The LEAD (Leadership Expansion to Advance Democrats) Task Force Report led by Former Orlando Police Chief Val Demings and US Senator Bill Nelson is about to come out, so there’s going to be some discussion about how the party does stuff going forward.
Few rational people expect a sanctioned report by party insiders will tell the actual truth of why we can’t elect Democrats in Florida. And there’s a very clear reason for that: donors choose candidates. We just get to vote for them. When the candidates fail to get elected we get to hear about “oh, the voters are too lazy to get off the couch and vote.” The fact of the matter is that the voter is the consumer, and the donors are trying to sell us stuff we simply don’t want. It’s like we’ve gone to the mall for running shoes and they’re trying to sell us those fancy black pumps with the red soles that cost $400. They’re out of their minds.
Anyone with a firm grasp of the obvious has noticed that our candidates just don’t seem to be that into us, and voters likewise don’t seem to be very into them. The reason for that is because donor values don’t align with voter values.
Donors, who get to choose the candidates, choose those who represent their interests. Unsurprisingly, voters want candidates who will represent our interests, and we’ve been telling the party for more than a decade now that the donors’ choice of candidates really sucks. Sucks so bad, as a matter of fact, that donors could’t even pick candidates to beat Rick Scott, who is the very embodiment of everything that is urgently wrong and vile with the other party.
When the LEAD Task Force report does come out, it will no doubt suggest we fiddle with dials and levers at the county and DEC level. Less autonomy, more direction from Tallahassee, because, clearly people just aren’t listening to them. There will likely be suggestions for rules changes, and glowing promises for social media resources.
Let me save you some trouble.
Here are 5 Lies the Florida Democratic Party can stop telling us right now. If they stop telling these 5 lies — and if we choose candidates for voters instead of donors — we’ll start winning elections.
The first big lie: lazy voters are to blame
Party leaders and cheerleaders need to pull their load and stop blaming voters when they lose elections. There’s no such thing as a lazy voter who doesn’t “get off the couch” to vote for Democrats. When you put up lifelong Republicans who can’t be differentiated from Democrats, there’s no reason for Democratic voters to vote. You can have the most dynamic field operation since Obama 2008, and you’re not going to get Democrats excited about Charlie Crist.
Moreover, when you lose an election and then try to explain it away with the message that the voters are to blame, it just proves that you’ve lost perspective. It’s the job of political professionals to bring voters to the polls. When they don’t come, it’s your fault. Full stop.
The second big lie: we have to appeal to swing voters (omg, they don’t exist already!)
This can be painful for some who have invested so much in the fairy tale, but we have to let go of the myth of the swing voter. Republican strategists win elections because they accept this and play to its strengths. It’s time we did the same.
Democrats want to see real Democrats running for office. There’s no magical half-percent swing voter margin we’re trying to pick-up. Instead, the game we have to win is to mobilize our base. We have the voters. The task is to give them a reason to vote.
Instead of swing voters, what we have now are tribes and tribalism. On the left, you’re either a member of the Bernie Sanders/Elizabeth Warren Tribe or the Hillary Clinton Tribe — on the right you might be a member of any one of dozens of intersecting tribes. There’s religious, home-school tribes. There’s neocon tribes. There’s small government tribes. There’s second amendment, militia-fantasy tribes. Tribe membership prescribes behavior across the political spectrum.
A core motivator of tribal behavior is negative partisanship — that’s when you hate the other tribe that’s opposite of yours. You can most predictably move your tribe by showing them how those other guys are ruining everything — that they present a threat to your very existence.
There’s been some key research done on this that should be taken seriously by everyone in the Florida Democratic Party because this is where we’ve failed miserably. Here’s a graph from the extensive Pew report on Political Polarization in the American Public. It shows a giant 9-point spread between how Democrats and Republicans motivate fear/loathing in the other party. Democrats are 9% less likely to see the Republicans as a threat to the nation’s well-being, and are therefore less likely to be moved to vote.
Do we not believe that the policies under Rick Scott or the modern-day scorched-earth Republican Party are devastating our communities, environment and social structure? Then why can’t we differentiate ourselves enough to win elections? Rick Scott is the literal embodiment of everything that is urgently wrong and vile with the other party. He’s the poster child for corrupt government. And yet we didn’t beat him.
