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Elections 2014 R.I.P.
Why Democrats Keep Failing in Florida

| November 8, 2014

It takes a little more than that. (Facebook)

It takes a little more than that. (Facebook)

By Daniel Tilson

The condolence calls, texts, tweets and Facebook messages started coming in just before 10:30 on Election Night, right after the Associated Press called Rick Scott the winner of the governor’s race.


Family and friends from New York to California and points in between (including Florida!) knew how hard Floridians like my Mrs. and me fought for Scott’s defeat.

A voicemail message from old pal Kevin, who lives just outside D.C. in Virginia and has worked for decades at the Department of Justice, summed it up.

“Would you tell me, Daniel, what is wrong with your state of Florida, seriously, how could they re-elect Rick Scott, what is it that Rick Scott gives Floridians?”

We Florida Democrats are asking the same questions today. Sure, some of us are wondering if we’d be better off relocating elsewhere rather than fighting on for political balance of power here. But mostly, we’re trying to answer those questions in ways that move our party and state forward, toward much better days than these.

So, what’s wrong with Florida?

Well, about 3 million Christian conservatives and other mostly anti-government Republican voters (sprinkled with some independents) keep re-electing governments that the other 15 million of us get stuck with.

context florida
Exit polling confirms they’re whiter, wealthier, older, more religious and rural/suburban-based than the rest of us.

However good-hearted and well intended they might be otherwise, as voters they’re motivated and manipulated by frustration, anger and fear.

These are people who’ll fight tooth and nail to protect and perpetuate a 20th (19th?) century American pecking order of power and privilege.

The notion of an emerging majority consisting of people of color, immigrants and struggling lower and middle-income workers in need of an activist government that creates, promotes and protects equal socioeconomic opportunities for all; that’s a threatening notion to the frightened folks who elect our government.


For all its fear-based tactics, the Florida GOP focuses on understanding their base voters, and making them feel respected and protected. Democrats in comparison have no clue.


Their frustration and fear is fueled by unlimited corporate billions in conservative media and political propaganda, and translates into high levels of brand loyalty and voter engagement.

That’s a big part of what’s wrong with Florida. It’s how a radical right wing extremist like Scott gets elected, and re-elected. And it’s why the GOP gained six seats and a supermajority in the state House Tuesday, missing in the Senate by only one seat.

The Florida GOP focuses on understanding their base voters, and making them feel respected and protected.

That’s what Scott gives Floridians; well, about 3 million hardcore conservatives anyway.

And then, there’s the Florida Democratic Party (FDP).

Too little space here to go into detail about what the FDP did wrong in 2014. Another time.

For now, know that thousands of dedicated Democratic grassroots activists worked tirelessly for months on voter contact and Get Out The Vote operations.

Yet none of the turnout percentage gains I kept hearing were coming on Election Day materialized in the three Democratic strongholds — Miami-Dade (40.6 percent), Broward (43.5 percent) and Palm Beach Counties (49.1 percent).

But in most Republican strongholds, voter turnout hovered around 60 percent.

Game over.

Don’t blame Obama.

Don’t blame the efforts of grassroots activists.

Don’t blame Nan Rich for weakening Crist in the primary, or Libertarian candidate Adrian Wylie for stealing more votes from Crist than Scott.

FDP leaders, pundits, advisers, analysts and apologists will cite assorted “explanations” for losing.

Yet too few seem to understand and appreciate their rapidly evolving base. They don’t break it down into local communities of shared interest and gain credibility by working with them between elections. And they don’t communicate a progressive vision big, bold and unifying enough to activate such a diverse base when needed.

And so about 85 percent of Florida’s residents will get run roughshod over for at least two more years by the barely 15 percent who pick our government, and by the party that knows and caters to them so well.

Daniel Tilson has a Boca Raton-based communications firm called Full Cup Media, specializing in online video and written content for non-profits, political candidates and organizations, and small businesses.

