The Uncanny Valley of the Florida Senate Race

Screen Shot 2015-05-10 at 7.57.35 AMWhen robots are too human it creeps us out. It’s called the Uncanny Valley — an unsettling sense of revulsion when confronted with something that’s human, but not.

Jon Tester’s ludicrously early endorsement of Patrick Murphy for Senate is an Uncanny Valley moment for him. As head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, his announcement was an obvious “doncha even think about it” gesture to Alan Grayson who is famously “thinking about it.” If it were anyone but Tester it wouldn’t be so uncanny.

In 2006 Jon Tester wanted to run for a Senate seat in Montana, but the party had their chosen conservative corporate candidate and they wanted badly to keep the progressive Tester out of the race. Chuck Schumer, as head of the DSCC at the time, played the heavy, making sure the Wall Street donors’ candidate had a “clear path.”

Fortunately for Tester, the party’s favorite son turned out to be cheating on his wife and had “conflicts of interest” that tanked his bid. Jon Tester became a Senator from Montana (turned out being progressive wasn’t that big of a problem after all), and now it’s his job to muscle progressives out of competing for strategic Senate seats (because, you know, being progressive is a big hurdle).

Who stole Jon Tester’s soul? And more to the point, why does the party seem to prefer Democrats who lose? Isn’t the point to keep as many seats as possible? Wouldn’t the best way to do that be to vet candidates in a primary and send a tried and true candidate to the general?

It makes no sense, but the party only wants a specific kind of Democrat: a Patrick Murphy, Charlie Crist, or Alex Sink. Ambiguously Republican Democrats. Vaguely Demopublican Republicrats. Losers, all.

Every time the party came out of a whooping of one of these sorry candidates it says, “Aw shucks, we shoulda been more effective in our messaging.” At some point you have to admit it’s not the messaging. I’m starting to wonder if we’re really even trying to win at all, or if the point is simply to keep progressives from taking higher seats of power.

Take the Florida governor’s race. The party put up a corporate Democrat in Alex Sink who ran a “I’m not as bad as him” campaign against Rick Scott, and lost. Then the party put up lifelong Republican-turned-Democrat Charlie Crist in an “I’m a nicer guy” campaign, and lost. Both candidates lost because you can’t mobilize voters based on “Eh, at least I’m not a Republican.”

This was not a failure of messaging. This was a failure of choosing a candidates who could win. The party chose conservatives that corporate funders approved of instead of Democrats who champion our values.

Patrick Murphy’s bizarre early coronation as our only choice for Marco Rubio’s Senate seat stands out as a prime example of this pattern. As a lifelong Republican with no name recognition, one of the most conservative records in Congress, who has had to recently back track on Social Security and the full support of the party, we’re treading depressingly familiar ground.

Why is the party so terrified of Alan Grayson? He’s a lifelong Democrat and national progressive leader with a trusted brand, an enormously effective fundraising apparatus, and a known, muscular volunteer base. In other words, a candidate who can unite the voters as a champion of our values, and win. Are they simply resisting the idea of Grayson advancing to the Senate?

I’ve heard many speculate that those stories that you saw last week about Alan Grayson were a shot across the bow indicating that if he got into the race, his own party would become his prime adversary. They may have a point. The POLITICO story cited an email provided to them from a “democratic-leaning organization” and a “Democratic source with knowledge of the situation.” This is Dem on Dem aggression.

Who was this democratic-leaning organization that shared the email with the intent to malign Grayson? Who is the “Democratic source” with knowledge of the situation? Would these not be players within the party who have a personal stake the outcome? One thing is for sure, they aren’t bystanders. By the acts they took, they are active brokers sending the message that they intend to get nasty.

It’s fine if there’s people within the party structure prefer candidates for the 1% and seek to get them elected. We have a right to know that’s happening and discuss it. We need to be more honest about the fact that we’re not playing on a left vs right spectrum. It’s far more accurate to say we have a 1% vs 99% spectrum. Conservadems will vote with us on weed and LGBT issues, but they’ll give away the store in the form of tax havens to corporations, defense spending and executive powers — what brought us the Great Recession and the Iraq War.

So, looking at the bright side, maybe it’s a good thing we’re so dreadful at getting these guys elected.

