Thursday, November 04, 2010

Florida Democrats need to hit the "re-set" button ... by gimleteye

In 2008, President Obama won Florida by appealing to an increasingly large and diverse group of voters. Hispanic voters were strongly energized by hope and change. He also won, by-passing the state Democratic apparatus-- especially old-guard affiliations. That was by design. This overlooked fact, now that the 2010 election results are in, points the way forward for Florida Democrats.

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.

Boyd, from Florida Congressional District 2, was proud of being a conservative Democrat and part of the Blue Dog Coaltion that vexed the Obama White House that ultimately felt compelled, as a result, to sharply curtail its legislative priorities. Priorities, like the environment. As noted by the Florida Independent, Boyd has been, recently, a key figure in the effort to eliminate funding for the EPA, to kill the most important initiative to protect Florida's environment in decades-- restrain the pollution of Florida streams, rivers, and bays.

Ultimately, Boyd could not save his seat from the torrent of cash seeking an even more conservative, radical Republican home. But the take-away lesson is not that Democrats somehow failed to reflect the Florida electorate. This state has proven, as recently as 2008, that its voters are receptive to change. The problem is that Democrats can't find the words to communicate why Florida's economy is in such desperate shape.

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.

Alex Sink did not explain how Florida became a state with a 12.4 percent unemployment rate and a foreclosure rate that is nearly the highest in the nation. She did not identify the bandits. She certainly did not explain what we are going to do-- nor did any other Democratic candidate for state-wide office beyond the standard platitudes-- nor did she paint for voters a clear picture of where we are going.

Here is the bottom line: Florida taxpayers are paying the price for a snatch-and-grab economy that worked while the rest of the nation was eager to buy into the winter sunshine on borrowed money, but not after the housing bubble and mortgage fraud disaster popped. The churning destruction of the American dream is resonant across the spectrum of Florida voters. Seniors, unable to make ends meet on threatened pensions. And for Hispanics-- especially the more recent generations-- the notion of promises hijacked to serve the purposes of an insulated economic elite is especially resonant, but not a theme that Florida Democrats have been able to articulate.

Alex Sink wouldn't even take the occasion of her campaign to tag the culprit for putting Florida's pension funds at risk of multi-billion dollars losses: that would be Jeb Bush and political insiders who ran the State Administration Fund out of the back pocket of Lehman Brothers. I'm sorry: the fact that Rick Scott in the final weeks of the campaign was able to pin Alex Sink with that responsibility is just... well... unprintable.

Florida Democrats are shell-shocked by the 2010 results. How could the GOP that created the weaknesses in the Florida economy through policies advocated by continuous majorities in the legislature and a hold on the executive branch, have taken such clear advantage from the misery they created? Stockholm Syndrome is at work, partly. The same old line political consultants in Tallahassee advise Democratic candidates who take the same route, cut and pasted from past campaigns, to defeat. Some might even claim there is no way for a Democrat to raise enough money for a state-wide campaign without being defeated.

But that is not a way forward. With 2012 and the passage by more than 60 percent of Florida voters for Fair Districts, re-districting of both state and Congressional lines will create a blank slate. That is the most significant change for the Florida political landscape in decades. What is needed is a vigorous effort to recruit and train a new generation of candidates for office who are Democrats, and the place to begin is to help Florida voters understand the costs of this snatch-and-grab economy, who is responsible and the way forward. Anything less than re-setting the Democratic agenda in Florida is just pushing against a string.


Anonymous said...

I'm a Republican and am not happy with Rubio or Scott. Nor am I happy with Rivera, but Garcia didn't do much for me either. 2012 can't come soon enough and I hope we have clean candidates on both sides of the ailes to choose from!

And, Bell, well, what can I write about this Palinesque person that hasn't already been written on this blog - she sucks too and will destroy Dist. 8 out of spite! This is much closer to home and hurts the hardest.

Anonymous said...

EOM's point of view on how the Democrats should re-set is music to a Republican like me.

When Florida was controlled by Democrats, the majority of those office holders were conservatives from central and north Florida.

