Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Florida Democratic Party Continues To Aim Low, Enabling GOP Dominance


Looking at the cluelessness, the incompetence (and, yes, the corruption) of the DCCC, we often worry if they will, once again, wreck the chances of Democrats to take back the House. Between Trump's unpopularity and Ryan's draconian anti-working family agenda, it should be hard for Republicans to hold onto their House majority in 2018. But if there's anything that will make it possible for them, it's Pelosi's ever-putrid DCCC.

Here in California, where Ted lieu was elected DCCC regional vice chair, recruitment and candidate support are actually working the way they should. No matter how unlikely to win a candidate is, when I call them I'm finding Lieu or his chief of staff, Marc Cevasco, have already touched bases and been generously sharing advice and encouragement. Unfortunately, I'm not finding anything like that in any of the other regions. I've yet to find a candidate in the South, the Midwest, the Rocky Mountain states (and Texas) or the Northeast who have even heard that Don McEachin, Betty McCollum, Jared Polis or Joe Kennedy are regional vice chairs. I'm not sure what they're waiting for-- or why they bothered running for the positions. Sad. Tiny Update: When I was complaining to one of the top party leaders in the House about this yesterday, this is what I was told by e-mail: "Confidently [I think they meant confidentially]-- those new DCCC titles were a part of when Nancy was challenged by Tim Ryan, and they were handing out titles. Not sure if they actually do anything..." True dat! (Except Ted Lieu, one of the real heroes in a House that needs more heroic figures.)

Yesterday, the new chairman of the California Democratic Party, Eric Bauman, asked me to be part of his circle of advisors. My first advice to him was to work with Ted Lieu to make sure California is no longer at the mercy of the vision-free imbeciles Rahm Emanuel puked up to run the DC Dems. I hope I can get him to understand what I'm talking about before the midterms.

This week, Jerry Iannelli, writing for Miami's New Times, showed why the problems Democrats have go beyond the clueless lunkheads at the DCCC and have permeated into the state parties as well. "There is truly no defeat the Florida Democratic Party will avoid snatching from the hands of victory," he wrote. "Donald Trump has turned the Republican Party radioactive. His polling numbers are plummeting right alongside the GOP as a whole. And the nation is seeing a groundswell of progressive activism at levels not witnessed since the 1960s.

So how does the new, incoming brass running the Florida Democratic Party respond? By telling constituents that 'issues' don't matter and that it's not the party's job to focus on policies that will actually help anyone, like single-payer health care." Ah... yes, welcome to the party of Debbie Wasserman Schultz!
Last night, the party's new second-in-command, Sally Boynton Brown, spoke in front of the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Broward County. And throughout the exchange, she steadfastly refused to commit to changing the party's economic or health-care messaging in any concrete way.

"This is not going to be popular, but this is my belief of the time and place we're in now: I believe that we're in a place where it's very hard to get voters excited about 'issues,' the type of voters that are not voting," Brown said.

Brown, the former executive director of the Idaho Democratic Party, was hired last month to take over for the outgoing executive director, Scott Arceneaux. Last night was her first encounter with local progressives, who are already disgruntled after [Wasserman Schultz puppet] Stephen Bittel-- a billionaire real-estate developer, gas station franchiser, environmental dredging company executive, and major political donor-- was elected to serve as party chair earlier this year. Many progressives accused him of buying his way into the job via campaign donations.

And Brown's speech perfectly illustrates why the Florida Democratic Party (and the party in general) can't seem to get out of its own way and actually win elections.

How important is it for candidates to concentrate on "issues" like health care or economic equality, one audience member asked. Her answer? Not very. She said candidates moving forward should focus on "identity messages" instead, which she didn't actually define.

In a follow-up question, she also warned party members not to get too excited about turning districts from Republican to Democrat and said the best we ought to hope for is that Florida becomes more "purple." (She also said she was proud about not supporting either candidate in the 2016 Democratic primary, which is an odd sort of thing to boast about as a Democratic Party leader.)

Later in the meeting, she then said that people who are struggling to make ends meet-- and often decline to vote because they say it doesn't matter-- do not vote based on "issues" they care about and instead vote because they are "emotional beings." She added that people apparently skip voting because they've somehow forgotten about the "power of democracy," whatever that means.

She also said that taking money from large corporations such as Florida Power & Light could somehow be a good thing-- and that the "relationship" created when gigantic corporations give thousands of dollars to political candidates can somehow make it easier for politicians to push back against corporations when they are "raping our country."

"It's not so much about the money controlling the conversation; it's about the people controlling the conversation," she said. "And right now, unfortunately, we live in a system where you have to have money to work the system."

(That system seems to be working pretty well in Florida as it is.)