It’s clear we couldn’t beat him because we didn’t put up a true blue candidate who could challenge him on his policies. Instead, we put up a lifelong Republican who’d just changed parties. His message was “Golly gee, when I was a kid, Republicans weren’t so mean. That’s why I’m a Democrat now.”
Did anyone in the upper echelons of the FDP stop for a second to think how this would feel to a rank-and-file Democrat who’d taken the time to vote against Charlie Crist? Or, what about a loyalist who campaigned against Crist in prior election cycles? Did anyone stop to think how insulting and defeating it would be to work for this guy, if you really and truly bought into our messaging just a few years ago when we were running against him? Putting him up as our standard-bearer was a huge mistake, and anyone connected with that decision needs to take a decade or so in the political time-out box. You’ve lost all credibility, so don’t even begin to lecture us on “the electability” of Alan Grayson.
The third big lie: we don’t vote party ticket in Presidential years
Once you have your dedicated Democrat voting, she wants to vote for ALL the Democrats all the way down the ballot. She’s a busy woman. She doesn’t have time to learn about all the candidates, and she believes that party affiliation actually means something. She votes party affiliation all the way down the ticket. Easy peasy.
That’s why the Republicans fight so hard to get “non-partisan” local elections — it’s the only way they can win, by hiding their affiliation. If you’re on the ballot during a big Democratic turnout year, you will win if you have a “D” next to your name.
Last week party insider Sean Phillippi suggested that if anyone but Patrick Murphy ran for Senate, it would have the potential “to be a serious anchor for Democrats nationwide in 2016 — and cause grief for our Presidential nominee at the top of our the ticket.” This is utter nonsense, as it’s a lie that stands other lies on their heads. It’s the kind of grand proclamation of one pint too many.
The only way a candidate as weak as Patrick Murphy can win is in a Presidential year. The heightened participation of a Presidential year provides a weak candidate opportunities he wouldn’t have in an off-year. Phillippi would like you to believe the upside-down world version where a true-blue candidate like Alan Grayson would actually hurt the chances of the Presidential candidate at the top of the ticket. He ups the hyperbole from here in Florida, to “across the nation,” even. This is such a howler of a lie within a lie I just had to relive it. Good stuff. Be on the lookout for more of these coming from the same direction as election season heats up.
Moving on, straight-ticket voting is very important because it leads to the fourth big lie…
The fourth big lie: we’ll lose seats if we run “real” Democrats
Actually the opposite is true. In a big presidential year like 2016, straight-ticket voting means we could run a true blue Democrat or a Patrick Murphy corporate Democrat. The only question we have to ask ourselves as Democrats is, “who do we want to send to the Senate to represent us?” Are we going to send a Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren Democrat who will fight on our behalf against Wall Street? Or are we going to send a Chuck Schumer Democrat in Patrick Murphy who can’t wait to form a “bipartisan” commission to force The Grand Bargain to reduce Social Security benefits?
The fifth big lie: we have to be like Republicans to get the “white vote”
After the 2014 “drubbing” it was speculated that we lost the “white vote” and that to get it back we had to move to the center on social issues to get white voters back. But wait, Bernie Sanders is surging among white Democrats. This proves that it’s not the liberal social issues that’s driving white voters away. It’s the lack of attention to liberal economic issues.
White Democrats are responding to Sanders’ message that the middle class has collapsed and we need to fight for rights to send our kids to college, preserve Social Security and rebuild our country’s infrastructure. The Sanders Vision is what has been missing because it’s exactly what a corporate Democrat, that donor’s love to choose for us, like Patrick Murphy can’t deliver.
The truth is that the middle class is dying. We have zero money for retirement. We have no money saved for flat tires or sick days. When things go wrong we go further into debt. We don’t have time for triangulation, talking points and fake donor candidates. We need solutions now. We need to stop the lies and start telling the truth so we can win elections and help our people regain some dignity and economic security.
Put up corporate Democrats all you want. Keep giving us lifelong Republicans to vote for. We’ll keep rejecting them. Let us know when you’re ready to win some elections with some real true blue Democrats and we’ll be right there behind you.
Uh yeah. Swing voters do exist. They’re called independents. If swing voters really are as nonexistent as you claim they are, then why do both parties have a feasible chance of winning here in Florida?
Naoya, I’m afraid I have to disagree with you. Folks who call themselves “independents” nowadays are folks who think politics is irrelevant to their lives. Not in the middle, but off to one side. Show them relevance; then they’ll show up. That’s why medical marijuana got 58 percent last year. Our job is to show them why we matter day in and day out. To them, not to ourselves or to donors.
What’re you trying to say here? I was arguing against the idea that swing voters don’t exist – if they didn’t, then both parties wouldn’t be making such a huge effort to win this state.
As for your claim about independents, do you have any evidence to back up your claim? I don’t consider sensational journalism to be that BTW.
Republicans don’t try to win “swing” voters. If they did, they wouldn’t take such extreme positions. They shore up their base first, then win NPAs and independents from a position of strength. We do just the opposite (try to win the undecideds from a position of weakness).
Actually they do. As I recall, Scott did go leftward in the last election… And we all know how that turned out.
Leftward? He said he would restore some funding to public schools. What else?
Remember that he also supported the Medicaid expansion during that session as well. Of course, he’s already reversed positions now that he’s back in office.
He said he supported Medicaid expansion very early on but never lobbied for it. He then backtracked before the election. That’s hardly “leftward” since the Florida Senate was more supportive from the beginning.
Scott didn’t change positions until recently – after he won reelection.
Remember that he also supported the Medicaid expansion during that session as well. Of course, he’s already reversed positions now that he’s back in office.
(Posted to wrong thread so reposting here) He said he supported Medicaid expansion very early on but never lobbied for it. He then backtracked before the election. That’s hardly “leftward” since the Florida Senate was more supportive from the beginning.
A large number of independents are former Republicans who became disenchanted with the GOP, but continue to vote GOP. They feel better about themselves to be able to say they are independent, but nothing has changed for many except their voter registration.
Based on what knowledge?
great article! I have been screaming at the party for years over just these issues! too bad the arguments always fall on the deaf ears of the FDP in Tallahassee. All we need now is for these people to take even more control over local DECs! When they do, count me out!!
I have been reading the Florida Squeeze for quite some time and this is the best one yet. But even when we get good candidates (like Carl Zimmermann in FL HD 65 who was unseated by a wet-behind-the-ears young Republican in 2014) we still lose because our turnout stinks.
TUNOUT. That should be the main focus of county DEC’s not in their frantic actions a few weeks before a general election but as a two-year campaign after each general election. We know the name and address of every Democrat who did not vote in 2014. But what do the DEC’s do about turnout during these two years?
What are our people in the DEC’s doing after the debacle of 2014? Building their ego’s about how important they are
There should be a Precinct Captain for each Precinct who is charged with assembling a group of activists to call on those who did not vote in the last general election. Ask for a telephone number or email address and at least once a month keep in touch with that “lazy” voter.
And what are the DEC’s doing to register new voters? All I hear is crickets
This is the most cohesive explanation of Florida’s Democratic situation I have ever seen. The only thing I would add is the lack of support that the FDP shows all Democratic candidates, regardless of their Big Donor support or their odds of winning based on preconceived odds. All Democratic candidates are important and all need support. That’s how you build a bench and get more qualified candidates to run.
I’m glad to see you Joe I see your off the Allison Tant plantation.
It depends on the organization as far as their activity. All DEC’s should take copious notes from the OFA because they knew how to contact people and get them out to vote. I do have to admit that Obama was history and he pulled people out to vote that never vote. I agree, the FDP’s lack of support , especially financial puts all our local and state candidates at a real disadvantage.How are they to reach voters,with no money and/or support. I won’t prejudge Demings report until I have read it.
Wow — strong points all around. The excuses for failed Republican-light candidates are worn out. The logic that any Dem the party puts up ought to win based on numbers, so any failure is on the voters is on them — or worse, on progressive activists for spoiling things by speaking up — is just silly. Worse still is the premise that Republican-friendly Dems are the “practical” choice.
There is way too much divergence between the Democratic voters and party leaders, consultants, and operatives right now. Strong Dems, strongly opposed to Republicans are the only case we have to make for the people to elect Democrats. This is not the 1990s, with the Clintons’ dream of playing footsie with the financial elite in exchange for slightly softer social policy. If that day ever even existed, it’s long gone now.
I would say that when these “lies” are told, the people repeating them likely believe them themselves. It’s a classic power dynamic you see in business all the time. People get in an insular group, used to doing things a certain way, and end up feeling the people whose needs they’re supposed to be reflecting and serving are really just in the way. Executives resent the board; the board resents the shareholders; nobody wins because everything ends up geared to the short-term goals of whoever is charge at the moment.
People get used to certain ways of doing things and develop lines of internal logic specific to themselves, and then have a hard time seeing outside the bubble. Anyone who can with a straight face say we failed to beat Rick Scott because the *voters* didn’t do their job has lost their bearings in a big way.
And I do wonder if some actual bylaws are being broken here. Do Florida Dems have a convention system now? If it’s supposed to be open, I don’t see how party apparatchiks even have the authority to be sandbagging Dems that haven’t even announced, like they are with Grayson. If we wanted these decisions made in the smokey rooms, we’d have said so.
I can’t help thinking it’s in part the flood of “dark money” pushing these candidate deals earlier and earlier in the process. That’s not going to work out for anyone.
We can do better, and we have to. The point that people respond and vote out of real disagreement with the other side’s point of view, and the damage it might wreak is a good one. It’s clear we have leaders, donors, and consultants who are most comfortable with monied conservative Democrats that come with their own funding and allies in the business world, but that’s the other side’s brand, not ours.
We need real Dems, real criticism of disastrous Republican policies, and more transparency in the way we pick candidates to field. No more picking conserva-Dems and recent Republican converts because it’s convenient from a business perspective, then bleating “turnout!” when that fails to motivate people.
So Brooke is right about some things and wrong about some things in the above article:
First, here’s what she’s right about:
Patrick Murphy can win in a presidential year. That’s when he’s running. An open seat in an non-Presidential election would be harder to win. Should he win, however, his chances go up with incumbency.
Donors choose candidates. Sort of true. You can’t run a race like this without tremendous resources. The only questions involve when that choice is made and by which donors. Some candidates get large donations early, which makes them viable enough to campaign. Others get small donations early and quickly. Of course, that doesn’t mean you’ll win (ask Jeff Greene or Allen West.) Murphy, by the way, got plenty of support from small donors.
Both Democratic voters and donors had a choice to pick Nan Rich instead of Charlie Crist. They soundly did not on both counts. Activist progressive Dems could have given her a broader voice with small donations, signups, and later – votes. They didn’t. It would be overstating the power of the FDP to say it was their choice that sealed it. What sealed it was Crist walked in with huge name ID, a great list, star power, charisma, and dedicated donors. Nan came in with little of these – and early struggles clearly convinced a lot of people that her campaign could never keep pace with Rick Scott.
Still – Donors enable and empower campaigns. They don’t choose candidates. Candidates choose to be candidates, and often the best argument for that candidacy wins the big donors. IF Grayson runs – it won’t be the donors choosing him – it will be Grayson choosing himself, hoping that the activist base pulls out the cash. (As no doubt, Nan hoped they would.)
Here’s where Brook is wrong:
You’ll win if you have a D next to your name: That’s totally not true. There are plenty of examples of lower level races being lost despite being D’s in the last two presidential elections. There’s a lift in turnout that benefits D’s but there’s ALWAYS dropoff the further you get down the ticket. That lift will benefit Murphy.
Swing voters don’t exist: Totally false.
There are two types of swing voters: Undecided voters and soft-support/oppose. The early ones are usually low info voters that make a decision very close to the end of an election – often based less on policy and more on how they feel about the person. Anyone involved in campaigns has seen this number close in the last days of an election. The other kind of “swing voter” is one that’s tacitly leaning towards a candidate – even stating their for one, but then clearly and obviously changes their mind after hearing more information.
