I promise I’m going to stop posting about the election… I promise I’m going to stop posting about the election … I promise I’m going to stop posting about the election. But first, if you are a Democrat in Florida, you need to read this, by one half of the top drawer team at Eye on Miami:
The shocking loss of Alex Sink proves not just that she ran a terrible campaign– and she did– but that Florida’s respected Democratic status quo have been staring for years at a computer screen displaying a fault message while claiming that they really can see the program we should all be following. It has been more than four decades since The Who sang, “We won’t be fooled again” and nearly that long Florida Democrats nominate, cycle after cycle, candidates who can’t win because they don’t reflect the new Florida. Not the Florida of a small town past, but the inchoate mess of Florida’s suburbs and cities groaning under poor schools, inadequate infrastructure and a degraded environment.
The popular truism is that no one ever got elected by saying how bad things are. But there is a political fact that is also true: really bad times can sweep you out of office if you can’t explain 1) how we got here, 2) what we are going to do, to get out of an economic mess, and 3) where we are going.
Meanwhile, in the “should she stay or should she go?” category, Peter Schorsch, the man behind the Fire Karen Thurman website and petition, says “go,” while Kenny Quinnell of the Florida Progressive Coalition, arguably a loyal party man, says “well…..”
I have to say that while I respect Kenny, put me down on Peter’s side in this one, especially for his reasons #2 and #3:
2. The reapportionment process has already begun and the FDP needs to develop a strategy for redistricting. One of the few bright spots for Democrats in last Tuesday’s election was the passage of Amendments 5 & 6 which will dramatically reshape the process by which legislative and congressional district lines are drawn. The RPOF is already hard at work outlining its plan to fight these changes and control reapportionment, just as the GOP developed a plan early-on for the 1992 and 2002 reapportionment fight. One of the first hires a new FDP Chair should make is a point person for the redistricting battle, which has already begun.
3. The 2012 Presidential race is already underway. Can one week, much less one month, of organizing be spared now that the 2012 Presidential race has commenced. The Republicans are already organizing for this campaign and so should Democrats. The FDP should be relentlessly attacking any and every possible nominee, organizing opposition to every foray a national figure makes to Florida: Sarah Palin holds a fundraiser in Miami? Attack. Newt Gingrich is speaking in Tallahassee? Attack. That is the bottom line. Attack. Attack. Attack.
Peter’s 4th and 5th reasons, upcoming municipal elections and the simple fact that accountability is the minimum that Democrats should demand of the person charged to lead their election efforts, are also compelling, but redistricting stands out to me as the biggest reason Florida Democrats need a new team. The Florida Democratic Party didn’t just wake up and start sucking this election cycle. Ever since I moved here back in 1997 they’ve been plagued either by financial troubles or the plain inability to win elections. Hell, they couldn’t unseat Jeb Bush two years after the “stolen election” of 2000! And here I go back to something else that Gimleteye wrote in that excellent Eye on Miami post:
Part of Obama’s calculation was that he didn’t need to cultivate, like the Clintons, alliances within the African American vote. But there is every indication, from this– Florida’s most populous county– that deal-making by African Americans for their slice of the political pie has only served as a form of permanent political enslavement. African Americans are far from the only group hostage to the political past.
South Florida’s senior and more liberal Democratic voters have been captive, too, to cracker politics that dominate the old line, north Florida. North Florida Democrats produced conservative, 7 term Congressman Allen Boyd not to mention a sad list of failed campaigns for state office; including Buddy McKay, Bill McBride, Betty Castor, Jim Davis, and now Alex Sink and Rod Smith.
I disagree somewhat with that first paragraph, since I witnessed first hand the problems that Team Obama had with black voters, both when I was on the radio side fielding disdainful calls from African-Americans who didn’t think he was “black enough,” and on the campaign side, when we were fighting to the end just to get black newspapers not to blast the campaign for not buying ads and for … wait for it … taking black voters for granted. But the second paragraph is spot on.
