Party controversies fading as Democrats move forward following Pafford victory

While traveling overseas I have been reading with some amusement the analysis of a few people regarding the House Democrats situation and the internal controversies at the Florida Democratic Party. The problem is many of these issues have been manufactured as an effort continues to undermine the move forward being attempted currently by Democratic leaders. However, Mark Pafford has been chosen as House Minority Leader and Allison Tant is staying two more years as FDP Chairwoman. These are irrefutable facts and despite the trouble caused by a group of legislators and activists being egged on by political consultants and Republican-aligned special interests, the party leadership will safely remain in progressive hands. I for one am terribly relieved by this.

This is not to say moderates do not have a role in the party or a seat at the table. Of course they do, and several of the young up-and-coming stars in the Democratic Party, including some legislators, cut a moderate profile. These individuals who we will profile in the near future could be keys to a statewide revival for Democrats. Some moderates like Senator Darren Soto and Representative Katie Edwards are young and savvy enough to be important players in the party for years to come. But ultimately whether Tallahassee insiders like it or not, the Democratic Party is a progressive one and failure uphold liberal views on important policy matters will lead to even greater electoral disaster.

While I have my own negative critiques of the recently-formed LEAD Committee in particular the inclusion of former FDP Chairman Rod Smith, whose tenure was a complete failure, and my colleague Katy Burnett has brilliantly outlined the failed strategy in House elections over the past three cycles, now is the time to stop the hand-wringing and work together for a positive future for the party. Critiques are important, particularly the ones Katy has made about failed strategy and the role of Political Director Christian Ulvert. But it also must be stated that many of the criticisms of the party are coming from corners that would like to see the FDP weak or fail completely. These forces include paid political consultants, elected officials looking to create power vacuums they can fill in local areas, and Republican-oriented special interests.

Rep. Dwayne Taylor’s ill-conceived and ill-fated run for leader ended in a call for unity – odd considering unity had been long ago achieved in the House Caucus but undermined by a handful of malcontents and their outside influences which included Republican legislators, corporate lobbyists, for-profit school “choice” backers, the insurance industry and needy political consultants. Yet Taylor’s biggest benefactor Rep. Darryl Rouson got one last shot in telling the Tampa Bay Times – 

“Our actions will determine whether we are an irrelevant debating team,” Rouson said. “Or a collaborative, substantive political force with a policy agenda embraced by the majority of Floridians.”

As a progressive and someone who believes in multi-party democracies which Florida has ceased to be for some time, Rouson’s comments describe precisely why the Democratic Party has lost its way in Florida AND why so many progressives are thankful today that he was ousted as Minority Leader-designee. Rouson and his allies are more interested in status within the legislative community and acceptance by Tallahassee-based lobbyists than in growing the Democratic Party. This latest statement by Rouson simply proves that is the case yet again.

Despite claiming to have a majority of votes in the caucus just a week and a half ago, Taylor’s candidacy ended with a whimper. His withdrawal spelled failure for those Republican-aligned Democrats who sought to create a caucus atmosphere that would rubber-stamp the Rick Scott agenda and deal a petty and spiteful blow to Democratic Chairwoman Allison Tant, whose strong advocacy for Pafford has irked the dissident pro-appeasement faction.

Individual legislators often have their own self interest in mind when cutting deals with the Republican majority. Yet the Sunshine State News’ Nancy Smith, who often writes poignant and interesting pieces, completely missed the mark in Monday’s broadside directed at FDP Chairwoman Allison Tant

Let’s first establish something which is why the main premise of this Sunshine State News piece was so off the mark. The idea that the party chairwoman works FOR Democratic legislators is absurd. If anything the relationship should be the opposite. Legislators defying their party chair and the Democratic agenda in favor of accommodation with the GOP majority has become the norm since the early 2000s.

The relationship between party and legislative caucus is in fact meant to be a symbiotic relationship and those Democrats not running in safe seats (which unfortunately is a small percentage of the caucus thanks to the kind of partisan gerrymandering and polarization of the electorate this nation has been subjected to for over two decades) depend on the party for their survival. As Katy Burnett mentioned in her Monday piece the party has dropped the ball in countless House races the past several cycles and left incumbents in an endangered position. But that reinforces the need for state legislators to work WITH the party chair and not against her.

