Another Florida Democratic disaster. Wave doesn’t reach Florida. (UPDATED and EDITED)

Editors note: This piece originally ran late Election Night but has been reworked and edited to reflect Nikki Fried’s victory in the Agriculture Commission race and the undecided nature of the US Senate race which has been impacted by a ballot-design flaw in Broward County. 

Florida Democrats have once again struck out in a big way. For the third straight cycle the Democrats have been embarrassed in Florida.  But what made this cycle worse is it seemingly came against the tide nationally, which favored the Democrats heavily. Like 1998 and 2006, good national years for the Democrats were not replicated in Florida.

In this state, purple in national elections, the Democrats have now lost 20 of the last 22 races for Governor and Cabinet (since 2000), a record of futility only rivaled by rock-ribbed GOP states like Idaho, Utah and Wyoming. It is in fact far worse than heavily Republican states like Kansas and Montana. The Democrats have now LOST 11 of the last 12 straight contests for Governor and Cabinet, and six straight races for Governor.  (Props to our David Trotter whose modeling for this election was the closest to be spot on of any public projections of the state.)

The reality is the Democrats keep making the same mistakes over and over again in Florida, and at this site we keep writing basically the same articles every two years.  The margin of defeat for the Democrats once again was in the 50,000-75,000 vote area in top-of-the-ticket races despite the continued heavy shift of urban areas to the party. Why does this keep happening? As we wrote about months, a false sense of complacency about changes in demographics has consumed the thinking of party elites. 

But it’s more than that:

  • It’s a party whose most influential opinion leaders are more concerned about the politics of personality and maintaining a culture without accountability internally than actually winning November elections.
  • It’s a party whose leadership is more focused on crushing internal dissent and winning August primaries than building coalitions and doing the hard work of grassroots infrastructure laying outside large urban conglomerates.
  • It’s a party whose elites speed through vote rich counties off I-75 and I-95 on their way to raise money in southern Florida without so much as thinking about engaging the voters in those increasingly Republican areas. It’s ultimately a party not concerned about obtaining power, because heck, they’d probably not know what to do with it if they got there.

Ultimately the Democrats got what was coming again to them in this state, yet again. We’ve spent plenty of time since just before the primary on this site at  pointing out the ethical baggage carried by eventual Gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum. I’ll state here for posterity’s sake we just stuck to the public record on Gillum and didn’t even open the can of worms on rumors about further alleged transgressions, many of which are well known to Tallahassee insiders of both parties (Democrats knowingly ran Gillum, with many, if not most establishment figures pushing him in the primary despite a full understanding much of this might come out, and in fact a lot as noted above didn’t…the Democrats got what they deserved in the Governor’s race) – but for that we got such a terrible backlash from angry Democrats, yours truly has quit Facebook completely.

Mayor Gillum and the Democrats propensity to constantly interject identity and race into this campaign also hurt them – sure the GOP race baits and sometimes it is not so subtle, but as I have found out as a target myself, the Democrats and aligned groups have become quite nasty often using identity as a substitute for real meaningful policy and real coalition building.  I also have little time for the argument that those who cast ballots for Nikki Fried or Bill Nelson were racists.

The gap between Nelson and Gillum’s votes was FAR SMALLER than the gap between Nelson votes and those for Dem Gubernatorial nominee, the white moderate Congressman Jim Davis in 2006, the last Democratic wave year. Nelson’s apparent loss owes itself to ballot design in Broward County more than anything, but still his margin over Gillum statewide was minimal. But facts hardly ever matter to those Democrats who try and spin failure. 

But more important than having a flawed nominee it was a party much like in 2014 and 2016 that was filled with misplaced arrogance and a feeling of entitled inevitability. It was a party driven by a lust for power but more than anything by a need to raise money so that those elites could continue to feed at the trough while not delivering tangible results.  It was a party driven by a group of elites so convinced Donald Trump was hated (when actually he’s less hated in Florida than in any other swing state) that they’d walk this election – just like they had made those assumptions in 2014 and 2016.

Some positive signs were found on Election Day. As our modeling, which proved to the most accurate public model in Florida predicted Duval and Seminole Counties continued their drift toward the Democrats, finally flipping in a top-of-the-ticket statewide election. Democrats picked up several State House seats and came tantalizingly close in a few more. Combined with what appears to be a Janet Cruz win in the State Senate the party will have more state legislators than any time since 2000, though remaining in the minority in both chambers. Nikki Fried who ran on something (marijuana cultivation) instead of against something like other Democrats (we hate Trump and he ought to be thrown in jail for whatever claim we make about him and we hate Putin because you know he’s Russian) was the first successful new statewide candidate for the Democrats since 2006. 

But these positive signs were far and few between. It was another disastrous election cycle for Democrats in Florida, one which was reminiscent of 1998, 2002, 2004, 2010, 2014 and 2016. For all intents and purposes the Democrats lose so much, some of us have become increasingly numb to failure- and that’s not a good thing.

