In the last few weeks as I have been making my way around the state, the discussion has intensified about rules reform and The Florida Democratic Party. During the next week, here at TFS we will look at the potential for significant rules reform within the Florida Democratic Party, and why differing perspectives exist within the party about these issues.
Everyone seems to have an opinion about the rules that govern the Florida Democratic Party. Following four more statewide electoral defeats in November and a loss of six State House seats (four of which Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist carried in his unsuccessful bid to return the Governor’s mansion) a circular firing squad took hold within the party. Despite the losses very few staff or leadership changes were made inside the party – be it in the FDP itself or changes at the local level in larger county DEC’s. The small number of changes gave a feeling of continuity and perhaps an opportunity for Democrats to begin building toward the next election would happen quicker than after previous electoral defeats. But from some perspectives the few changes reflected a desire to continue a denial of reality within portions of the party. Perhaps this is unfair but it is a perception shared by many, even those who like some in the present FDP and local setup.
Florida Democrats have won just over 5% of the elections for Governor & Cabinet since 2000, the worst percentage of any major political party east of the Mississippi River in that period. Because of this statistically improbable record of constant losses, many in the Democratic Party have simply accepted losing and therefore have shifted into a mode of protecting status, access and contracts.
Many political professionals and those who benefit off of the current structure in the party are essentially “feeding at the trough.” Many of these individuals have an obsession with other Democrats and engage in the discrediting of inter-party opponents and of progressive activists. This happens even though many who are benefiting from the current system are in fact labeled as “progressives,” though sometimes in practice they are not.
Among Florida Democrats both among elected officials and some party officials, a fixation with other Democrats often trumps the concerns about Republicans and conservatives. Simply put, many Florida’s Democrats often act like a losing, whining, minority party which is permanently stuck either in neutral or reverse. Many of the party’s leading members are comfortable with the appearance of status and influence even if it involves continued losses at the polls.
Reforming the rules of the Florida Democratic Party in a way that empowers more people, creates more stakeholders and reorders the priorities of the party is critical if the FDP is ever to be a meaningful entity. This having been said, it is possible that rules reform represents a red herring and while important is simply creating a diversion from the heavy lifting that must be done to reform a party that as stated above has lost almost 95% of elections for Governor & Cabinet over the course of the last 15 years.
In the coming days, we will look closely at reforming the FDP from all angles. Perspectives will include those of party officials, those who profit financially off the party, elected officials and those urban county leaders who benefit from the “weighted” vote system.