Did Florida Democrats pass on challenging “Stand Your Ground” last year thanks to Rod Smith?

Both Florida and national Democrats have been aggressive this week in making “Stand Your Ground” an issue forcing Governor Scott into a position where he has had to address protests and reaffirm his support for an indefensible law.

Consider when “Stand Your Ground” passed the Florida Legislature it was pushed actively by the NRA , Republican Governor Jeb Bush and Republican Attorney General Charlie Crist. But in the legislature, Democrats flocked to back this legislation which resembled the types of laws passed in states governed by military juntas than anything you would see in the western world. Senator Rod Smith, later the chairman of the Florida Democratic Party sponsored the bill and worked hard to bring the majority of Senate Democrats to his side. Legislators from across the state, liberal and conservative, rural and urban, Republican and Democrat voted for this dangerous and quite frankly uncivilized piece of legislation.

But when “Stand Your Ground” was front and center as an issue nationally last year after the Martin killing it was national Democrats especially those from Florida who aggressively sought to make awareness and repeal of the law a priority. The Florida Democratic Party was silent on the matter, at the time led by Rod Smith the Chairman of the Florida Democratic Party. Thirteen months later, under Allison Tant the party has been much more aggressive in trying to define this issue with legislators taking to national TV shows to discuss the potential of a repeal.

Last June I wrote the following at the Political Hurricane:

The newest Q-poll has indicated that a majority of Florida voters support both Rick Scott’s voter purge and the Stand Your Ground law. While this may give comfort to the conservatives and make the Democrats seem squeamish on these issues, this in fact should embolden the Democrats to stand tall.

Florida Democrats have lacked a unified voice and a coherent message over the years. Much of the reason the Republicans win the debate on issues in Florida is because the Democrats have not defined who they are or what they stand for. Additionally, the Democrats have alienated their core constituencies with mixed messages and a failure to clearly differentiate the differences between the two parties in Florida. 
The failure of Florida’s Democrats to take a stand even when it is popular and then try and try to win over the public has been a recurring theme for the past fifteen years as the Democrats have become a permanent minority in state government. Particularly with regards to the voter purge if a strong stand is taken and a message is unified the Democrats can carry the day on this issue. While Congressmen Ted Deutch and Alcee Hastings have been front and center on this matter, with DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz helping to make this a national rallying cry, most Florida Democrats have again been silent and playing scared.
Regarding the Stand Your Ground law, there is more gray area and more room for dissenting opinions within what should be a large tent party. But again, on this issue, the Democrats have an opportunity to clearly define themselves as a party even if it creates a short term hit in some areas. The moral stand will win in the end and repealing Stand Your Ground must be pushed if we are to rebuild a values based, moral party. 
The bottom line is if the Democrats don’t aggressively push a message that can then be connected to the party’s brand, electoral failures will continue. The cautious approach from the FDP has brought Florida’s party a record of futility in state elections only matched by the likes of Utah and Idaho over the past decade.
I applaud Senate Leader Chris Smith (one of the few legislators who spoke out and voted against ” Stand Your Ground” when it was passed in 2005) and the likes of Dwight Bullard for going national in discussion of this matter. A year too late perhaps, but better late than never.

One comment

  1. demdaysi · ·

    I would like to see the FDP take a strong stand against Stand Your Ground instead of going behind the back door and trying to dismantle Black democratic clubs in Florida that deliver the votes in elections. FDP’s staff is known for interfering with these groups to insert their unwanted authority in issues they have no idea how to handle. We need to unify democratic groups, not dismantle them. We can’t win elections or change laws, if we are not united.


%d bloggers like this: