Disney and Florida Democrats Convention Weekend – A Decade Plus Marriage of Convenience

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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.

11 comments

  1. Linda Rosenthal · · Reply

    Even though we had paid the registration fee – incredibly high to begin with, when my husband and I found out that we would not be able to park on site and had to add an hour to get to the Yacht club, which we were not staying at because of the exorbitant room rate, we had to think long and hard about going in the first place. We did decide to attend, perhaps because we are such dedicated grassroots activists, and I hope that we do not live to regret this decision!

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  2. Ron Baldwin · · Reply

    I attended three of those so-called “Conventions” starting in 2002 and finally had enough of those useless and colossal wastes of time and money. The Democratic Party has terminal cases of rigor mortis at the national. Florida, and county levels. No wonder the plurality of registered Democrats vs registered Republicans in Florida has dropped by shocking numbers, and it is almost impossible for a Democrat to be elected. in Florida.

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  3. Flordia Squeeze: There are some of us Progressive Democrats seeking to change the very real issues raised about how the FDP is currently managed. – See DPCF’s Attachment entitled STEP Chester Just Presdident – Broward Chapter DPCF

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    1. The Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida STEP Report is actually embargoed until later today — however, it will be released FIRST right here on The Florida Squeeze. 🙂 STAY TUNED!

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  4. Mark Lynn · · Reply

    The 1989 FDP Convention was at the Diplomat Hotel in Hollywood, FL. Two years later, the big presidential bash was at Disney. Remember the latter fondly! I do think the convention should move around – Tallahassee, Jacksonville, Tampa, Miami, etc., etc.

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  5. David Jones · · Reply

    In fairness, the failure of the Republican controlled state legislature to act in good faith towards adhering to the publicly generated referendum to create fair election districts, which garnered support from a super-majority of Floridians on the 2010 ballot, has much to do with the lack of success by Democrats in the states legislative races. President Obama carried the state twice and Senator Nelson has been highly successful as well.It has been the malfeasance of the Republicans and the nonfulfillment of duty on the part of Attorney General Bondi and the court system that has undermined Democratic fortunes in Florida.

    Having said that, I do agree that it is time for a change in venue for FDP conventions for reasons outlined in your article and in previous posts..

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  6. The capitol of Florida should be Orlando. It is easiest to get to. Because there is Disney no problem getting hotel motel rooms at any level in the surrounding area. Huge number. I prefer being in the belly of the beast. And if it isn’t Disney it is hedge fund owned and it continues to destroy us. It might be a hoot to have a democratic convention in a state park. Make it into more of a protest than a candidate meet and greet.

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    1. Mark Lynn · · Reply

      Talk to former FL State Sen. Lee Weissenborn of North Miami. Back in the 60s he made a big push to move the capital to Orlando. His efforts resulted in the construction of the new Capital complex in Tallahassee.

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  7. InsiderMyself · · Reply

    Again, this is a non union hotel. The Florida Democratic Party does not even act out their own principles. Awful!

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  8. Sharon Kolor · · Reply

    There are plenty of things wrong with the FDP being at Disney and with the prices at Disney, but Disney IS a union company. http://mynews13.com/content/news/cfnews13/on-the-town/article.html/content/news/articles/cfn/2014/7/18/disney_agrees_to_wag.html

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  9. I went in 2009; not a terrible experience but I want to frankly ask why is the party still cajoling us? We do not have a party that is visible in local media. The area where Democrats need to improve more is Central Florida–yet it just seems that the party is death by committee. We wave our hands around hoping for better and get no coverage or pick a stillborn issue to make hay with.

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