Once the left took control of the Florida Democrats (remember Pat Tornillo of the UTD?), the conservatives either bolted to the Republicans or voted for them.

This state continues to be right of center for at least a majority of voters. If the Democrats adopt a liberal agenda, as you suggest (though you probably don's see it that way), then they will stay in the minority regardless of the districts.

Anonymous said...

Mario is challenging 6 in court

Peter in New York said...

The Florida and by extension, the USA free-democratic election system is broken. A ship of fools which has ran aground on the coral reef.

This fighting back and forth in every two-year election cycle will bankrupt this country with absolutely no long-term progress.

Yes, the attack ads have done a very good job to scare away the voters and they mostly vote from their gut instincts. Meanwhile, the BRIC countries will surpass the USA in long-term infrastructure investments and economic growth.

The resources of the USA will be wasted on the election cycles, US$4 billion spend. Imagine what the money could have been invested to build the rail tunnel under the Hudson. The GOP does not know how to invest for the long-term. They wish the country to move back to the Victorian age with child labor in the factories. Little People with no health care. A very wide gap between the Rich and the Poor. Very sad that the GOP and the Tea Bags cannot admit that it was Bush/Cheney who tore away the Fed regulations and allowed Wall Street to destroy our economy. They were very cleaver to cover-up all their mistakes with the attack ads and placed the blame on Obama, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi.

The GOP-Tea Bags have no shame or are in denial. Very bad for this country.

Freedom, Free Speech and Democracy to the extreme will destroy this country with the help of the Bush packed US Supreme Court. Bush 41 placed Clarence Thomas, etc.

Larry Thorson said...

Thanks for pointing out Jeb Bush's role in the debacle of Florida's state finances. As a medium-close observer of the Alex Sink campaign, I kept wondering why she never laid into Jeb Bush as the origin of the ripoff that tarnished her name. Still wondering.

Anonymous said...

The Democrats got a whoopin' on November 2 because of Obama. Period. Even if the Republicans or [insert you favorite evil entity] drove the economy into the ditch, Obama, with Pelosi and Reid, made things worse. And acted arrogant, and insulting, and partisan, and incompetent, in the eyes of the voters. If Obama had focused on JOBS and gotten some results, then Nov. 2 would have been a typical midterm election.
But if Obama misreads the election results, and does not consider the losses just might be because of his leftwing policies that a center-right nation doesn't support, then the Democrats are doomed to lose more elections. 2012 will be ugly again for Obama if he doesn't "get it" by then.
Take a good hard look in the mirror.

Anonymous said...

Democrats were served due to a terrible economy and an inability to articulate the achievements of Congress and President Obama, both at the national level and the state level. A task made nearly impossible by the lack of innate ability for Democrats to talk plainly, a lack of political courage to defend their votes and the deafening Right Wing noise machine, mostly Fox news. Fox news dispensed with even the veneer of "fair and balanced" and have made it clear they are promoting the Republican agenda. Fox news has successfully pushed the idea that Obama lost due to his extreme left-wing policies, when in fact Obama is and has always been a moderate with left leanings.

Obama did focus on jobs and the budget deficit. He reduced the budget deficit by $200 billion. The Republicans are bravely promising to reduce it by $100 billion, mostly no doubt by getting rid of discretionary programs that don't fit their agenda. Social Security, Medicare and the Department of Defense are the biggest U.S. budget items. Obama tried to attack the most unstable and underfunded of those which contributes to the deficit, Medicare. That can either be eliminated, good luck with that, or you can change policies long-term to reduce health costs. Most Americans complain about companies only focusing on short-term profits, well Americans are guilty, guilty, guilty of an inability to do the work in the long-term to fix things.

Obama wanted to include more jobs growth in the stimulus, but the Republicans keep insisting that giving tax cuts to millionaires will create jobs. Most large companies in the U.S. were not started by millionaires. Apple, Microsoft, Walmart, these were all the result of entrepreneurs building their companies from scratch. Millionaires don't create jobs, small businesses do and the Republicans blocked the President's attempt at putting through new funding to encourage small business.

