Nikki Fried has been elected Chair of the Florida Democratic Party (FDP), and I will admit I am so disappointed by it, I slipped into a deep depression this past week and left Twitter as well for several days. My fear is a state that is already dominated by a single political party which makes it akin to North Korea, the Russian Federation or the People’s Republic of China, will now have a second party which is effectively “me too” on core issues of economics and corporate governance, while picking very public fights on performative-styled social issue which Governor DeSantis has a majority of the public behind him on.
It’s worth repeating that new FDP Chair Nikki Fried, in the past not only openly campaigned for some of the worst GOP elected officials in Florida but also lobbied for the likes of Dosal Tobacco, Duke Energy, and HCA Healthcare.
The question for me is will the Democrats in Florida going forward make issues of lack of Floridians lack of health care access, no living wage, earned sick time, skyrocketing rent, the property insurance crisis, keeping our springs healthy, Everglades restoration, algae blooms, Climate Change and much much more. Or will they focus exclusively on issues related to gender, race, identity and sexual orientation? Not that those aren’t critically important, they are especially when facing a proto-fascist Florida government run by the GOP- but it is only one piece of what Democrats need to be focused on.
I am going to keep an open mind about Fried, because she is savvy enough I hope to realize that despite her past failings and her apparent corporatism, that Florida needs a real alternative to business-as-usual. And by taking on this role, she must realize, the time to give the citizens of this state a real opposition party has long since arrived. So let’s hope she’s up to the task, and ready for the fight. The early returns (one week) demonstrate a communications savvy that was lacking with previous chairs but the real heavy lifting is still ahead of us. tocome.
She was a loud critic of the DeSantis administration during her four years in office, and now that she’s chair of the party, I’m hopeful that she will continue her opposition. It can’t be much worse than Manny Diaz who was MIA for two years unless the issue-of-the-day was Cuba.
Also, Democrats were so lame they nominated a former GOP governor to be their standard-bearer in 2014 and 2022, so the pearl-clutching about her support for Republicans is a bit much for me at this point.
The new chair has to pivot from this current form of identity politics. The problem with identity politics in its current form is that it adds a TON of work to the coalition building process and it’s meant to. Where we could once reach out to twenty groups for a campaign, now we have to talk to forty. It’s gone from being used as something by the Soviets to try and turn far leftist activists in the 60s to something used by fascists in the Republican Party to destroy the Obama coalition. It divides the working class into smaller and smaller groups and encourages those micro-groups to identify as part of the micro-group and not as part of a larger majority. So to build a majority for anything, we have to do three times the work we had to do a decade ago and Republicans have never had to build a majority in the first place. So while it looks like a way to raise awareness and put the needs of marginalized groups front and center, it’s actually making the institutional disadvantages we all face even worse.
It may not matter who the chair is if they’re able to understand this and actually commit to it. Simple, economic, bread and butter issues are what win elections. For some reason this doesn’t stick with people but it’s true. The statistical evidence of how true this is would run thousands of pages in the United States alone. That’s because it makes coalition building easier. Organizers can only do so much work. That work can’t be wasted making promises that don’t matter if you don’t win. It’s really not rocket science and it baffles me how easily normally cerebral and strategic thinking progressives have fallen for the trap of slicing up the working class into bite sized chunks and serving them up to the far right.
The Democratic Party is now mostly run by white collar professionals with college degrees, people on the government career treadmill (civil service, consultants, lobbyists), with the participation of a much smaller blue collar labor union sector. In addition, identity politics in the Democratic Party has metastasized into a collection of communities that leave almost no space for anybody who is not a member of a caucus of some sort. The Democratic Party has become an elitist organization whose members overvalue their own expertise, and frequently assumes that they “know” what minorities want or need, and who denigrate working class people that do not vote Democratic as “deplorables” (for using that word alone Hilary Clinton deserved to lose).