Monthly Archives: October 2017

Thoughts from the Florida Democratic Convention

Thoughts from the

Florida Democratic Convention

October 27-29, 2017

Here we are. It’s Florida, 2017, and we have survived 8 years of Rick Scott. That is to say that some of us, maybe most of us, have survived Rick Scott. There is no way to know how many mothers who lacked access to health care because of Scott’s callous rejection of $18 billion from the federal government to provide health care to those mothers, succumbed to diseases that could have been prevented with the proper care. There is no way to know how many children have suffered, still suffer, or have perhaps died because Medicaid funds were not available to pay for preventive or urgent care. What we do know is that there are over a million people in Florida living at the poverty line who cannot afford health care, cannot receive subsidies for insurance under the ACA, and live every day just a paycheck away from homelessness, unable to go to the doctor for a checkup where a debilitating disease might be discovered while it is treatable and inexpensive to do so. This is Florida in 2017. This is America, arguably the richest nation on the planet.

I am at home reflecting on the weekend I just spent at the Florida Democratic Convention. I watched a forum for three gubernatorial candidates who, I assume, are considered by the party to be the most likely candidates to win in the Democratic primary in 2018. I watched the Florida delegation pass a package of resolutions stating the party’s position on a number of timely and important issues facing Floridians in this turbulent time in our lives and the lives of our friends and neighbors. I had personal, one-on-one conversations with two of the candidates for governor from the candidates’ forum, and with a third candidate who was unhappy about being left out of the debate. I met young Dems and old Dems, excited Dems and frustrated Dems, and Dems of many race, creeds, color, and gender. At the end of the day, or weekend to be more precise, I concluded that Dems are ready to govern in Florida for many years to come.

My takeaways from the Convention are:

  1. The Dems have fielded 3 great candidates for Governor, each with her or his own strengths and weaknesses.

  2. Dems are already being elected to office across Florida in municipalities and counties where it would have been in-thinkable a couple of years ago.

  3. The Chair of the FDP is much more Democratic than I gave him credit for during his election to the Chair this past year.

  4. I was particularly impressed with Chairman Bitttel’s personal efforts to take food, supplies, and generators to Puerto Rico following hurricane to lend direct aid to folks who folks in an urgent situation who offer no particular political or other benefit.

  5. The Florida Dems demonstrated a very progressive tendency that I found a bit surprising at the state level by enacting a series of resolutions including such things as:

    1. Support for recognition of healthcare as a human right

    2. An end to the education-for-profit industry that puts profits above our children’s education

    3. An end to prisons-for-profit that encourages putting Floridians in jail rather than ensuring justice for all

    4. Restoration of rights to felons upon serving their time and paying their debt to society

    5. A rebuke to the anti-immigrant policies of the current administration and an affirmation of our American principles including a more compassionate immigration policy that places a priority on family reunification, a path to citizenship for the Dreamers, and respect for human rights regardless of a person’s immigration status.

    6. Promoting responsible gun ownership that recognizes our civic responsibility to keep guns out of the hands of people who have demonstrated an incapacity to use guns responsibly because of mental illness or a history of domestic violence, and

    7. Treating drug addiction as a medical problem rather than a criminal one.

  6. A progressive community within the Democratic party remains angry, hurt, and often bitter because of the treatment given to Bernie Sanders during the last election cycle.

  7. An attempt to influence the party to move to open primaries so that NPAs would feel more welcome in the party was turned away.

I am more optimistic today about the direction of the Democratic Party that I was before the Convention. I believe we have a great deal more to do to provide an infrastructure that supports inclusion, empowerment, and provides a path to success in future elections, but we have taken a big step forward. While the party still seems to obsess over fund-raising, I see a real recognition of the need for organizing at the grassroots. Don’t get me wrong. We have always asked our people to knock on doors and make phone calls. What I have not seen in the past is the official recognition of a job well done. We recognized those county organizations who knocked on the most doors, made the most phone calls, created the best signs for the Convention, and had the best Halloween costumes.

I am also pleased that we did not move toward open primaries. I have seen too much hancky-panicky in states where they have tried that approach. I am disappointed that the wounds of the last election seem so linger so strongly. Most of all, I am thrilled that we will elect a new Governor in 2018 and feel confident that we will elect a Democrat this time.