To deny the existence of the swing voter is to say that advertising and field outreach is pointless – because nobody changes their mind. That’s clearly, demonstrably not true. The implication is simply that it is the only the choice of candidate that matters, and that choice will so motivate the (already decided) base, that we will win. Also demonstrably not true, as shown by many failures by underfunded, underreported progressives. (Like Nan in the primary.)
The reality is that in any race – there IS movement, both in undecided and soft support. It is often blind of partisanship. People vote on a number of issues – not simply based on whether someone is a “corporate” or “Wall Street” Dem or not. Towards the very end, when a LOT of people make their decision, it’s far less likely they’re looking at whether the candidate is progressive enough vs. whether something in their ad or their presentation appeals or repulses them.
With regard to folks changing their mind through the use of advertising, field and outreach: ask yourself, what are they changing their minds about? Are you really moving a Rick Scott voter to a Charlie Crist voter…and, did that work? Or, is the point to change YOUR voter’s mind from sitting out an election (a position of apathy), to getting to the polls to vote (a position of empowerment)?
Remember, Crist was dominating polls early on in the election. Scott’s ad blitz ended that… So yeah advertising plays a big roll in campaigns.
all nonsense – until we recognize that our strengths lie with the various sub-groups we’ll continue to lose – for example, our black membership only comes out to vote when they have a “…dog-in-the-fight…” otherwise their apathy wins out and only a few will turn out to vote – we gotta give them a reason to vote and don”t forget the Hispanic voters who need more motivation than a Latin name on the ballot – it seems as though we choose our candidates because it’s “,,,their turn top run…” horse manure, the only GOOD candidate is one who can win and that, my brothers and sisters is that –
As long as the choice is Murphy vs Grayson- I’m 100% Murphy. Grayson is more about himself and the show then he is about good policy.
More about himself? Look at his votes. He votes against his own interests to help the 99%.
Every vote that Murphy has taken has been calculated on the premise of re-election in a slightly red district. It has never been about the people of district 18; it has always been about Patrick Murphy’s political future.
He’s actually pretty popular in his district.
These are the same arguments the tea party is making. They think that republicans need to go tea party in all races to win. Do you think a tea party candidate can win HD 49? No? Maybe you need to run as a moderate republican like Placencia did to win. Do you think a tea party republican can win California? No? But Arnold Schwartzennager did. I get wanting to see your ideology more represented nationally, but come on let’s look at common sense and facts on elections results and stop acting like far left liberal Democrats can win in a conservative state like Florida. It isnt going to happen. Win a few elections as Democrats and then come back and talk about getting us represented by progresives. In the meantime, can we please get some Democrats in office?!?!
“Win a few election as Democrats and then come and talk…” — indeed.
Getting personal never does your side any favors.
@naoya thanks for the laugh. 🙂
In my experience the article gets it wrong. Perhaps this is a piece to make us feel better about losing so many elections. The fact is our base is not motivated to vote, and who can blame them? Election loss after loss, most feel it does no good to vote. That is the simple truth. Winning breeds more wins, and we haven’t won in so long most don’t even try anymore.
A good start. I make two points here:
1) This essay still doesn’t address the fundamental problems we’re having with gerrymandering. In many parts of Florida where Democrats are dominant, even when they turn out in good numbers, they can’t win because of rigged districts- i.e. gerrymandering.
The bottom line is that our current Dem leadership isn’t coming up with the right answers and hasn’t for a generation, and the rest of us need to do something about it… and that’s going to be almost impossible because of the way the party works- and doesn’t work.
2) The ONE thing voters agree on from Pensacola to Jacksonville to Key West is aggressively protecting our environment. 75% of them proved this last November and yet LEAD (based on Val’s comments to date) and the Tallahassee leadership still don’t seem to get that or know what to do about it. In fact that is the key to getting voters energized enough to overcome gerrymandering and the unlimited money of the corporatists and social regressives.