Just as Florida’s legislative process often holds Democrat-rich South Florida hostage to northern Florida politics, which is actually southern politics, whether the issue is school funding or light rail. Democratic politics in this state is run by the people with the drawls, while the bulk of Democrats who vote, and who donate money, live down here in the four southern-most counties or in urban Tampa/St. Pete, where lots of imports from the Northeast and the upper Northwest mingle with native Floridians whose politics is starkly different from the southern Alabama that is Florida’s Panhandle and parts north.
Alex Sink, Bill McBride, and even Tampa native Jim Davis, and on and on, are part of a stodgy old Democratic past that’s very much out of step with the issues, needs, and interests of the more modern, more urban, blue part of Florida. It’s time the party reflected that. If it did, you wouldn’t see the deep rifts with the African-American base, the incoherence regarding the very real drift of Caribbean-Americans toward the GOP, the trouble reconciling the Puerto Rican and other non-Cuban Hispanics in Central Florida with the growing Democratic base among young Cuban-Americans and on and on. The missed opportunities in this election, in which Alex Sink just wanted to go after white moderate and conservative Floridians north of Tampa, when the real vote bounty is down south, wouldn’t have happened. It’s painfully obvious that Karen Thurman and her team don’t get that. And you can’t teach it. You either get it or you don’t. Clearly, they don’t.
And yes, she’s good at raising money, but what good is raising money when Ms. Thurman and company clearly have no clue how to spend it in such a way that helps her party win elections? Put it this way: if you think it’s a waste of time to actively campaign for black and Hispanic votes, and would rather pawn the former off on the black Congressman who’s about to come in third in the Senate race, and the latter off on … oh, right.. they didn’t pursue the latter much at all … you really aren’t paying attention. Where was the outreach to young voters on Florida’s many college campuses? Where was the effort to co-opt the Hillary vote from 2008? Where was the attempt to educate the public about the rot the party in power has produced in this state?
I can’t sign the petition, only because I think it would be inappropriate given that I write a media column. But I concur with the sentiments in Peter’s post, and with the assessments of Gary Fineout and others that the Florida Democratic Party is so badly damaged, I don’t see how it can continue in its present form. It’s easy to blame their troubles on the “wave” or on the president, but that really kind of misses the point. Or it makes it. Blaming the president is the latest way Sink and her crowd are absolutely pissing off the base — which I hate to break it to you ladies, still digs the president, but has no interest whatsoever in you. Will the Obama base come back in 2012? Yes they will. But that would only serve to paper over the FDP’s troubles, and lull them back into a false sense of security regarding their skill at winning elections.
Yes, Democrats won Florida in 2008. But think of Karen Thurman as Pat Riley, coaching the 1980s era Lakers. Lady, any coach would have gotten rings with that team. 2008 was a year unlike any in my lifetime in politics. The horrid Bush years, the economic meltdown, the desperation of the country for change, and incredible political marketing job by Team Obama, plus the historic opportunity to elect a Black president all set the table for that win. If the state party was such great shakes, why didn’t they also manage to elect lots of other Democrats down the ticket? Think about it, people.
None of those 2008 conditions will exist in 2010. The guy who owns the economy will be named Obama, not Bush. There won’t be a friendly governor in office who’ll hold open the early voting lines… in fact, the guy in office might be minority voters’ worst nightmare two years from now. Rick Scott will have picked the secretary of state, mostly likely with Jeb Bush advising him on the pick. In every way, Florida is going to be hostile territory, and you should have no doubt that Karl Rove and his endless secret money machine are going to make this state a prime target. That means Florida Democrats are going to need a party that’s playoff ready. No one, even the most charitable soul, even the thoroughly decent Kenny Quinnell, can argue that this state party is playoff ready. And that means that Bill Nelson’s seat is already in more jeopardy than you can imagine, as are the potential gains at the statewide and federal level from the lone air pocket left that is reformed redistricting.
Ms. Thurman would regain some respect by stepping down on her own, and the party would do well to go further, and shake up its team (by the way, so should the White House on the political side.) If not, I hate to say it, but David Plouffe needs to start thinking of a way to win in 2012 without Florida.