Dwayne Taylor’s bid to become Democratic House Leader is on life support. The progressive community throughout the state has rallied against the faction associated with former House Democratic Leader–designate Darryl Rouson’s coup attempt. This effort to tear apart the Democratic caucus has been actively backed by Republican legislators, corporate and insurance lobbyists as well as disaffected political consultants who double-dip working for candidates in both parties, and party malcontents looking to score a symbolic “victory” over the Florida Democratic Party’s leadership.
Just nine days ago, using creative math Rep. Taylor claimed to have 24 votes for leader. But as I pointed out later that same day, the Rouson faction has a poor history of counting votes. That has now proven to be the case once again as Taylor’s bid languishes with only a handful or so of rock-solid supporters. Backed by Republican and corporate interests aligned with Governor Rick Scott, Rouson’s faction has attempted to take control of the caucus and steer it in a direction of accommodation with the Republican leadership.
Progressive activists have stepped up their efforts in the last few days backed actively by this website both based on our reporting as well our editorial efforts to stop this ill-intentioned coup. Calls have flooded those members identified as perpetrators of the coup – the faction of sore losers who have been looking to trip up Rep. Mark Pafford’s leadership since he replaced Rep. Rouson as Leader-Designee in September 2013.
This is not a true move to reform the Florida Democratic Party or to make Democrats more competitive in House elections as the proponents might claim to some activists. In fact, the most vocal proponents of Taylor candidacy themselves did little if anything to help Democrats in the November elections, instead preferring to play in August primaries in order to try and stack the caucus with potential allies. The more seats the Democrats lost on November 4th, the better it made this small “out” faction backing Rep. Taylor look, so a decision was apparently made to sit out the cycle. Some of these members also spent the summer and fall plotting by sending angry emails to other members of the caucus attempting to undermine the leadership in the middle of an election cycle.
The coup plotters have talked about the need to work with the Republican leadership closely. The irony of this statement is that since taking control of the House nearly two decades ago, Republicans never have felt the need to work with Democrats and routinely misread election results as mandates to push through a radicalized economic agenda that has impeded Florida’s development. I have been around the process in one capacity or another since the Republican took the House majority in 1996, and despite being given every opportunity to pursue mainstream policies they have chosen a recklessly conservative path even when Democrats have laid down, played dead on our values or have tried to shape pragmatic deals that were in the best interest of the state’s future.
Why should Democrats who are in theory an opposition party in a two-party democracy seek to bend over backwards to work with Republicans in the legislature? The dissident faction of Democrats in the Florida House have sought accommodation with corporate interests, the insurance industry and the gun-lobby. To adopt the philosophy of this dissident faction would mean that except on a handful of social issues, virtually no difference will exist between the two parties. With party distinctions made up almost entirely based on geographic locale of the member or ethnicity, we will truly enter a dark age of legislating in the state of Florida.
Being a moderate is a virtuous responsible position for some legislators – However, being a sell-out is not. Republican legislators in the State House do not vote in a moderate or responsible manner on economic, environmental or gun safety issues (they might on hot-button social issues) even if they campaign as moderates and talk like moderates in their own districts. So ultimately an caucus-wide attempt at cohabitation and “moderation” with Republican leaders will end making the House Democratic caucus into a conservative one except on social issues.
The Taylor coup attempt has run its course. Once awareness was raised about what was at stake, Democrats, even those upset with the current leadership or the direction of the Florida Democratic Party began to think twice about backing such a visibly dangerous and irresponsible movement.
My hope is that Rep. Taylor will call for unity in caucus on Monday and drop out of the race, allowing Mark Pafford to win by acclimation. Only then can the Democrats begin moving forward to heal the wounds of the last few years in the House Caucus.