I have never been able to understand how a 50 – 50 state has a 75 – 25 legislature. You would think that the fairness we all think is inborn into Americans would stop that. If not, then the constitutional amendment we passed should. Why do we sit back and allow the gerrymandering to continue? This is what the Democrats should be addressing and publicizing 24/7 365 days/year. It just is not right.
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I keep saying the answer but you don’t believe it (no one can): The votes counts are NOT always accurately reported, and haven’t been for some 16 years… since about 2002 when digital/touchscreen voting system first started being used.
[I think that was in the Daytona Beach area (Brevard County, FL) where they were first tested.]
i am completely at a loss as to why environmental issues aren’t front and center of a statewide progressive agenda. well…actually…not entirely at a loss, and i’m working on a piece to address some of the interests in play, and what could be done better. the truth is, we’re on the cusp of an environmental movement emerging without any institutional help, which is preferable to retail c3-c4 group coming along and organizing for us — at least for the issues we need to address.
i didn’t address gerrymandering b/c it’s not a lie that’s being told — it’s one of the few truths. if we don’t win back the state by 2020 for reapportionment, we’re screwed. the environment will be screwed. our aquifer will be devastated. it will be a worst case scenario.
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Just trying to figure out FL politics since I am new to the state. You raised some interesting points. FYI: it would be “there are tribes” not “There’s…” Use a plural form of “to be” if the object following it is plural.
thanks for the grammatical catch! the older i get the worse i get at hearing the correct grammatical agreements in my head…and don’t even get me started on homophones. such completely age-related error…I’ll be writing copy quickly and find myself using “mail” instead of “male,” or using the wrong “their/there,” and completely want to kill myself! this would have never happened before I turned i turned 40!
i can relate to FL politics being opaque to someone new to the state. I moved back to FL in 2006 from TN. There’s so much that makes FL politics unique, and ALL of it matters.
Absolutely true…BTW there is another liberal running for the Senate and her name is Pam Keith. A good rule of thumb in choosing an electorate is to vote for the person that collected the least amount of money…NO corporation money. – Bill Boyer
Now that it has been explained as to why we will probably not win with Murphy, let’s find a true Democratic candidate. The problem exists in that party insiders have already shown their hand as to where the money will flow and are pulling the strings on our elected officials. This is already out there with these unusually early endorsements. These statements are meant to send us a message. We need to send them a message that we loyal Democrats will pick our own candidate. It’s called a primary, let’s respect the process.
Our author points out the problem with our basic political system, which presents the individual with limited and constricted choices. A parliamentary system gives the individual a wider potential range of political ideologies from which they can support and hopefully elect individuals. The Democratic party represents a wide spectrum of various different ideas and point of view. To me that divergence is our greatest strength.
The article is spot on! It’s a GREAT thing that this time, Florida Democrats are going to have a better option. Someone who is neither selected by the donor class nor beholden to the FDP in any way. I am the voice and the leader the voters really want, and I’m proving it every day.
Reblogged this on Wobbly Warrior's Blog and commented:
“Donors, who get to choose the candidates, choose those who represent their interests. Unsurprisingly, voters want candidates who will represent our interests, and we’ve been telling the party for more than a decade now that the donors’ choice of candidates really sucks. Sucks so bad, as a matter of fact, that donors could’t even pick candidates to beat Rick Scott, who is the very embodiment of everything that is urgently wrong and vile with the other party.”
[…] In response to Brook Hines’s blog-post, “5 LIES THE FLORIDA DEMOCRATIC PARTY NEEDS TO STOP TELLING”… […]
#1 LIE: “PROGRESSIVISM DONT FLY IN LONG TERM” – There ain’t no FREE LUNCH, LEFTIES!
Millennials have been sold a bill of goods, most have become slaves to lenders! Once the government debt bubbles blows worldwide, the millennials will be cooked in the squat as government will be hunting ANY loose change they can find making it even worse for our children.
The best these government academic politicians have done, coming from the most prestigious universities in our land, have bankrupt our once great country.
Next up: Politicians will bleed even more from the hard working taxpayers, making them pay for what they have caused. They’re brilliant!
[…] original 5 Lies Florida Democratic Party Needs to Stop Telling Us was published long before the meteoric rise of Bernie Sanders in the primaries, and ultimately, […]