Florida Democrats at a crossroads – Broward County and the FDP

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.

For other articles in this series click here. 

17 comments

  1. Tampa Bay Demo · · Reply

    +1

    1. Fla Dem Insider · · Reply

      I am happy to see this discussion start.

      Fire away!

  2. Tampa Bay Demo · · Reply

    Seriously this is a really good piece.

  3. The Hornets Nest · · Reply

    You stirred it up this time!

    Well said though. This needed to be written about 10 years ago.

    Congratulations on a masterfully important article.

  4. It's 2014 not 2006 · · Reply

    Not to mention many of the consultants double as lobbyists for corporate interests.

    Kartik you write a lot of shit quite frankly. But I cannot stress how good I think this article is. This is one of the most important articles this year in the state.

  5. I have a clue · · Reply

    While this article is accurate I would say this is more byproduct of the amount of money in politics and the urban orientation of Broward County that makes it like New York or Chicago then some of the motivations and treated by the author.

    Democratic party politics is just as dirty just as polluted just as full of corporate conflicts of interest in big cities as it is in Broward. Broward stands out in Florida for being this way but it’s no different than so many Democratic Party’s across the country.

    But the author never expenses horizons to think about things outside of Florida unless they involve India or England because he’s Indian.

    So while the article is accurate and makes the right conclusions it does not make it based on the right reasons.

  6. I am so tired of armchair pundits from Broward County thinking they know what’s best for the state and everybody having to placate them when they don’t come through themselves.

    Long overdue article here.

  7. Let me dissent completely here.

    This article relies on the lazy stereotypes the rest of the state’s unproductive and loser Democrats have of Broward. Kartik knows better but has chosen to placate the mindless drivel that comes from Central and North Florida.

    No one in Broward assumes everyone north are rednecks. We are interested in winning and have long embraced the most electable and conservative of Democrats from other parts of the state. Democrats in Hillsborough and Orange County have consistently failed to accomplish anything consistently. Yet we constantly get lectured about how they matter and we don’t. We are annoying pests, the past and they are the future.

    Lobbyists and political consultants here get paid well because they are competent. Because they win elections unlike Democrats in other parts of the state. Democrats control the county so people can make a career out of political work here unlike other parts of the state where Democrats either have to work for activist groups on a measly salary or leave the field altogether.

    The Florida Democratic Party is run by a group of frat boys and sorority girls from Tallahassee. Here in the real world of rough and tumble big city politics those sorts of lazy, shoomze people do not get ahead.

    It’s those who work hard and know how to win that are successful. It is those who have a desire to see Democrats rise again in this state have had electoral success that complain.

    Years ago Krishnaiyer threw in with the “I-4 matters more than south Florida” school and has done nothing but take subtle shots at his home area especially Broward since. Today’s shot is not so subtle and will be met with absolute anger here at home.

    Don’t let the ******* door hit you on your way out of town Kartik as you drive up to Tampa or Orlando points north.

  8. Blue Dog Dem · · Reply

    Really spot on article.

  9. Broward Voter · · Reply

    This blog is so insulting and wring-headed I’m not going to dignify it with any response.

  10. Do not forget the simple fact also that most Democrats in Broward do not volunteer for campaigns. They demand to be paid to help candidates. While everybody needs to make a living in other parts of the state people genuinely volunteer for campaigns to make a difference. They are Progressives want to see a change in the state.

    The opposite is true in Broward County. So many so-called political operatives will only take phone calls or have meetings if they get paid. They don’t want to help Democratic candidates get elected they like the situation right now where the Democrats are a minority party in the state control my money interest and consultants from their county.

  11. I think this article is disgusting. Political consultants are prevalent everywhere and simply because the ones in Broward are successful you seek to marginalize them. I realize this article is carefully crafted to appeal to your audience of lakhis in the rest of the state. The rednecks as you refer to in this article. Yes the rest of the state is different but we do it better. We are asked to provide huge margins and we do. We are asked to deliver $$$ to the party and we do. Yet Tallahassee controls the money and I-4 gets all the love from operatives and from you.

    Enough is enough. If you insist on playing by other rules and applying other standards do us a favor and move to Tampa or Orlando or Jacksonville. Nobody likes you.

  12. While there is plenty of infighting within Broward, the Broward Democratic party is virtually invisible when it comes to getting out the vote or working the polls. The precinct committee people are not even asked to call the voters in their precinct, just begged to vote for party leadership every four years. The only “ask” i received in the last election was the Charlie Christ campaign asking me to poll watch. The only other Broward Democratic officials i saw ini six days of poll watching was Mitch Ceasar who came in to use the bathroom and do a quick interview with Bob Norman in the parking lot, and then Debbie Wasserman Shultz did a rally in the parking lot on the last day after the polls had closed. Broward’s democratic super majority only matters with regard to getting out the vote, which is something the Broward Democratic Party fails to do.

  13. This is an outstanding article and quite frankly a very important one.

    My experience is that Democrats in Broward county are very turf conscious. This means even if you have a unifying Democratic candidate and you work hard on the ground certain political operatives and operators with other operatives or operators.

    The feeling among Democrats in Broward is that they all should be paid and that there county is the only county that really matters in the state and but they’re all providing services. They never support candidates because they are true Progressives who want to see the issues they supposedly care about advance.

    And yes your line about them viewing the rest of the state as rednecks is true. Also a healthy bit if racism in the way some white Broward dems view Miami.

    Great article!

  14. […] discussed in our piece on Broward County, the transactional nature of the county’s Democratic operatives and leaders has disaffected […]

  15. […] both candidates and a general lack of enthusiasm among the electorate. In counties like Broward, the amount of money flowing around has turned many of those who claim to be ideological into nothing more than paid political […]

  16. […] political community have rejected him and worked around the local party for years. As I have written previously on many occasions, Broward County despite being the most “Democratic” large county in […]

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