Op-Ed column in response to “5 LIES THE FLORIDA DEMOCRATIC PARTY NEEDS TO STOP TELLING”

By Dr Rachel Pienta

In response to Brook Hines’s blog-post, “5 LIES THE FLORIDA DEMOCRATIC PARTY NEEDS TO STOP TELLING”

The blog post title is click bait…and, I admit, it got me. I wanted to know if Hines had anything original to say. A few of the points made had merit, others were oversimplified or simply off base.

I agree that fingers will always be pointed out county parties. And that irritates the heck out of me.

Additionally, the RPOF fundraising strategy translates into support at the grassroots level — the level of funding given to RECs translate into tens of thousands of dollars per county. The paltry amount that DECs are told to “earn” as grants does not compare.

After these points, we mostly diverge.

We had good top of the ballot candidates in 2010.  We still lost. To conflate what happened with Charlie Crist in 2014 with what is happening now with the furor over who should receive support from the DSCC or the state party in the Senate race is something else entirely.

To limit the discussion to an argument over the relative merits of a Grayson or Murphy candidacy without acknowledging the candidacy of Pam Keith seems a bit…dare I say…hypocritical?

Steve Schale, a Democratic strategist I hold in some esteem, asserts that the Florida Democratic Party does not have the power that people ascribe to it. To this, I respond….yes…and no…

The donor class does look to the Democratic Party establishment for a stamp of approval. If a candidate does not get the establishment nod, fundraising at the national level – that is needed for a successful Congressional or Senatorial campaign – is difficult. But the nod does not originate in Tallahassee,  that nod process happens in Washington for federal seats.

In actuality, making an analysis about what is happening at the state party level about specific federal candidates misses the boat on the role of the DCCC and the DSCC.

I do want to see the polls that show a surge for Bernie Sanders. I do hear enthusiasm for Sanders at cocktail parties but that likely says more about the people I am bending my elbow with than it does about political polling.

Is there a gap between donor values and voters (insert “grassroots” when Hines says “voters”)? At the state and federal level, I would say there is a gap.  Others may say it is a chasm.

The notion of lazy voters? Hogwash. Uninspired voters, another story. Voters that have not been touched by a well-orchestrated (and well-funded) field program are not likely to turn out to vote.  Field, tv media, and social media are today’s three-legged stool, or triumvirate, of a successful GOTV program.

However, does all that matter if we don’t have good candidates? Candidate recruitment matters.  Voters respond to compelling narrative about good candidates – when the field and GOTV effort brings the narrative to them.

How does that explain 2010 you might ask? The answer is simple – sometimes you cannot out work or out raise a wave year. What Gwen Graham did in Congressional District 2 in 2014 is hard to achieve.

The vitriol toward Charlie Crist is misplaced.  His party switch story had the potential to be compelling. The Scott campaign beat Crist at the money game — which translated into deficits at the field and media levels. Lest we forget, Democrats also still rue the day they let the Governor’s race be switched to the presidential midterm year.

Hines is wrong about what happens during non-Presidential years. Democrats in Florida have not successfully turned out the vote to win the executive branch since the last time Jeb Bush lost a gubernatorial election.

The truest part of Hines’s blog post is that we should not expect any earth shattering revelations from the LEAD taskforce.

That said, what may be most compelling about what Hines has to say is that the blog post addresses a particular sentiment among grassroots Democrats. How the grassroots feel matters.  Having the opportunity to engage in discourse about the heart and soul of our state party is part of how we will keep the grassroots engaged and working to elect Democratic candidates, whomever they may be.

Feel free to submit columns when you disagree with our writers. We believe in having an open debate and dialogue about issues. 

5 comments

  1. old guy on the bench · · Reply

    Seems to this old man that the leadership of party has been installed by the rank and file party activists of all persuasions in our party. We are the party of the big tent where one and all is welcome. We work together to actively and openly support one another. We have a wide variety of different visions and points of view. I suspect that the LEAD taskforce report will be akin to the Republican autopsy of 2012, consigned to a library shelf buried in the stacks.

    What needs to happen for our party to move forward is to develop unified positive approach that enjoys wide and universal support across the board. We need to offer a compelling vision. We don’t need to act like a pack of bears tearing down one another.

  2. Patrick J. Fowler · · Reply

    The LEAD Task Force is unfortunately named from the perspective of an old, small d democrat. It might better have been a listening task force.

    Some things to ponder:
    .The DNC and state Parties focus on national elections, the rain makers.
    .DEC members and Party officials are not selected by the “rank and file”. Most Democrats have
    little or no knowledge of the Party structure or the people in it.
    .Most DEC members are self selected, self-defined political activists, and as such are unlike
    most registered voters of any type.
    .DEC membership would equal less than 1% of registered Democrats in their community, even
    if all positions were filled, which seldom, if ever, occurs. Yet they claim to represent Democratic
    Party members without taking the time to make a concentrated effort to meet, spend time with
    or listen to those people without preaching, teaching or fund raising.
    .Since the late 70s the Party has been on the defensive and must find a way toward progress
    through engagement with the people.
    .The Democratic Party is neither democratic nor a well organized movement with anything like
    close to a clear understanding of values and goals shared by a broad cross section of its
    members.
    .The Party has become a political organization in search of methods to manipulate donors and
    voters to support it as an organization and its politicians regardless of their effectiveness in
    serving the people.
    .The Democratic Party needs a strong, multi-year organizational and democracy building effort
    with goal of becoming an effective organization in meeting the political needs and wishes of the
    people.

    If it doesn’t we might ask why it should not give up the name so that someone interested in small d democracy could use the title.

    1. Great insight…right on target in my way of thinking. The Democratic party has problems at its core and could easily lose to a fragmented GOP in 2016. We once knew what Democrats stood for, regrettably that’s no longer seems to be the case.

  3. Dems in Action · · Reply

    Doctor Pienta is right on the mark. We needed a candidate that voters felt was a real Democrat. They need to be inspired. They need to have talking points that they can use in almost any venue. And, the grass roots are the party. We’re the ones who go door to door. We can tell FDP personnel just what the voters are saying. Can anyone in Tallahassee say the same. They only listen to the donor class. So, without any help, we do the best we can. It is FDP’s job to find and train candidates, not for this year, but for the next election. You can’t learn this stuff overnight. And, we want the FDP to stay out of the election of party leaders. Candidates should be those who know the ropes; have been active for more then 4 years. They are out there, you just have to ask.

  4. Charles · · Reply

    Thank you for your analysis. It was well put, and not over simplified as Hines’ article. The problems with the party are complicated.

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