As we go through yet another cycle of Democrats licking largely self-inflicted wounds after a woeful electoral defeat, the conversations as usual are revolving around people and personalities rather than issues. Right now the Florida Democratic Party (FDP) which is on essentially a twenty year losing streak cannot hope to flip the state without some sort of clear statement of values or a call to unity. Simply being an opposition party that throws stones at the Republican majority isn’t going to move people – it hasn’t for twenty years after all.
The Florida Democratic Party currently represents nothing more than disparate coalition of factions and pressure groups that are simply united by hatred of the other side (Republicans and conservatives) or the opportunity for business and financial gain.
Florida Democrats have not had a real definitive statement of its values for years – where do Democrats in Florida stand and what principles do they stand on? Are they a progressive party that has clear guiding ideological and policy principles, a “me too” conservative party dominated by corporate lobbyists and political consultants , a hybrid of the two or something else completely?
Republicans have elected officials and a party discipline that defines where they stand and messaging. But the Democrats do not. What the Democrats have become in Florida is a largely a reactive party whose entire being is defined by what the other side does and a party which has become a comfortable mechanism for consultants and lobbyists to prey on and make money. The situation WILL NOT change without a definitive break or perhaps a recognition from those on the left that the party is best either ignored or simply seen as a complimentary mechanism to outside ideological-based organizing.
One of the ways the Democrats can change the trajectory of things is to use the next FDP Convention to unveil a party platform – a clear statement of values and ideology. This policy statement would ostensibly be something that appeals to a broad brush of Florida’s working class citizens and clearly differentiates the Democrats programs from what the governing Republicans are doing. The platform would hopefully be a “sunny side up” look at the state and how we can empower Floridians – much like Newt Gingrich’s gimmicky 1994 “Contract with America,” which was ridiculed at the time by the political press
In 2006 and 2008, the Democrats achieved a surge of success nationally but here in Florida, the party patted itself on the back and didn’t do the job to solidify the success achieved nationally and fell back into a rut. A party whose ideology was dominated by political operators and lobbyists rather than voters is always destined to fail after all.
Now as we enter 2017, the party is once again soul searching – and the battle has shifted again from issues to personalities. This is a disappointing development. Whomever becomes the next chair of the state party needs to emphasize the need for a party platform and statement of values. Otherwise simply repeating the same mistakes of the past will lead to the same insanity and ultimately more electoral hardships. The failure to adopt a clear values statement might also provide the final breaking point for issues-oriented progressives who have become disillusioned with the FDP through the years.