Many state legislators overstate their own importance in the context of political reality. State House members are virtually unknowns in their districts especially those who simply get elected thanks to winning low-turnout primaries in southeast Florida. State Senators are scarcely better known. In this world, the chairperson of the Democratic Party in the 3rd most populated state in the union matters considerably more than most individual legislators. I do not believe the party chair is in any way an administrative position meant to serve legislators.

It is also very true that many legislators, perhaps including Rouson himself, value making deals with the Republican majority over creating a distinctive Democratic brand, something the party Chairwoman has to fundamentally oppose. State legislators who win personality-based, low-turnout primaries don’t have to value the importance of the Democratic brand.

In a six square-block area around the capitol the Democratic legislators might matter more than the Party Chairwoman, when being wined and dined by corporate lobbyists, but in the rest of the state it is the Chair of the party that matters more.

I would agree with Nancy Smith’s feeling that the use of the term “bedwetters” made by Tant about the Rouson faction was ill-advised, though I get the Chairwoman’s point and tend to agree with her (but of course, I would have chosen a different term). However, Tant is not the first party chair in this state to use colorful language. Yesterday, the House honored Tom Slade the former RPOF Chairman and House Member who passed on last month. Slade was perhaps the most effective party chairman in the history of this state. Those Democratic legislators and activists somehow offended by Tant’s words ought to simply toughen up or leave the stage completely – this is politics, after all.

With so many Democratic legislators lacking institutional memory or knowledge of events that happened prior to 2008 or 2010, it becomes easier for Republican-backed lobbyists and special interests to misrepresent reality and manufacture crisis in the Democratic Party based on “how things should be,” or “how things used to be.” Some Democratic members of the legislature, driven by selfishness and self-preservation, are too self-absorbed to question what they are being told. As someone who has been around the process in one way or another since the Democrats last had the majority, I find the lack of intellectual curiosity and commitment to progressive principles among many Democrats in the legislature to be incredibly irritating and borderline offensive.

Tant’s anger at an attempt by Republican-aligned interests to seize control of the GOP Caucus was wholly justified. How one assumes a party chair should stay out of House Caucus matters when the fundamental direction of the party was potentially being undermined by hostile forces to progressive policies is beyond me. I for one am elated that my party chair stood strong to defend Democratic values from an attempt by corporations, insurance companies, for-profit schools and party malcontents to hijack the House Caucus. Perhaps Tant could have been more subtle in her advocacy, but then again if she had been, a risk was being run that the hostile forces take over and Rick Scott would gain some degree of tacit control over the Democratic Caucus.

Later on Monday, our friend Peter Schorsch penned this article about the Chairwoman. In terms of accuracy, Schorsch should remember the Democrats actually had 44 seats when Tant took over, not 45 (Amanda Murphy won a Special Election last fall). Some of Schorsch’s comments about Democratic performance are very valid though I must take exception with his characterization of asking what a party chair is doing engaging on Facebook. My guess is that most rank-in-file Democrats would agree with me that we want a party chairperson who is accessible on social media and in tune with what is being said by activists. I have already on many occasions discussed my feelings that Tant is far more accessible than her predecessors based on my own personal experience of interaction with her, and this is just another example.

A faction of Democrats will always see things their own way. Hopefully they can get over their self-pity party and work towards the common good and victory in 2016 beginning today.

12 comments

  1. Gimme a break here, Kartik. It ain’t Republicans and Republican-aligned special interests that are critical of Ulvert. If anything, they would cheer us on to keep Ulvert on board. He is already their not so secret weapon and they ain’t gonna wish him away.

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    1. I’m not defending Ulvert at all. I’d like him marginalized also. I’m saying those interests were going after Pafford.

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  2. glad it’s amusing from overseas. it’s pretty darn discouraging in Florida.

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  3. InsiderMyself · · Reply

    Party controversies are NOT fading, as they have just been kicked into high gear again today! Have you not received your email from the Vice Chair Clendenin of the Florida Democratic Party asking, “I’M READY FOR HILLARY, ARE YOU?” Sign up here today!

    Has Alan stepped down to run the Ready for Hillary in Florida, to be an agent of the campaign and send and collect emails for them? He’s using the party email list. What about other presidential contests that would like a fair shot along with their activists, so that in the end they can come together?

