The internet and social media have been filled with tales of gloom and doom since the November 4th election regarding Florida Democrats. While the party did not perform well on Election Day and now has lost 17 of the last 18 races for state office, a record unmatched for futility anywhere else in the eastern half of the country by Democrats (though the similarly purple state of Ohio is giving Florida a run for its money) signs of progress are clearly apparent. At the same time those who like to critique the party, including political consultants looking for business from candidates and political committees (particularly in southeastern part of the state) enjoy pontificating about how things can be improved and how matters are worse than ever. As an active partisan through the entire collapse of the Democratic infrastructure in this state in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, I witnessed a rudderless part. This was followed by a succession of chairs and staff people who were in complete denial of reality. Thus, from where I sit today, a firm belief that the building blocks of positive change are already being assembled is a large part of my thinking. Things are far from perfect, but at the very least least small steps are being taken to move the party forward. In the near future these may become larger, more pronounced and impactful steps.
This having been said, the results in 2014 continue to reflect years of neglect including poor long-term planning, poor infrastructure development, bad staffing decisions and the hiring of the wrong vendors/consultants. So heavy lifting must be done, and we do not know as of yet if the current FDP team including the coming changes can excel at this awesome responsibility. However, I can guarantee you that they will not do any worse than those who came before them and are almost certain to do better.
Much of the focus of critics in the last several weeks has been around the LEAD Task Force, and what it will or will not produce. The task force which is the first in the country at a state party of its scale and scope has been panned for its membership composition as well as its seeming lack of discernible focus. The sense I get however, is that task force itself is fluid and clear goals which revolve around long-term thinking will be discusses.
The good news is that the FDP appears committed to hearing other ideas to solve problems beyond simply what LEAD committee members might recommend. Chairwoman Tant is making a real effort to solve some of these problems even though her critics – which are plentiful, seem to not realize that she has made a clear break rhetorically with the type of spin we’ve previously gotten from FDP Chairs.
However, it must be stated up front that the structural defects of the party remain prohibitive to accomplishing the goals most have for the FDP. Without a major overhaul to the structure of the party, its committee system, its caucuses and local DECs, any change is likely to be somewhere between window dressing and minor impact. It should also be noted that the among the negative impacts of citizens united, the ruling and has profoundly affected the ability of the party to raise money or to even always serve as the primary clearinghouse for “Democratic” money that flows into the state.
Several points need to be covered which we will do here at The Florida Squeeze over the course of the next several weeks.
Among other subjects we will look at the following in this series:
the Democratic message and how it needs to be honed.
the over-reliance on large county voters.
the party structure and the need for reform.
the erosion of white vote.
how to potentially engage exurban and rural voters.
can the vote loss in north Florida be reversed and does it matter?
how to turn the economic argument against Florida Republicans.
the role of legislators and former legislators in candidate recruitment.
The articles in this series will appear periodically over the next several weeks.