On paper, Andrew Gillum is the wrong candidate for a party that needs to shed it’s insider, elite image – why? Because Gillum has been working in politics and in elected office since he was in college. But the Mayor of Tallahassee deserves full marks for coming out of the box in his candidacy for Governor hitting on the types of themes Florida Democrats need to articulate but have been hesitant to touch in the recent past.
A few quotes from Gillum’s initial blast email show the positive and uplifting messaging he’s engaging in:
For me, being a Democrat has always been about welcoming folks just as they are. This was the party that advocated for my parents growing up, that didn’t demonize them or label them as lazy. Instead, they fought for progress for all of us. And that’s what I’ve worked to do in my time on the Tallahassee City Council and as Mayor of Tallahassee.
This is fantastic. For a party that has allowed its elites and people associated with it to demonize and label working class voters especially since Hillary Clinton’s electoral defeat, Gillum is trying to be a unifier, at least initially. He’s drawing on his own family experience as an African-American growing up in Florida and how that can connect to working class folks currently left behind in this economic climate.
When President Trump’s executive order targeted immigrants in our cities, I protested loudly and proudly, and fought to stop him from tearing these families apart. This concept of having to choose between security and compassion is absolutely false. We can have both, and we must fight for both.
Spot on – Many Democrats have taken Trump’s immigration order and made it about identity and protecting Muslims. While this might be noble from an idealistic standpoint it is the wrong play politically – the right play is to talk about families and wrap the party in family values for all families be they white, brown or black – this applies to the Dreamers also by the way, a fight that is looming around the corner. That battle NEEDS to be about family values not about identity – this redirect will put the GOP the phony party of family values on the defensive.
In fact, I have worked tirelessly to make Tallahassee a safe haven for all — and I have done so without resorting to irrational discrimination. When I refused to repeal ordinances that prevent shooting guns in a public park, the gun lobby sued me. They thought they could intimidate me with threats of personal fines, with two years of litigation, and with attacks from right-wing interest groups. They were wrong. Just last month, we won the battle to keep our parks safe.
In a primary where I had feared the leading Democrats might shy away from taking on the gun lobby, this is refreshing to see. It will be interesting to note whether other prospective candidates for this office on the Democratic side, especially those from the same region as Gillum take this strong a stand.
My pastor talks about it in the terms of being the thermostat versus the thermometer. There are enough people who are prepared to take the temperature. There are not enough people who are willing to set it. I think I’ve demonstrated up to this point that I’ve never had to take the temperature in order to do the right thing.
Democrats have become openly hostile to organized religion in many cases which has increased hostility to the party among regular folks, so it is good to see Gillum reference church and religion.
If Gillum, who is as institutional a Democrat as they come (I first met him in 2003 when he was an FDP staffer at the ripe old age of 23), can help redefine the party’s themes and long-term thinking he is likely a better nominee for an office the Democrats will be massive underdogs to gain as any one else that could potentially run. Democrats need to play the long-game with the 2018 nominations not the short-term game like 2010 and 2014, which left the party reeling and without a unified theme or logical statewide candidates for the next-go-round.