differentiate themselves from the majority Republicans and the excesses associated with a continued reign based on arrogance and entitlement.
Disappointment in Speaker Will Weatherford may play a role also in keeping Democrats unified. The Speaker has proven not to be the type of bi-partisan bridge builder hoped for, and his newly found heavy-handed manners may solidify Democratic unity.