(Cross-posted at Examiner.com)
If nothing but bad news keeps coming for the Florida Democratic Party on the fundraising front, it’s the millions of middle class Floridians with something left to lose who’ll likely suffer the worst of the consequences.
According to recently released reports, the FDP raised all of $894,000 in the third quarter of 2011. Over the same timeframe, the Republican Party of Florida, or RPOF, took in $5.5-million. In fact, the Sunshine State Elephants have been kicking the Donkeys’ butts badly all year long, outpacing them by nearly a 5-1 ratio, $14-million to $3-million or so.
That’s a troubling trend for Florida residents hoping and praying for a turnaround in another dangerous trend, the one where the rich keep getting richer and the poor keep multiplying, and getting poorer; a trend quite firmly in place for now, thanks to the RPOF and their trend-setting collaborators, a “Who’s Who” list of Florida’s wealthiest individual and corporate private interests – a list that doubles as the RPOF’s 2011 third-quarter “top donors” list…well, imagine that.
These Business & Wealth leaders are busily taking care of business by gratefully meeting and beating the fundraising goals of the RPOF, the party now so dominant that easy passage and gubernatorial signing of almost any bill boosting Big Business profits, income-sheltering schemes for the rich, and donations to the RPOF, is virtually guaranteed.
Of course, big-ticket donors like these hedge their bets by raining cash and gaining influence over both parties, trying to account for possible shifts in power and the occasional need for – yikes – bipartisan support.
But to illustrate where things stand in Florida these days, note that Blue Cross Blue Shield was the RPOF’s top donor this past quarter, at $375,000. And their “hedge bet” on the FDP? $100,000.
But here’s the thing. Together with the Democratic National Committee, President Obama raised $70-million in the third quarter of 2011, from over 600,000 individual grassroots donors, 98% of whom donated anything they could afford, anywhere from a few dollars up to $250, all to the equal collective benefit of the cause.
The Good News then, is that a barrage of big corporate contributions can be counterbalanced by an avalanche of enthusiastic grassroots support from “little people” like you and me, a point the president is proving once again in 2012, just like he did in 2008.
But the Bad News for Florida is that the FDP still has plenty to prove and little to show in the way of generating such enthusiastic support, financial or otherwise. If the thinking is, Obama’s fundraising coattails will drape all the way down to and through Florida’s many critical legislative and congressional races…well, that would be what’s called “magical thinking”.
So, what to do, just a couple of weeks away from the 1-year-to-Election Day bell-ringing?
No doubt, the FDP needs to step up its game, like, yesterday. First, they need to fill the hole where “a vision” is supposed to be. It’s not that party leaders are without a vision. It’s just that they (and/or their media & communications people) seem unable to distill that vision down to a simple, authentic narrative, one that instead of listing for Floridians all the things Democrats have done and stand for, shows them; a credible, ongoing storyline that unfolds in real time, engaging the public and communicating the FDP vision in compelling, human terms.
Once (If) that conceptual breakthrough is made, then a new Social Strategy – integrating website, social media, video, multimedia, and networking in more innovative ways – can be implemented to great effect; sharing the FDP vision and telling the FDP story in ways that actually make people want to donate, without even being asked.
It may be hard to believe, I know, but think “Field OF Dreams”…”If you build it (yeah, You, FDP), they will come.”
Another thing that would help is more active, steady FDP participation in neighborhood-based service initiatives all across Florida; diverting more energy and resources away from the usual precinct organizing work and joining in on efforts to feed, house, teach, train, protect and care for people in a diverse range of recession-ravaged and budget cut-battered communities. It’s all about building credibility, demonstrating vision in action – way before election time rolls around.
Speaking of credibility and vision, the state’s Democratic leaders would also be wise to embrace the Occupy Movement in Florida, connecting with and empowering the kinds of dynamic young activists that can and should be the future lifeblood of the party – unless it is content to retire to a nice Century Village clubhouse once and for all. By creating some open, interactive space under the FDP tent – and on its website and social media venues – for participants in Occupy actions statewide, the state party would be saying it is looking to the future. By failing to do so, it will be saying it is content to rest on its “laurels” and remain stuck in twentieth century decline mode.
To its credit, the FDP did launch a new website a while back that looks and feels better than the old one. But after many months now, it still lacks any easy evidence of core organizational mission and message. There’s no storyline to follow. It fits into no larger social strategy, simply “existing” along with matching facebook and Twitter pages. And there’s virtually no multimedia, no video gallery or pod casts, and no YouTube channel linkage; just an underwhelming video from Chairman Rod Smith, urging Dems to attend the annual convention from October 28th-30th.
I could go on, but I won’t. Suffice it to say, there’s room for improvement.
Also to its credit, the FDP has been circulating a detailed questionnaire to grassroots party faithful far & wide, seeking input into preparation of its 2012 Platform. If the input is taken into serious consideration, and if a long list of platform positions and planks is not offered to the public in place of a simple central message and narrative storyline; then this kind of outreach and inclusiveness can help.
We shall see.
But here’s another thing, a really important thing.
Floridians cannot wait for the Florida Democratic Party to do any or all of the above before taking action on their own. First of all, the above recommendations all require more funding. So there’s a chicken & egg thing happening here, or a Catch-22, or something like that. Point is, the current disparity in fundraising between the FDP and RPOF cannot be allowed to continue, regardless of how soon or how effectively the Democrats are able to get their house in order.
Because what the RPOF is doing in exchange for all those millions in campaign and Political Action Committee donations is, they are steadily – not slowly, but speedily, steadily and savagely selling us all out, Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Tea Partiers and Occupiers alike.
They repay those corporate and wealthy donors with tax cuts, expanded and extended tax loopholes and all manner of regulatory rollbacks. The billions of dollars in lost state income that results from these policies causes multi-billion dollars budget deficits. And then the RPOF doesn’t blink as it balances the budget by slashing away further at our public schools, hospitals, parks, libraries, environment, and overall quality of life…what’s left of it.
Maybe you’ve noticed, maybe not yet; but the already compromised quality of so many aspects of life for poor, working and middle class Floridians was ratcheted down several more nasty notches by RPOF legislators in 2011; and they’re planning on doing more of the same, and then some, in 2012.
One good way to fight back, before helping vote them out of power in 2012, is to help the FDP gain some funding parity with them, right now. Instead of waiting for the FDP to inspire you – you can try, at least once, to inspire them, with a modest donation and clear instructions on how to use it. If they don’t get their messaging and communications act together in the next few months, then move on and put your money and energy into individual candidates, campaigns and advocacy organizations that you have more faith and trust in. But first, give the FDP a chance.
Right here, right now, as we approach November 2011, it would be a big step in the right direction (and would feel so damned good) to show the Republican Party of Florida – along with the all the rich folks and large corporations propping them up, pulling their strings and yanking all our chains – that you want to see how they’ll do in a fair fight…and that there’s a real chance they may actually be facing one in 2012 after all.