Dem Dreams Of Victory on FDP JJ Weekend

Just over sixteen months until Election Day 2012, and the two key questions that Florida’s thousands of Democratic Party and progressive activists must confront sooner rather than later are:

1) Which will get a better reaction at this weekend’s FDP Jefferson-Jackson dinner, the Chicken, or the Vegetarian entree?

Okay, okay…

2) Will Democratic Party leaders at state/county levels, along with candidates/campaigns,  “get it right” with messaging/communications & voter engagement/activation strategies in 2012?

In considering the answers to those questions, well, # 2 anyway, one must also consider the dual challenges that Florida Democrats face in the 2012 elections: Helping reelect President Obama by helping him win the critically swinging Sunshine State; and progressing as far as possible in restoring legislative balance to a state government dominated by right wing extremist Republicans.

We all know that the GOP in FL and around the country succeeded in making the 2010 state-level midterms a referendum on National Politics – a referendum on Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi. And most of us have admitted by now that the Dems should have said “Bring It ON” and taken proud ownership of multiple national steps forward, while relating them to local issues and realities.

In 2012, there can be no pussyfooting around about full-throttle alignment with the President and with the national Democratic Party – and that includes elections in more conservative and Republican-leaning districts. No Guts, No Glory. No willingness to creatively contrast Democratic vs. Republican accomplishments, budget priorities, tax policies and problem-solving strategies…and there will be little progress in Florida.

“Getting it right” this time around also means the FL Democratic Party establishment at the state and county levels needs to create “an authentic narrative”. The scores of voters who failed to turn out for Alex Sink & other worthy Democratic candidates need to see & feel that the FDP is for real – as in, on the ground, helping meet human needs at a time of crisis, working on service initiatives in the key, vote-rich communities & counties that it took for granted and failed to effectively engage with or adequately turn out to vote in 2010…African-Americans, Haitian & Caribbean-Americans, Hispanic & Latino Americans, Asian-Americans, college students & young voters…Miami-Dade County, Broward County, Palm Beach County…

Should I continue? Okay. In 2010, the FDP also failed to adequately connect with the constantly growing online progressive community and blogosphere, and did not make the most out of relationships with the highest profile progressive & liberal organizations and organizers. The good news is, there have been very good signs of course corrections on these two particular fronts, which will only help the cause.

But on that grassroots community level, recitations about vastly improved “zone & precinct” organizing and “Get Out The Vote” systems are not enough. These systems have been used with great effectiveness in places like Palm Beach County and are well designed, finely tuned and critically important. But if inspirational credibility and messaging authenticity is not established at the ground level with all those key, vote-rich communities, then all the best systems will still not be enough to carry the day.

Democratic Victory in 2012 will be all about telling our compelling, small-scale human interest and community stories – and our Big Picture Democratic Ideals Story – in varied, creative, compelling ways…from online videos, to Tweeting teams, to prayer breakfasts, and beyond. We’re talking The Full Monty of Communications, from the most modern & cutting edge to the most traditional and time-honored.

Democratic Victory in 2012 means creating an authentic messaging narrative, effectively interweaving the story-lines of the National and Florida battles between moderate Democrats and right-wing extremist Republicans. Given how Rick Scott, Haridopolos, Cannon and the rest of the Republican Party of Florida are pontificating, infighting, malfunctioning and legislating in 2011 – the opportunity to establish and communicate a credible, authentic, narrative is there for the seizing.

So, once we’re done with our Chicken and/or Vegggies…Let’s Go Do This Thing.

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8 thoughts on “Dem Dreams Of Victory on FDP JJ Weekend

  1. I agree with 99% of your post, especially the ” inspirational credibility and messaging authenticity” part, the “an authentic narrative” part and, even more critical in the long run, the “as in, on the ground, helping meet human needs at a time of crisis” part. I note with interest that the FDP will be adopting a platform this year. Hopefully it will help, not harm in the messaging.

    But a word of caution here. You mention “the FDP also failed to adequately connect with the constantly growing online progressive community and blogosphere, and did not make the most out of relationships with the highest profile progressive & liberal organizations and organizers”. It’s going to be difficult, if not impossible for the FDP to reverse this before the next election, given the progressive ‘mood’ and the realities of the politics of the White House. This being the case, my feeling is that to win Florida for the President, we must carry Florida for Floridians on Florida concerns. On the state issues of concern to the Democratic progressives in Florida, there is no hesitation. I’ve rarely seen such motivation. It’s a shame it took a Republican Governor and his henchmen devastating the state to spur such activism, but it is what it is. Our ‘full-throated’ call should be toward addressing the real concerns, fears and needs of Floridians. This will be the way to swing the state for Obama.

  2. Says who? IOur county had the lowest voter turn out in ages. f they had been effectual, Allen West wouldn’t have won and neither would Rick Scott.

  3. Well, Lauren…says someone who is actually acquainted with the detailed data of the last dozen years of voter turnout trends & performance breakdowns in PBC as compared to the rest of the state. As written in the column above, the systems themselves (and if you want specific details, you know where to find me) “have been used with great effectiveness in places like Palm Beach County and are well designed, finely tuned and critically important”. That’s a factual, substantiated statement. Part of understanding how to reform the Democratic Party effectively has to do with first understanding what does and does not work, and giving credit where credit is due. In PBC, a voter ID/organizing/turnout system that had been a total mess was reorganized and given the kind of data-driven analysis, structure and organizational capacity that you need to succeed in election battles. Those systems were not the cause of the defeats of Ron Klein in CD-22, Alex Sink in the gubernatorial race, or in any other of the FDP’s long list of losses to the GOP in 2010. Those losses occurred DESPITE largely effective systems in places like PBC. They occurred because of lack of inspiring vision that captured voter attention, vacuum of coherent messaging, absence of integrated social strategy and 21st century communications tools, and terrible, terrible resource allocation strategies and decisions.