21 comments

  1. Nancy Argenziano · · Reply

    I agree to a certain degree. The Democrats must compete for money as it is the sole way to fight the mega money that fund the Republicans. Voters vote with the money. They just do. We all know the Rs are the corporate party, and the money to buy and win elections comes from the mega corps. So the D leadership knows this and they have to compete. It is wrong to think that a Nan Rich could have had a chance in hell to win as her name recognition was about a 2 % despite what supporters from her neighborhood would tell you. lets remember that the D party is split with southern and northern voters who think and vote very differently. The northern D voters vote Republican. It is more the way that the D leadership chooses to fight back the Rs, they don’t. Even with all the ammunition the Rs give them, they don’t. That decision is partly because they are competing for the same money from the corporations whose agenda is what the Rs pass for them. So the the Ds are afraid to use the these issues against the Rs in fear they will not get the money. Perhaps the D party needs to announce a new approach. One that tells the D voter that they will forego the begging for corporate money if the D voters steps up to the plate with a $50.00 campaign contribution from each voter so they can compete and not have to sell out to get money from the very same sources that mega fund the Republicans. Just maybe then they can slam the Rs for the corporate deeds they do. And for all the entrenched D consultants that can’t win a race, but yet make money from the stale same old way of running campaigns, maybe it is time to let them go !

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    1. What I found interesting about the Nan Rich race was that the majority of progressives I know were willing to give the FDP this one shot at putting Crist up there. They were pretty dang up front about it too. “If they can pull it off, fine. I’ll hold my nose and vote for him.” But they didn’t pull it off, and that changes how people feel going forward. Elections have consequences.

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  2. Tampa Bay Demo · · Reply

    This is what happens when you don’t have a values based party. The party’s decisions are determined by vendors and other political consultants who have a bottom line driven agenda. That is why we do nothing but nominate candidates who could fit on the Republican line as well. They are tied to corporate interests that can raise money.

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    1. I agree. They really need to understand that times have changed. From all indications, even Hillary Clinton and her advisers know that doesn’t work anymore.

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  3. Naoya6161 · · Reply

    No one is afraid of Grayson. The concern is that a Grayson-Murphy has potential to be a really nasty matchup. Regardless of who wins, the winner will have less money to deal with the republican candidate.
    Not to mention that Grayson’s actual winning record is weak.

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  4. Garmon Entleshed · · Reply

    Agreed. It’s not the job of party operatives to put all the donors together this early, making large conservative-friendly compromises in the process, and then go all-out attacking any other potential Democratic candidates. The ball is in the voters’ court until everyone has declared.

    And it’s just bad strategy. Primaries make everyone stronger. I keep seeing this rationale that Alan Grayson was too mean to Daniel Webster — a Republican, who actually did run as a religious extremist, by the way — and so can’t be trusted in a primary, but that’s pretty thin gruel.

    I see two issues driving this. First, easy, big dark money dollars that always come from conservative corporate interests. They want to lock in early, but it really shouldn’t be their call, particularly at the party level.

    Second, this seemingly inexplicable continued proposition that you need a super conservative Dem — preferably even a recent former Republican — to win in Florida. I assume the unspoken reason for this is just that too many fundraisers and donors are coming from the same pool as those for the Republicans, so it’s both more convenient, and maybe force of habit, to handle things in the Republican way.

    But it’s not working. That’s not the Democratic brand, and this isn’t a dark red state. Dems win here by actually being Democrats. How many Sinks, Tants, Meeks, Crists and Murphys do we have to lose with before everyone stops pretending it could work?

    The answer is not to keep flogging recently converted Republicans until the voters come around. The party has to serve the voters, not the other way ’round. If your’e trying to sell loafers, and it turns out people want hiking boots, you don’t tell everyone to just get used to mud on their ankles.

    Voters are the customers here, and they’re not buying Republican near-beer from the Democrats.

    We can do better.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What Grayson’s fundraising apparatus shows is that there’s a way around the “easy” money trap. You don’t have put on the red light. Just be an advocate for the people in a manner that’s recognizable…by the people. It’s just sad watching all the contortions we make trying to smush Republicans into Democratic molds and then try to convince Dems to turnout to vote for these people. It’s embarrassing. We should have more self respect.

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      1. Naoya6161 · ·

        How much do you actually know about Murphy?

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    2. Naoya6161 · · Reply

      Pretty sure it was the anti-Murphy group who shot first.
      You know Murphy actually does have people who support him here, despite your misgivings about him. We think that he is the best option we have…and yes, we’re aware of other possibilities and of his votes.
      And yes, we do have reason to believe Grayson can’t be trusted in a primary…but for more pragmatic reasons then you think. A nasty primary WILL leave the winner bruised and wull have a a much harder time against our opponent.

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  5. Ron Baldwin · · Reply

    I believe Alan Grayson understands Florida politics enough to run far away fron the Florida Democratic party, which will follow Patrick Murphy like lemmings going off a cliff. The most successful Florida statewide candidate since 2008 was our President, who essentially ignored the FDP and concentrated on Democratic turnout all over the state.

    In a statewide contest a Democratic vote in a small Republican leaning county is the same as a Democratic vote in a large Democratic county. No Democrat left behind, and we know where all Democrats live in Florida.

    I understand that Bernie Sanders has hooked up with many of the technology team from the Obama campaigns. Imagine the Democratic turnout in Florida if Alan Grayson and Bernie Sanders are both November 2016 statewide Democratic candidates in Florida. Now that is a Dynamic Duo that will bring Democratic voters out of the woodwork. And there are about 500,000 more Democratic vpters than Republican voters in Florida. That is a good place to start.

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  6. salsagator · · Reply

    Accusing Sanders of being dynamic is like accusing Madonna of being a Catholic. I disagree with the notion that primaries make for better candidates – especially considering the fund raising issue. But, Democrats will need someone less corporate than Murphy to win – someone who is ready to be a Democrat, a progressive and maybe even a liberal — in the Elizabeth Warren, Martin O’Malley mold. I don’t think they need to be as far left as O’Malley on the social issues, but they need to be as populist on economic issues.

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  7. salsagator · · Reply

    Maybe it’s more like accusing Will Muschamp of being a pass-happy coach.

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  8. I totally agree! Representative Murphy cannot win as a Democrat, may be as a Republican, but not a Democrat! I truly believe if Nan Rich ran for Governor, she would have won, hands down. Unfortunately, they never gave her a chance. Maybe Murphy changed parties too soon. If the Democrats want to win, they will urge Grayson to run. Yes he is rich like Murphy, but he worked for it. In my opinion Murphy is an elitist and has no interest in the common working person. Grayson worked as a janitor to support his Harvard education and I respect that totally. Why are the Democrats so afraid of him? Maybe these progressive DEMOCRATS are not so progressive at all and want a Republican to win the US Senate! A vote for Muphy, in my opinion, is a vote for the GOP!! Thank you for an excellent article!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Florida Democrat · · Reply

    Not sure I agree with the premise that Alex Sink = Charlie Crist = Patrick Murphy. Their democratic “credentials” are very different.

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  10. Fla Dem · · Reply

    Patrick Murphy has done more for the party than any of these peanut gallery of critics. Let’s start with the publisher of this website Kartik Krishnaiyer, a former party staffer who has in the years drifted from smart young Dem pol to vain loser middle age leftist hack. His views HELP republicans win. I’m sure he HOPES Republicans win so he can tear down the party. Then let’s look at the whiny progressive dem caucus full of malcontents and people who never have to run a practical election campaign. Like Krishnaiyer they want to see dems fail so they can whine. Then let’s consider Alan Grayson an immature backstabbing attention grabbing narcissist. Embracing him is a sure route to oblivion. Finally Pam Keith who Krishnaiyer is working with is running as an “urban” hip candidate appealing to the street vote in Baltimore via Lesley Wimes. That’s less than 1% if the electorate!

    Murphy is the ONLY choice for real democrats.

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    1. Florida Democrat 399 · · Reply

      “Finally Pam Keith who Krishnaiyer is working with is running as an “urban” hip candidate appealing to the street vote in Baltimore via Lesley Wimes.”

      wtf?

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      1. Patricia · ·

        WTH!?! “the street vote” Just call it what it is, the African American/Hispanic/Minority vote. The “urban” voters for which Congressman Murphy clearly has no experience or willingness to cultivate. I don’t believe the FDP can deliver the “urban” vote! Just ask Annette and Charlie about that epic fail!

        Murphy’s campaign trolls believe the Senate Nomination will be handed to Patrick just because the DNC Senate committee backs him? Unless they can make his “YES” vote for the Keystone Pipeline disappear, Con. Murphy will not have my vote August 2016.

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      2. Naoya6161 · ·

        Making a lot of assumptions.

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  11. A Florida Democrat · · Reply

    Grayson MUST run. Otherwise I am for Pam Keith.

    Murphy is a Republican-lite.

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  12. Please read today’s SunSentinel Opinion Column by U.S Representative Alan Grayson. He is spot on!!

    Like

  13. Mark Lynn · · Reply

    How is Patrick Murphy a loser in any way?? His electoral record is 2-0 as I recall. As for moderates being losers (Sink, Crist, etc.) perhaps you should give liberal Steve Pajcic a call! Murphy is more in the mold of a Lawton Chiles or Reuben Askew than Grayson would ever be.

    Like

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