The soul searching once again for Florida Democrats begins now. Here at TFS we’d like to be part of a constructive solution because after all democracy only works when multiple parties can compete, creating a competition of ideas, ideologies and policies. In Florida, Democracy doesn’t work and it is not because of a conspiracy or racism. The recount and intimidation from the gangster element that has taken a hold of Florida politics because of GOP domination (and has run off more reasonable and seasoned voices that long existed within the GOP) just reminds us how the Democrats ineptitude has cost the citizens of this state.  It’s because Florida’s Democratic elites continue to fail when it matters most and never face the consequences for those failures. Maybe the aftermath of this near bloodbath will be different? We can only hope…

9 comments

  1. Concerned Democrat · · Reply

    Let’s get straight to the point. You’ve ranted for years on this blog about the Dems not nominating a true progressive to give voters something to vote for. You’ve complained about the milk toast nominations of Alex Sink,
    Charlie Crist, and others. Well, we nominated a progressive and lost again. It wasn’t about Hamilton tickets or FBI investigations either.

    I don’t have any answers and apparently neither do you. Yes, we need to cut the margins in various mid size red counties but I just don’t know where to go from here.

    1. Given the continued failures it’s tough to say where to go. Nominate a progressive and lose by the same margin as a milk toast moderate. Nominate a former Republican and lose by the same margin as the milk toast moderate and progressive. The bottom line is the candidates don’t really matter at this point, the party’s ineptitude does. Those “insiders” playing the game of personality-based politics and feeding at the trough can keep talking about ideal candidates, etc but they continue to neglect doing the real hard work.

      We don’t have a magic bullet solution but yes I do think the logical place to start is to party or outside group infrastructure build in medium sized red counties. There is ZERO reason for Pasco, Volusia, Brevard and Marion among other to be delivering the margins they are for Republicans. It’s because the Dems don’t even bother…

  2. Why in Gillum’s concession speech did he talk about fighting “evil?” Who is evil, his opponent? The voters? Even at the end you folks can’t wean off the demagoguery. That may be one clue. Although, in a large purple state like ours, the reasons will always be complex. I’ll tell you one thing, there’s no effort at all to understand why I’m a registered democrat in SoFla and yet not voting democrat. No effort to win my vote back.

    One thing is for certain, that Florida was hit hard in the last recession. And while education is important what is also clear is that without jobs and strong business climate, all kids have is a piece of paper. So people recognize Scott did a fairly good job. And that there are some good policies that Democrats run from and won’t recognize because they’re seen as not progressive enough.

    In a way, I agree with the other poster. Back when I was rabid dem, and wringing my hands over Christ not being progressive enough, I look back now and think, I guess I got what I asked for, a more progressive, aggressive, monied, partisan, act-up democratic party. And I didn’t end up liking what I saw. Like they say, be careful what you wish for.

    1. I think we’ve learned ideology doesn’t really matter in this state actually. The partisan divide is where it is. The state is 50-50 and each election is a turnout war. And guess what? In the last 3 cycles the Democrats have won 0 of 10 statewide contests (including Presidential). The margins are thin but the same result and roughly the same margins keep reappearing. That’s about infrastructure and general failings.

      1. Looking forward to talking about infrastructure today.

  3. We all know that we are edging around some of the real and breath of Andrew issues …. no secret among D’s and R’s cognoscenti
    I think D’s dodged a bullet with his loss. This guy is a disaster waiting to happen

  4. lunchcountersitin · · Reply

    Despite everything, Gillum did get 49% of the vote. He was not a long shot. It might well be that his chances of victory were over-hyped, but he ran a very competitive race and lost by a very small margin.

    It didn’t help that left-leaning Reform Party candidate Darcy Richardson got 0.6% of the vote (Gillum got 49.0%, DeSantis got 49.7%). I don’t begrudge Richardson for exercising his right to run, but it would have been closer if not for that.

    Bottom line, I think Dems had good reason to hope for a victory. But they lost.

    Looking at the voting map one thing is clear: white rural voters have an antipathy for progressives. This is a nationwide phenomenon. This election has demonstrated that the Dems can and will be a force in the urban/suburban areas. But white voters outside the cities and suburbs are rock solid for the GOP. I don’t know how the Democrats break that nut, but if it isn’t cracked, realignment in the state will be tough.

    What the Dems need to do is work really hard at the local level. If Gillum can get 49% of the vote, the state house should be 49% Democratic (in an Ideal World). The Party needs to get busy, and build on those solid numbers to get Blue people in the state legislature and local bodies.

    The thing is, it’s not like some huge epic change needs to be made. An incremental improvement can bring big gains. The party needs to go from Gillum’s 49% to 50.1% to win state wide office. A 1.1% breakthrough at the state level should not be impossible.

    But the key is that there needs to be a plan to build out the party locally in the urban and suburban areas where Gillum had success. There is an opportunity/possibility here that I hope is not squandered.

  5. What is your take on the effect of amendment 4 going forward?

  6. CHARLIE GILBERT · · Reply

    The problem with the Florida Democratic Party is that it hasn’t recovered from the disastrous tenure of Mitch Caeser… he was more concerned with being seen with the Clintons and raising HIS profile rather than doing the hard work of building the party… it is So Fla centric and has never built the party any where else.. this election was the culmination.. with everything in their corner, the worst party organization in the country pissed away what could have been their last shot to get a progressive agenda for this state.. Now we start over, build a modern party, call in some of the more progressive elder statesmen for their connections and knowledge and build a party that had folks like me sleeping in the McGovern HQ… it speaks volumes to me when a prominent elected Democrat in Broward Co told me no one had contacted him during this cycle..

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