Editors Note: This article was planned to run on Tuesday before the TFS Radio show and a second part was to run Wednesday. Kartik Krishnaiyer has been under the weather this week and so the articles have been combined and released on Thursday in a condensed version.
This weekend Florida Democrats will gather at Walt Disney World for the party’s biennial convention this weekend. This will be the ninth successive convention the FDP has held on Disney property – every single one since 1999 has been held at the self-proclaimed “happiest place on earth.” Disney World isn’t always a happy place though if you are a worker or someone who has kids who needs to spend a small fortune (more than it would cost to fly round-trip to Europe) to visit the parks and have a complete weekend experience.
The FDP last held a convention elsewhere in 1997, when it was held in Tampa, and that not so coincidentally is the best Florida convention I have attended. For whatever reason the party has never had this conference at the Orange County Convention Center or another venue in Central Florida. Simply put the Democrats are all in on Disney. In fairness, this isn’t a reflection of the current party leadership as this arrangement began when the late Charlie Whitehead last led the party. But in an era when disenchantment with the party is at an all time high after cycle after cycle of perceived under-performance, things seem to be coming to a head this week.
This year more and more actove Democrats seem to be skipping the convention outright than ever previously. Others are simply attending some daytime sessions and not staying the night on site. Despite the announced presence of Presidential campaigns, many notable national figures and three Democratic candidates for US Senate most large counties had several unfilled delegate slots.
Many progressives have qualms with patronizing Disney properties as the company has been at the forefront of fighting Earned Sick Days locally and statewide while also working to undermine the unionization of many of its facilities. As Brook Hines and I discussed on this week’s TFS Radio program this year’s convention is being met with little enthusiasm among rank-in-file Democrats for a variety of factors. Disney is among those factors, as is the date on the calendar, the general malaise around a largely ineffective and irrelevant party and the reality that the convention is more a social call than meaningful working event.
Disney seems to be a logical spot for a party completely out of touch with the grassroots membership that vote for Democratic candidates to hold such an event. This is after all a party that has lost 19 of the last 20 statewide elections where Bill Nelson hasn’t been the Democratic nominee and a party that is so obsessed with appearing palatable to those outside large urban counties that they’ll water down the progressive brand as much as possible and a party so obsessed and desperate for money that they’re willing to use Disney as a venue to charge grassroots activists for everything under the sun.
The events around this convention are mostly high dollar events being held at the Disney Yacht Club, which is the wrong image for a party that touts its appeal to working class Floridians. Even worse is that the Florida Democratic Party doesn’t profit off of this the way maybe it would at other places – because of the expense of Disney including exorbitant room room rates for those who seek to stay on site and the expense of meals on Disney property, the host venue becomes the real financial beneficiary of this convention.
As for the convention itself, what exactly is the point? No platform or statement of Democratic values is adopted, even though attendees have paid $65 for the privilege of being a delegate. The party isn’t having a Presidential Straw Poll, which is all good and well, because those dog and pony shows gets super old after a while – so I cannot fault them for that though that certainly would have attracted media attention. The public schedule for the convention indicates that only one General Session will take place, on Saturday morning which is after all Halloween, making it difficult for parents with young children to spend the weekend away from home. The convention is also taking place at the same time as the EPCOT Food and Wine Festival making access in and out the “happiest place on earth,” even more troublesome and precluding most from leaving Disney property to get a decent and affordable meal somewhere off site.
For well over a decade Florida Democrats have opted to have a convention in a place where Republicans do numerous events and a locale that is cost prohibitive for many. But given the culture around the elites of the party of junkets in expensive hotels to attend do-nothing DNC and State Committee meetings, this convention falls right into a continuing pattern of a disconnected party.
The rules of the party make it very difficult for outsides to ever feel truly welcomed and the cost of party events make it difficult to participate for most. Perhaps that is the way it is supposed to be.