It drives me crazy that Democrats can't message, but they are up against a lot of $$$$ and 1000 radio stations carrying the odious Rush Limbaugh.

Anonymous said...

The idea that either party should "move" in any direction to enhance their chances of a majority is ludicrous, but indicative of the real problem. The goal should not be a majority, but an ideological home for a particular way of thinking. Work should be focused on extolling the benefits of such thought in the hope that people will see its validity and join the fight. Liberalism is by nature a minority ideology. It's greatest thrusts occur in light of man's most prolific horrors, such as post-Nazism. People had to start cooking fellow human beings in ovens before fascism came to look so obviously derelict. We spent decades moving toward a humanist point of view, but once a certain level of parity exists greed once more becomes fashionable and our markets help us create disparities that incite fear and anger – the breeding grounds of fascist movements like the anti-immigration, pro-fundamental religion, latently racist movements of today. Liberalism still exists, but in a minority. Statistically, it is limited to the most educated, cultured people during such times. Individuals of gifted intellect. It is unpopular to suggest so, but studies demonstrate a correlation between progressive liberalism and IQ beginning at 120 and almost exclusive in those over 160. Such individuals seem to possess a rare disinterest in material accumulation and understand the conceptual idea that a world in which more people prosper to a reasonable degree will be a happier one for them than say a miserable, war-torn society, even if they themselves manage to accumulate a grossly disproportionate amount of wealth. A party should exist for such powerful thinkers, but unfortunately the "liberal" party moves miles toward the opposite spectrum hoping to lure the same people who believe the age old lie that by being poor, your best bet is to give what little you have to the already insanely rich and redistribute even more wealth upward via irresponsible tax cuts and the consent to exploit and destroy society's natural resources for their exclusive profit because it will someday "trickle down" to you, though it clearly never does. Unfortunately, there are many more IQ's in the 85-110 range in this country and they form the voting majority. They are and will continue to be manipulated by hollow, fascist rhetoric of the self-obsessed until we again find ourselves at the threshold of insanity, as in 1942. I suspect we will repeat the cycle until we've decimated our planet beyond repair. Tuesday's results gave little hope otherwise. Make no mistake. It was not a victory for the heartland, but for the richest 5 % of our citizenry.

Anonymous said...

This is the wrong thinking. The party should not move to suit the majority. It should communicate its true message to all and hope that a majority of people agree with its ideology. Parties should not exist to seek absolute power, but to be representative of a certain school of thought. Liberalism is a minority in Florida and always has been. The former Democrat majorities were not liberal, but more of a misnomer from a forgotten era. Progressive liberalism's stronghold exists in the most educated states with the greatest concentrations of intellect. I think we can all agree that Florida is no bastion of mind power. It will continue to fall prey to religious fundamentalism and racist, anti-immigration fascist movements that exist to assist with the continued upward transfer of wealth by continuing to cut taxes for the wealthiest and services for the poorest, all while convincing angry out-of-work middle-aged white people whose pensions they've hi-jacked that it would trickle down if it weren't for all these damned illegal aliens in the emergency rooms and welfare mothers taking handouts. Alright Florida, you've got Rick Scott, Marco Rubio, an all-GOP cabinet and majorities in both houses of your legislature. There's no one left to point the finger at. According to conservatives they should be able to fix everything in no times flat and you all will be living like its a 1950 TV sitcom... or the rich will get richer, more of your resources will get destroyed and you'll still be kissing their finger.

hopeforcleanwater said...

Let's stop agonizing...yes, we are in deep doo-doo, and let's start organizing for a better outcome in 2 years.

Poseidon said...

Many conservative voters label themselves Democrat in name only. so When some "bolted" it was acknowlegdement that they were really Republicans all along. Others returned to the Democrats when they realized they had stepped in to the frying pan of failed conservative policies. Conservative policies failed again and again before and after the Great Depression of 1929 and its clone of which began with failed conservative policies of the Bush administration. Democrats then have to clean up the mess while the Republicans whine and point fingers and never, ever assume responsiblity.
Progressive policy made America great and is the vehicle for rebuilding America again.