WRITERS NOTE: WHEN I REFER TO “FLORIDA DEMOCRATS” OR “DEMOCRATS IN FLORIDA,” OR “THE PARTY” IN THIS ARTICLE I AM NOT REFERRING TO THE FLORIDA DEMOCRATIC PARTY, WHICH AS A STANDALONE ENTITY IS NOT ITSELF THE OVERRIDING PROBLEM IN THIS STATE. I REFER TO A GROUP OF ELITES, MANY OF WHOM DO NOT HAVE ANY DIRECT PARTY BUSINESS BUT DO INFLUENCE OTHER ORGANIZATIONS AND THOSE WHO ULTIMATELY DETERMINE THE FATE OF DEMOCRATS IN THIS STATE.
Democrats in Florida have successfully steered the public narrative toward recounts and potential vote theft thus delaying any sort of inquest into another cycle of under performance. Not only did the Democrats appear to lose 4 of 5 statewide elections in what should have been a wave year but lost all 5 Congressional races that were in the “leans Republican” category according to various metrics.
Each of those five seats saw the Republicans win by at least six points. Minimal gains were made in the legislature where the Democrats could have as many as 17 Senators and 48 State Representatives, the highest total since 2000. But this still leaves the Democrats in the minority of both chambers.
In his 1949 timeless classic, Southern Politics in Nation and State, V.O. Key said Florida was “every man for himself.” Seventy years later, as the state has grown from rural southern backwater to the third most populated state in the union, the Democrats more than ever reflect that adage. It’s every person for themselves in a party whose addiction to losing seems almost incurable.
The Democrats are a party in Florida 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.
This is reflected by well-paid and fast talking consultants who still haven’t cracked to code win statewide elections or districts in swing seats outside comfortable urban counties, yet profess expertise and clean up financially either off the party itself, or the outside party-aligned groups who have gradually superseded the FDP in terms of importance and also incompetence. Individual survival, financial success and self-promotion have bested any real effort to party build in this state for some time. A class of elites has dominated what does on among Democrats in this state for nearly two decades and in 2018 they only became more powerful.
Accountability for these individuals is lacking as too many within the party and affiliated groups are either too personally close to them or too green and new to realize what long-term failures they are. Party primaries are often fought along the lines of personality, not ideology and which influential consultant/lobbyist signs up with which candidate. The hiring of consultants generally then means the party infrastructure, obsessive about winning and controlling primaries.
The leadership of the Florida Democrats are more focused on crushing internal dissent and winning August primaries in order to maintain control of infrastructure related to campaigns (which leads to financial control) than building coalitions and doing the hard work of grassroots infrastructure laying outside large urban conglomerates.
The special interest groups that fund or operate Democratic campaigns in the state such as public sector unions and wealthy private donors are very adept at controlling primaries, but have failed tactically and in terms of messaging. These entities generally share the same consultants, the same pollsters, the same operatives and the same mentality.
The politics of personality now have extended to General Election candidates as well. Andrew Gillum, a flawed nominee for Governor whose extensive ethical baggage, I feared would doom Democrats credibility to attack the culture of cronyism and corruption Florida Republicans have created over two decades of virtually unchallenged rule became more or less a pop star celebrity, whose constant shift on issues and willingness to look right into television cameras and mislead the public were brushed off, because he was “ours.”
It’s simple enough to say had Gwen Graham been nominated instead she would have won – we don’t have conclusive evidence that she would have, but my gut tells me she had a better than 50/50 chance to break the party’s long losing streak for the state’s highest office. The bottom line is Gillum was the nominee because many of the people who have been profiting off the party for years as well as well-funded party-aligned groups threw in with him and not Graham. Some stuck with Graham, and the alignments professionally more resembled an interoffice game of cards against humanity than anything else.
Gillum to me is more a symptom of a larger disease than the cause of anything – a party whose influencers are so desperate to make money and create a pop sensation to continue feeding at the trough, they created a vehicle for themselves to profit off of and continue controlling the infrastructure of a failing party. If anything Gillum has been used, albeit very willingly.
Seeing that Gillum was potentially being used as a vehicle for certain entities and individuals to advance themselves and realizing these entities/individuals are experts at controlling primaries while losing general elections, Gillum besting Graham but then losing to Ron DeSantis was utterly predictable. Gillum’s ethical baggage didn’t bother them because his nomination and elevation to national pop star status thanks to CNN and MSNBC ultimately meant more money and attention for those feeding at the trough.
Many of the leading Democratic operatives in the state like to boast about how much history they have, how long they’ve been around and how many races they’ve been involved in. But the vast majority of these efforts if in a competitive environment have been losses.
Much like youth soccer, Democratic operatives want a participation medal and the requirement they get to keep playing even if they are lousy. The people around the party and left-leaning advocacy groups have enabled and even encouraged this losing mentality by hiring the same people over and over again. In the meantime, some of the operatives associated with the party are banking half a million dollars or more a year.
What’s worse from my perspective as someone who has been around and as this site’s pages attest is a student of Florida history, the record of these particular operators is quite honestly the worst in the annals of the Democratic Party.
The elites of the party also have shown time and again they really don’t understand this state. They speed through vote rich counties off of I-75 and I-95 on their way to raise money in southern Florida without doing much to engage the voters in those increasingly Republican areas.
Accountability is something few of the elites in the Democratic Party believe in. Those who critique the tactics, the cults of personality or the historical record are run off or ostracized. In some cases, those people are even perennially hounded if they work with candidates or affiliated groups. It’s all about maintaining control and continuing the flow of cash along with the perception of power.
The hope is Florida Democrats have bottomed out and can take advantage of the new energy provided by the resistance to attract new talent into leadership. But if 2018 is an indication, the promise of a transformation is perhaps misplaced. Being awarded participation medals seem to be all the party can consistently count on thanks to a class of elites.