Have the Senate Democrats Gone Soft?

Over the course of Republican dominance over Florida politics, the State House has represented the extreme ideological zeal of the right while the State Senate has been characterized as a more moderate and statesmanlike chamber. While the perception has some bearing in fact, why is it that Democrats in the House have been more consistently willing to stand up and say “no” to excesses of the GOP agenda while the  Democrats in the Senate have consistently made deal making part of their function in the chamber?

A wise high-ranking Democratic operative I know who wishes to remain anonymous told me many years ago with regards to the Senate caucus “our members are more interested in being good Senators than good Democrats,” when explaining to me the number of controversial bills Democrats in the House opposed with great energy but Democratic Senators rubber stamped. The infamous Stand Your Ground law is just one example of this phenomena.  Even on issues where several Republicans have defected in the Senate, enough Democrats have crossed the aisle to help move the GOP agenda forward. This trend goes back to 2003 when despite massive defections on Medical Malpractice Reform from Republican Senators, a compromise plan eventually passed with the support of many Democrats.

In 2005, massive GOP defections scuttled a dangerous School Voucher proposal despite the willingness of many Senate D’s to “play ball” with Governor Bush and his right wing allies. That same year the Stand Your Ground bill passed the Senate without a single dissenting Democratic vote. This is despite the fact that in the House the majority of the Democratic Caucus voted against the legislation which has led directly to an increase in violent crime here in Florida.

This story has repeated itself over and over again. While the Senate has won praise from editorial writers for killing the onerous “Parent Trigger” legislation this session, on issues such as Cap & Trade, Redistricting and other fundamental causes, the majority of Senate Democrats have voted OPPOSITE a majority of House Democrats.

While the overall ideological excesses of the interest group and ALEC led Republican party have been watered down in the Senate over the last decade, often times Democrats become more conservative as they cross over to the senior chamber. The opposite has happened with many GOP House members who cross over to the Senate side. Many of those members grow less ideological and partisan in their bent.

Senate Democrats may be having an impact on legislation but they are doing far less than their House colleagues to advance liberal causes or make cognizant points . While many claim this is because the Senate is a different kind of body, more collegial and moderate in tone, opposition parties should work to differentiate themselves more aggressively.

When we publish our inaugural Political Hurricane legislative rankings next week, it is almost a certainty that the House Democratic Caucus will produce far more standouts than the Senate. Perhaps that is the way it was always supposed to be, but it still begs the question as to why the Senate has a moderating effect that hurts the opposition party?

18 thoughts on “Have the Senate Democrats Gone Soft?”

  1. You are forgetting how partisan the House is. By nature the body is more ideologically driven. The Senate with its larger districts and collegial nature weeds out the ideologically motivated. When in the House you are more motivated to give big speeches and not accomplish anything but opposing. In the Senate our Democrats can actually have an impact on softening extreme legislation. The body is different.

  2. A Real Democrat

    even dws went sort of to the middle in the senate reverting to her 100% liberal self in congress. a strange vote or two from tony hill and nan rich also in the senate in recent years. i think the senate reps are less scary so our dems are more complacent in dealing with them.

    we actually have not sent any conservative dem house members over in a while. if one of them came over it may be even scarier and more worthwhile to track.

  3. It is called fear of social rejection.

    Marigolis & Ring are perfect examples.

    I’m interested to see how both do in your scorecard. I bet at least 2-3 Repubs score better.

    The House had bad ones also. Most lost in 10. A lot of good all those right wing votes did them.

  4. I think that it comes down to the D party too. They have not done anything in order to prepare future leaders. Now you have that pizza guy running who is totally mafia and some Lake Worthless mayor too. I say we start molding some other ones. Aronberg is going to be State Attorney & Governor. Watch! I can’t wait until he runs against Atwater!

  5. Aronberg is way too far to the right to win a statewide D primary. Same with Rod Smith. Davis trounced him.

    Pizza guy? Who is that? Mafia?

  6. Jeff Clemens? He is not a pizza guy or mafia? C’mon Erica, totally off base. He is a good liberal!

  7. Jeff Clemens is a joke. The guy had no good legislation, screwed up Lake Worth, he had no real opposition in his first race and he has hardly been in the state legislature. He is really a joke. Hey let’s legalize pot and start a band. lol who is he kidding.

    The pizza guy is something like Bruzzie’s I am not sure. I heard him speak at a West Palm meeting…he is awful.

  8. Clemens is good on the issues and I believe the author is making a point Democrats are bad on the issues. Legalizing pot is probably a good idea to increase state revenue anyhow. Truly conservative.

    I think you are referring to Joe Abruzzo. He is too conservative like Aronberg. Sachs will be able to easily dispose of him in the Senate primary. He is bad news.

  9. Jeremy Ring is the worst. Yahoo exec who thinks he’s the CoC president and votes a straight AIF line.

  10. Clemens is not good at all. He should keep his day job in the band. He is seen as only a media whore. Agree on the rest of the bunch Sachs will beat Joe in a heartbeat. Legalizing pot…ok who are you kidding? If that is your claim to fame go back to Lk Worth. He will be done this year.

  11. Real Democrat

    He will be a real leader in the party but if his voting record tells us anything…he will be leading the Republican party. Wow they must really have some stuff on Deutch and Vana for both of them to forcefeed this endorsement. I am sure it will come out before the election. Vana always was not that bright..now FEA, CTA, AFL-CIO will be coming after her and Deutch…he better hope no one read that one …otherwise if they redistrict his seat he may need more than Congressman Maryland and Mafia Aaronson to cover him. What a sad story with this dude.

  12. this is a very good article and very true but taken in context with the newer article here, at least none of these disloyal Ds have their aides working to run for the bosses seat as an R!

  13. Obama was here in Boca today and did a fabulous job. Abruzzo will be Senate Leader someday. He is a great consensus builder.

  14. I was at the Obama event today too. Obama was great. Abruzzo is a consensus builder if you mean he votes with the Republicans on the extreme legislation that Obama spoke about today. Sorry Morning Star you are either smoking something or just nuts. There is no way Abruzzo will be the Senate in a libral district. He is a joke and wow do people know it…you should too honey.

  15. Jeremy Ring is the single worst Democrat elected from south Florida since the civil rights era. The guy is completely whacked and an arrogant pig to boot.

    I hope you rate him a zero.