Brown then attempted to explain what she believes the party's strategy ought to be instead. She contradicted herself multiple times and wasted a lot of air deflecting the fact that she wouldn't commit to forcing candidates to pushing for progressive changes that could help people-- and perhaps excite them to get to the polls. Here's her nonsensical answer in full:
"At the end of the day, what really matters, is what our candidates decide to do. So, two things to that. One, I believe that the FDP needs to have an overarching 'identity message' that we are making sure that we are driving out to everybody. And, in that identity message, we identify key issues, health care definitely being one of them, and then we educate our candidates to be able to go talk about those with the best of their ability. So, I believe that the way that we have those conversations needs to be drastically different than the way it has been. As Democrats, I think we continue to try and connect with voters' heads around 'issues,' and 'facts,' and 'truth,' when we are now in an era of emotional politics, where people are scared, and we have to figure out how to connect with their hearts. And I think we have a lot of experimentation to do on how that happens. And I am not prepared to try and say 'issues' don't do that. Because I know there's a lot of people who think differently. What I would like to do is test different 'scripts' that really talk about that, and what I know is that health care and having accessible health care for all is one of the number-one issues that we have."
Brown was right, in that her viewpoint didn't get anyone excited. After she finished her answer, the man who asked the question literally walked right out of the room as she was answering the next question.

The answer was so confusing that at roughly 35 minutes into the clip, an elderly black woman asked Brown to clarify her point. She brought up the fact that poor people of color don't get motivated to vote for Democrats because both major parties haven't done much to help those communities prosper in decades.

"You're not touching their issues," she said to Brown. "The platform has to come from issues. Can you explain that to me so I can get unstuck?"

Brown then explained that, as a person in charge of party "staffing," she's not in charge of what policies her candidates push. And then she contradicted herself a split-second later by admitting it's her job to "elect Democrats."

"My job is to elect the Democrats who go do the governance and then go figure out the policies and issues," she responded.

And then yet another audience member chided her for her answer.

"You sort of hinted when you first answered that you felt that what got people out to vote wasn't really issue-oriented," the man said. "The evidence is that that's not really true at all. Voter participation tends to crash, but when somebody tends to bring out issues, that's when [people] come out. We saw that with Bernie Sanders. And so I think you have a contradiction there."

At this point, Brown argued that poor people are simultaneously struggling to make ends meet but also don't vote based on what policies will benefit them.
"I believe that what we saw with Bernie was a phenomenon that did not just have to do with issues he was talking about. I believe it was much more than that. Trump had a similar phenomenon. And frankly from Justin Trudeau all the way to the future around the globe, we have seen similar phenomenons. The issues have not been the same everywhere. So, I believe that people are emotionally reacting to the emotion. I believe, and again I don't have the data to back this up, but is that Bernie found a core group of people who were excited about 'issues,' and their passion, and enthusiasm, and energy created an emotion that more people reacted to. That's what I saw from an outside perspective."
She added that "they are emotional beings who are struggling to make a living, and they need to know that somebody's going to be on their side and be able to help them."

"They're struggling to make a living over issues," the audience member responded. "Those are economics."

"I'm not going to get into the hard-head debate," she said. "I'm just sharing my perspective and that we absolutely will do data testing to see which scripts work best [and then share that with our candidates]." (So now Brown's job does include deciding policy? What?)

It's worth noting that Hillary Clinton's campaign relied on data testing to an almost extreme degree in 2016 and lost catastrophically after much of that data turned out to be wrong.

Let's pause for a second: Who is not an "issues person"? Politics is entirely about issues. The basic reason you vote for anyone is because you want that person to accomplish things that make your life better. Who are these "emotional beings" that get excited about candidates but don't care about policy?

The rest of the meeting didn't inspire much more confidence. Brown was also asked about the party's plan to convert formerly red states or counties to blue ones-- and her response was that she had spent the past six years working to instead turn Idaho "purple," and that's the best we ought to hope for in Florida (which voted twice for Obama).
I think they need Sally Boynton Brown back in Idaho-- and pronto! Perhaps she could do Florida Democrats one real, honest-to-goodness favor on the way out-- by taking Stephen Bittel and Wasserman Schultz with her. And just in case that doesn't happen for some reason... please consider helping Tim Canova remove Wasserman Schultz from her poisonous perch when he battles her again for the Broward/Miami-Dade congressional seat in the 2018 midterms. (Always remember, not all the villains are Republicans.)

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At 1:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It could really be as simple as the big regional donors to the democraps just don't want their shills going around promising shit they are never going to deliver on. They did that in the seminal "hope and change" 2008 run but allowed caribou Barbie to accurately rebrand it "hopey changey" because they took insurmountable numbers and refused to do shit with it. In fact, their senate betrayals/failures made it very clear that the democraps just plain don't WANT to DO things to help anyone except their donors.

As far as imploring them to change their messaging to appeal to sentient human voters... they know that they cannot do that and keep their donors happy, and they cannot do that and then betray the voters again or maybe, just maybe, a quorum of them leave for good.

It's a fine tightrope the democraps must walk. You have to appreciate how hard it is for them to pretend and keep fooling lefty voters after nearly 40 years now.


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