    Just how did the ‘Crist anointment” work out for you? So many stayed home and or would not participate because it was not allowed throughout the campaign primary. Has the party learned nothing? Because of this email from the party leader, I’m no longer interested in Hillary, and I don’t see that I’ll be more inclined, if she wins the primary.

    Is this what the Florida Democratic Party should be doing? Has Alan stepped down and we have not heard that yet? Just wondering……
    Here is a copy of the email, minus the

    BIG BANNER READY FOR HILLARY!
    Good morning,

    It is full steam ahead to 2016 — and I want you to know that as a father of an amazing women I am ready to elect a woman to the White House. I’m ready for Hillary to run.

    We need to harness the enthusiasm that’s out there for Hillary’s potential candidacy into a massive grassroots organization. That’s where Ready for Hillary comes in — we are building an unprecedented grassroots army ready to support Hillary all the way to the White House.

    Ready for Hillary just announced a huge Organizing Bomb to reach out to more supporters than ever before. They’ve set a goal of finding 100,000 new grassroots supporters who are ready to see Hillary get into this race – and help her when and if she does. It’s a lofty goal, but together I know we can reach it.

    Sign the Ready for Hillary pledge and say that you’ll support Hillary for president.

    readyforhillary.com/Hillary2016

    What many people don’t realize is that Hillary had to give up all of her political organizing activities when she became Secretary of State. That means it’s up to us to build the foundation Hillary will need when and if she decides to run for president.

    I’ve taken the Ready for Hillary pledge — take a minute to do the same and say you’ll support Hillary.

    readyforhillary.com/Hillary2016

    Ready for Hillary started nearly two years ago with just two volunteers and a P.O. box. Today, Ready for Hillary is more than three million Americans strong and this grassroots network continues to build every minute of the day.

    However, building the grassroots infrastructure that Hillary will need to win is going to take even more than that. A massive group of supporters who will go to the mat for Hillary as soon as she is ready to run is exactly what we need.

    Join me and be a part of the Ready for Hillary Organizing Bomb and pledge your support for Hillary today.

    Alan Clendenin
    aclendenin@floridaforhillary.com
    *************************

    Or is Alan trying to position himself to be on staff for Hillary? But first, is he still the VC of the FDP?

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  4. Trip Trey · · Reply

    I agree most dem legislators are idiots. No historical knowledge and no appreciation of the past.

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  5. Trip Trey · · Reply

    No desire to learn either.

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  6. democrats to win · · Reply

    Tant is worthless. The bed setters comment was uncouth and uncalled for.

    The legislators though I agree are largely selfish and totally insulated from reality by hanging out with republican lobbyists.

    You may not want to say this but I will. You cannot be a good democrat and a good legislator in this time. Pick one or the other. If you choose to be a good legislator don’t complain about the party or interject yourself in party matters.

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  7. Tampa Democrat · · Reply

    I called Alan last night and told him about this post. Insidermyself, you can not be much of an insider if you aren’t aware Alan does not work for the party. He told me has had zero influence over the decisions the party has made this election cycle.

    He does not have access to party data. He maintains and pays for his own site and uses emails he has in his personal contact lists.

    He only was perturbed when I told him about the angling for a job comment. He reminded me he has never made one Penney off of politics. He does what he does because he is a true believer.

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    1. InsiderMyself · · Reply

      He replied that he was still the Vice Chair of the party, an elected officer.

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      1. InsiderMyself · ·

        PS, as an elected officer he works under the bylaws of the Democratic Party of Florida.

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  8. All of this BS about Pafford and… “Moving forward…” is an attempt by FDP insiders to sweep all of the well earned controversy under the rug. The “controversy” and bed wetting so called as coined by the embattled facilitator of the Presidency of George W. Bush and now Chair of the Florida Democratic Party as incongruous as that sounds but is HISTORICAL FACT. Nearly 14,000 views are evocative of the notion that Allison Tat-Richard MUST step down or be removed from her position. http://www.democraticunderground.com/1017224941
    John Russell for Corporatist Nation

    CorporatistNation is coming…

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  9. Mythbuster · · Reply

    I would vote for Elizabeth Warren in a heartbeat. But Hillary? I don’t think I will ever be “Ready” for that! Yeah, just what we need to bring that much needed “fresh air” back to the Democratic Party… the Clintons and their machine… more of the same! No, thanks!

    Like

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