    It’s easy, Lauren, to point fingers and take potshots. But it’s far more constructive to intelligently, accurately and effectively analyze what the specific strengths and weaknesses of a failed effort were – and then reform, revise and remake accordingly.

  4. Sorry, somehow my comment came out making no sense (trying HTML tags apparently was a major #FAIL for me). Anyway, what it should have read:

    “who says the GOTV efforts were used with great effectiveness in PBC? As hard as we worked, the voter turnout was depressing. If they had been coordinated and implemented with the state party, it would have been much more effective and Allen West and Rick Scott wouldn’t have won. West was tougher b/c the numbers were closer, but had more people voted Rick Scott would have lost; he narrowly beat Alex Sink.

  5. I think you are confusing GOTV with lack of effective strategy, messaging & communications. Those are the elements, in combination with the Meek-Crist debacle, that lost so many elections in FL. And as far as PBC vs. the state party, PBC system was and is a model for the rest of the state. This is why PBC Chair Mark Siegel was given responsibility for grassroots system by Rod Smith, state chair. But the most sophisticated voter analysis and zone/precinct organizing turnout mechanism will fail if there is vacuum of vision, messaging & communications, as there was in 2010.

  6. No, I’m not confusing anything. I completely agree that an effective strategy and messaging are fundamentally different than the number of people in the county who had voted. But there are a lot of people who would argue that the Crist/Meek debacle was in large part due to GOTV efforts. there was absolutley no ground force out for Kendrick Meek, and it was the county party’s official position to not intervene in the race. the county was focused on lower ticket races, and made no effort to Get Out The Vote for the top of the ticket in 2010, which was the Senate and Gubernatorial races.

    Messaging and strategy are big causes for concern, but something in which the party, on the whole, seems to be getting their act together on. In 2010 there was a massive failure to GOTV for the Democratic candidates; Sink’s campaign imploded without the party’s help. But if there had been a better rally to get out voters on her behalf, and especially on Kendirck Meek’s behalf, it is very possible we would be in an entirely different situation.

    You’re correct that raw quantitative GOTV efforts will be unsuccessful with black hole where messaging and communications should be. But that’s only half the battle, and there should be similar weight given to GOTV efforts. Granted messaging comes before the GOTV, but messaging can’t work with out a call to Democrats to vote in the election.

  7. GOTV is generally a term used for the final three days or so before the election – not for the voter ID and zone/precinct work that comes over the many months before it, work which as I’ve explained and as is well-documented, was actually done better by PBC than most other counties in the state. Again, Lauren, the latter systems were not in any way responsible for the under-performance of PBC, Broward, etc. That under-performance was real and it’s vitally important not to misrepresent its key underpinnings – which had almost everything to do with bad strategy, messaging, communications and resource allocation by candidates/campaigns themselves.

    So, while you’re right that the final days GOTV push sucked, that’s because of the abject failure of messaging/communications that preceded it. Nobody I know in politics thinks that the final GOTV weekend push resulted in election of Rubio. And Crist/Meek debacle had absolutely nothing to do with GOTV on any level, everything to do with the duplicity & disloyalty in Dem ranks that unfolded in months prior to GOTV. Also had much to do with final weeks rumor (some attribute to Crist, some to Rubio) that Meek would drop out.

    To finish up…PBC was not in fact concentrating much more heavily on down-ballot races, don’t know where you get this notion. Am thinking that you got that notion from working almost exclusively in the Ron Klein office, which explains a lot. The final resource allocation to Ron was not indicative of the entire PBC approach. It was indicative of final days decisions that Ron’s campaign had tanked and was beyond rescue. And in fact, TOO many resources were being wasted on his lost cause in final GOTV stretch run.

    One last time: Yes, we need to do better at GOTV. But GOTV is different than the voter ID and zone/precinct organizing systems that precede them, which are in pretty good shape in PBC. The combination of all that can only be effective if the party has inspired voters to vote with effective messaging and communications tools/strategy. If you’re going to concentrate on one needed area of improvement on the systems side, it’s worth concentrating attention on the need for far more effective absentee ballot system – promotion, distribution, follow-up & collection.

    Cheers. Won’t be any more replies on this thread from me. On to other subjects for now…

  8. Well, it’s disappointing you’re done on this topic, because I think it’s a really fantastic conversation and is also a really good example of what went wrong. It makes me sad that you don’t seem to see how much we agree, or that you’re being so argumentative for the sake of being argumentative. I wasn’t concentrating on “one needed area of improvement”; I was literally commenting on the one senctence in which you stated empahtically that PBC had the best GOTV efforts.

    It’s a shame, because there was a huge opening for discussion on how the numbers for GOTV in PBC the last 3 days are what you think was the issue. I;ll say it again: the messaging on the inside, from the PBC coordinated campaign efforts in relation to their GOTV drive that took place in the last month and half of the campaign was indicative of the larger point of bad messaging on the party’s front.

    as to your last paragraph, there are hundreds of volunteers that would say you’re flat out wrong. It wasn’t a fault of the efforts; it was an overall messaging/strategy problem that began from the top down. in other words: IM AGREEING WITH YOU.

    it was just an interesting point to talk about, the PBC GOTV efforts, and how if they were the best in the state, what does that say in addition to your point about strategy? evidently it was a waste, just like trying to jump start some kind of intelligent discussion with this post was