Florida Democrats Broken Voice

Many months ago we complimented Chairman Rod Smith for the definitive stand he had taken on reapportionment which was in direct contrast to the debacle surrounding redistricting in 2002. But since the conclusion of the Supreme Court case on the newly drawn districts, the FDP’s messaging has gone again wobbly. Why?

When the Supreme Court ruled on the Affordable Care Act, Florida Republicans were quick to resort to fear and demagoguery not dissimilar to the rhetoric of segregationist southern Democrats after the landmark Brown decision of 1954 which outlawed school desegregation. While Senate Minority Leader Nan Rich (D-Weston) was vocal in her opposition to the scheming of Governor Scott and Attorney General Bondi on the matter other Florida Democrats were largely silent. This was despite the aggressive attempts to define the issue by Florida’s Congressional delegation including DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and Senator Bill Nelson.

Rick Scott’s effort to disenfranchise thousands of Florida voters and toss an electoral advantage to GOP candidates up and down the ballot should have been met head on with consistent messaging by the state party. But on this matter the leading spokesperson among Democrats has been Congressman Ted Deutch, whose message has been concise but lacked the neccesary backup from state and local officials. Again, absentee leadership from the top brass on the state  level whose primary focus this election year should include opposition to Governor Scott’s anti-democratic efforts. Florida Democrats should be ashamed that they’ve  evidently been scared off by polling numbers on this matter and allowed the void they’ve created to be seized by Charlie Crist who has outstanding in his defense of voting rights. However, Crist still won’t commit to support President Obama, a real no-no for someone as boxed in as he is politically and cut off completely from ever running for office again as a Republican. Crist’s vacillation on who to support for President reinforces why he cannot be trusted by progressives.

On the issue of guns, public opinion polls indicate various forms of gun control enjoy bi-partisan support among voters in the state. Yet in the wake of the Aurora tragedy in direct contrast to the effective reaction of Florida Democrats after the Columbine disaster in 1999, the FDP has been silent (That reaction came at a time when far more Democrats represented rural pro gun areas than today). This issue has worked before for Democrats in Florida, as we have pointed out previously on this website. However, the Chairman’s own positions on this issue may be preventing the party leadership from speaking loudly with one voice even in a Florida which has experienced rapid demographic changes recently. But when Howard Dean was Chairman of the DNC, it did not prevent other prominent Democrats from stepping forward to discuss the gun control issue. Dean, like Smith had an excellent record by NRA standards but his own position didn’t interfere with the party’s ability to define where it stood to the public.

At the same time the Democrats continue to be asleep on the state level with regards to the environmental rollback being authored by the GOP legislative majority the past two years. Environmental issues have proven to be popular with the electorate in the state and according to many analysts were responsible for Bill Clinton and Al Gore’s successful Florida campaigns in 1996 and 2000. The state party however has gotten into bed with the sugar companies and have put Everglades Preservation on the back burner. According to the News Service of Florida, ” the Audobon Society filed petitions to force the South Florida Water Management District to enforce more stringent laws put in place five years ago to reduce phosphorus levels coming out of the Everglades Agricultural Area. The environmental group is seeking an administrative hearing on separate permits granted to U.S. Sugar Corp., Sugar Farms Coop and the Sugar Cane Growers Coop that Audubon says do not require individual farms to reduce phosphorus releases to permissible levels, a requirement that began in 2007.”

On issues of privatization again Senator Nan Rich has taken the lead but the issue seems to have been forgotten by many of her colleagues and the leadership of the state party. For the Democrats who are so obsessed with winning back north Florida, this is the most natural issue to do so with, yet we see very little in coordinated messaging about it from the party.

Florida’s Republican majority has fostered a culture of  arrogance, cronyism, and corruption in the past decade. National Republicans are running from Rick Scott but yet the Florida Democrats are putting all their eggs in a small basket of hoping President Obama wins the state and lifts local candidates through on his coattails. As 2000 and 2008 proved that’s a faulty assumption as both those election years Democratic Presidential candidates generally ran several points ahead of legislative ones south of Ocala.

Some of these communications and messaging fixes are simple and others aren’t. Some require a rapid response effort and coordination which has been lacking for years and cannot be blamed on the current FDP leadership. But in too many cases the FDP is simply allowing Democratic officials to define their own message and step out front without much backup from other elected leaders. This leads inevitably to an ambush from the disciplined Republican message machine.

Material from the News Service of Florida was used in this blog post.

16 thoughts on “Florida Democrats Broken Voice”

  1. This goes right back to the issue of Fl Dems taking big sugar money. The FDP has been largely silent on the issue because Rod Smith gets his campaigns financed by Big Sugar.

  2. democratic excuses

    voter purge … unpopular with voters. felons, immigrants can vote. we cannot be associated with them.

    guns… marion hammer may not like us and we may not get invited to the hunting outings where deals are made in the pandhandle

    environment … we are for the working people keeping the cost of m &ms and snickers bars down by supporting sugar. who cares about drinking water anyhow. we all drink from brita filters these days.

    privatization…a lobbyist for the prison privatization movement promised to back a bunch of dems in safe seats so we have to go with them. otherwise we may lose out on that money.

    you see this is the logic from florida democrats. no logic. rod smith and karen thurman have been absolute disasters. at least scott maddox for all his showmanship tried to clarify a clear dem message but got rolled by the lobbyists and entrenched consultants.

    very pertinent and timely article, kk i must say. one of your best.

  3. Excellent article and it’s what I’ve been saying for a long time on my blog. BTW there were Senate Subcommittee hearings in Tampa back in January on the voter suppression laws. Senator Bill Nelson urged Senator Dick Durbin to hold hearings. Here’s are links to them:

    The results were turned over to the Justice Dept. Justice has acted. The courts must act more quickly to stop these abuses of power and Democrats need to leave their comfort zones to assure that every voter is eligible to vote.

    Point of interest-Rod Smith did speak eloquently at that event, but we’ve heard very little from him since.

  4. A Florida Democrat

    Don’t forget about vouchers and pro-choice where Ron Saundrrs has conned the caucus into taking no position.

  5. Concerned Democrat

    Where is Rod Smith????? Someone send an SOS out for him! I see Lenny Curry on TV all the freaking time and I never see Smith on TV or in the papers.

    You wonder why we have a broken voice as you put it? Try Smith and the clowinish advisors from the Sink campaign in charge of messaging. Kyra Jennings & company . All cautious reactive advisors who do nothing but try and sensationalise scandal instead of focusing on the real issues and determining a true course for our party.

  6. No emphasis on state workers and privatization is idiotic. We could reclaim lots of north Florida counties if we took on that issue aggressively.

  7. I agree. Again I don’t agree on a north Florida strategy where about 5% of the statewide vote resides, but yes this is the most natural issue to emphasize in that part of the state. The Big Bend counties can be won, or at least the margins cut on this issue for sure.

  8. A completely uncalled for article. Shameful. Smith is trying but the blame goes to the DECs and lobbyists.

  9. ALL of the FDP staff are amateurs! Or is it more sinister….?

    Perhaps they PREFER to run an operation that is irrelevant in the policy making process….that way, they keep it small, manageable, and can enrich themselves.

    Either way…gross incompetence or brilliant con artists……

  10. This is what happens when you hire staff that lacks seasoning in the state and knows little if anything about the trends and history of the state politically. They live in the moment and have no grounding or perspective on what is really happening and what is to come. They are not proactive and cannot anticipate any of the Republicans rhetoric.