Democrats from Broward County like to believe they are the ones that matter most – the ones that win the state for Democrats. While Broward provided the margin of victory for Lawton Chiles in 1994 and President Obama in 2012 while also essentially winning the state for Al Gore in 2000 (Miami-Dade can be blamed for making the race close enough to where theft was possible) more often than not the county provides a letdown for Democratic candidates.
Some Broward Democrats like to claim they are more progressive than those in the rest of the state. They claim moderate candidates from the Tampa Bay area cannot motivate Broward voters. But is this really true?
For example, The “Save Our Homes Amendment” tax exemption in 2008 which was opposed by many Republicans and Democrats from other parts of the state was almost universally supported by Broward Democrats. Other conservative economic measures in the legislature have often been backed by Broward Democrats. For many in the county being “progressive” means supporting the Democratic line on social issues, but deviating sharply on economics.
Part of this comes from the peculiar culture of Broward County politics. It is a county completely dominated by the Democratic Party who have become in many ways as comfortable and relationship-based as the Republican Party is on the state level. The big lobbyists tend to be Democrats and the local corporate interests in an urban county of almost two million people also align heavily with Democrats.
Then we have the class of political consultants which includes everyone who thinks they are a player in the county’s Democratic infrastructure. These transactional figures portray themselves as progressives in Facebook and Twitter postings yet are all about procuring political influence locally for future political races and lobbying contracts. Many are more concerned with Democratic primaries than General Elections because they are trying to settle personal political scores.
Yet these consultants/”activists”/know-it-alls constantly claim to have answers to fix the state’s Democratic Party problems. But few if any have any knowledge of the state outside southeast Florida. Most Broward “experts” don’t have the curiosity or understanding of the rest of the state to really know any better. Worse yet some even put down the rest of the state as “backwards” and resort to lazy assumptions that everyone north of Jupiter is a redneck.
But yet they fail to even produce for Democrats in their own county. Broward has turned out a lower percentage of voters than the state average in five consecutive midterm elections. Not so coincidentally, Republicans have captured the Governorship in each of those five cycles and have swept the statewide cabinet offices in three of the four most recent cycles. At a certain point you have to concede that Broward County will NEVER replicate the remarkable 1994 Chiles reelection turnout in an off-year election. Twenty years on excuses continue to flow from Broward Democrats while they criminally underperform at the same time. While they underwhelm at the ballot box these Democratic operatives continue to be overly obsessive about personal vendettas involving other Democrats in the county. Political Consultants tends to control many elected officials and this creates a dynamic of infighting at levels of government including in some municipalities.
While this is happening, Broward’s official Democratic Party structure serve as mere bystanders to the ongoing strife within the county. Professional political consultants and lobbyists control the county like a chess match even serving in the highest reaches of the Broward Democratic Party itself.
Given Broward’s penchant for career politicians, controlling political consultants and know-it-all political activists, you would think intellectual curiosity about the rest of the state would be high. But instead Broward does nothing but let down the rest of the state’s Democratic Party apparatus and then becomes the epicenter of criticisms of the state party after every single election loss. The state party has plenty wrong with it and has consistently failed the biggest electoral tests its faced. But much of this failure comes down to Broward and yet it seems the county is never willing to hold itself accountable, instead simply taking shots at other parts of the state.
What the last five off-year election cycles have proven is that Broward County can never be counted on to produce the turnout or the margins needed for Democrats to be successful. The county has become simply a Presidential juggernaut that doesn’t translate to off-years. This not to say some activists and Democratic Party officials have not made an effort to perform at a higher level. But time and again, the personal agendas of political consultants and elected officials tied to those consultants muddies the water and complicates matters.
The ultimate takeaways are that Broward’s political culture is incompatible with building a strong progressive Democratic party statewide and the county will only perform as well for the party as the lobbyists and political consultants want it to. In some cases, Democrats failing statewide gives Broward greater control over the legislative caucuses and more ammunition to lob at the state party, whose own failures sometime come down to the great Democratic bastion in southeast Florida.