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25 Responses for Elections 2014 R.I.P.
Why Democrats Keep Failing in Florida”

  1. confidential says:

    Many Democrats went to vote in these mid terms general elections without not knowing even how to fill in one candidate only per office and totally unaware of who was who….the Democratic Party didn’t do its work.
    Also not enough Democrats came out to vote as usual in mid terms, not yet realizing how important is to have congress and senate majority in order to move the country forward. The rich will continuo getting wealthier and the middle class its downward spiral fate. Not enough jobs, increased inflation and taxes and the uncertainty of our medical health insurance for all, survival. As far is concerned education will increase its availability only to the upper classes and comprehensive immigration laws will be left to hang dry as a lost hard battle old shredded flag, in our southern border barbed wires “Berlin wall style fences”.

    • Bill says:

      Im sure many Rs did not know all they needed to know before voting BUT its up to each of us to find out who what we see as best and not rely on any party to tell us who/how to vote. I agree that the rich will always do better then the middle class as they do not rely on work to live. Both party’s have there share of progressive’s in them the Ds are totally controlled by them the far left. we really don’t need comprehensive emigration reform what we need is for the laws already on the books to be fully enforced. there is a BIG difference in the boarder wall many want then the one you see “Berlin wall style fences”. ours we wish to see is to protect our Republic,its people and our National sovereignty the Berlin wall was meant to keep its people in and under the rule of an evil ideology.

  2. rickg says:

    Well done piece. A succinct and precise narrative of what happened. Perhaps one day the Rs who have controlled the House, Senate and Governor’s Mansion may actually govern and do things that benefit all Floridians instead of those who most generously contributed to their campaigns.

  3. Tom Jacks says:

    Perhaps the republicans are motivated by something called patreism and a love for this country. Unlike democrats who are motivated by name calling, and continually pitting one part of society against another. Democrats only respect people who agree with them while claiming they are open minded and inclusive, when in actuality they are close minded and petty.

    • Jack Stewart says:

      Tom I could not have said it said it any better, good job

    • Schottey says:

      This comment is the best example of irony one could ever ask for…

    • Ron R. says:

      Wow — talk about “name calling.”

    • Mary DiPalma says:

      Thank you for the convulsive laughter your comment caused me today.
      My chapped lips did crack a bit… I might have whiplash!

    • Bill says:

      that sums it up in a nutshell. Just look at one of the authors first lines “Family and friends from New York to California and points in between (including Florida!) knew how hard Floridians like my Mrs. and me fought for Scott’s defeat” its not that he saw that he was fighting FOR something but against something. Rs or most conservative’s are fighting/voting FOR something like the principals of our Constitution and the rights of the individual over the group and or State. Yes maybe you the author should move to a State like NY or Cali that puts the State and the whims of the day over the rule of law and our individual rights.

      Family and friends from New York to California and points in between (including Florida!) knew how hard Floridians like my Mrs. and me fought for Scott’s defeat

  4. Al says:

    Just where do you get your infomation?

  5. Fred says:

    Or perhaps the majority realized that Charlie changes his views to what is convenient. Perhaps the majority realized that Scott, while far from perfect, did a hell of a lot better than Charlie did. Perhaps the majority saw through Charlie and is changing direction more often than the direction of the wind in Florida. But that would be just to obvious and make to much sense wouldn’t it. It has to be be some other reason and someone elses fault. Couldn’t have been Charlie or the message being put out by the Libs. That just wouldn’t make sense would it?
    Why do you have to try to make excuses? Why does it have to be that the Republicans are wrong? Why can’t it be because the majority think the Democrats and the direction that the current national administration and CHARLIE are wrong?

  6. Lin says:

    Why democrats keep failing In Florida?
    I thought I’d read some interesting suggestions
    Instead it’s just the same old insults & generalizations about people with a different ideology
    And sorry, part of the reason for failure is Obama’s failed progressive presidency
    Almost the same amount of money was spent by both parties In the midterms
    Did the author notice that Crist was a Repubs then indep then dem? — hard to find his ideology. Think this might have something to do with loss?
    There are far fewer radical right than the author thinks but they Sure are a fine target for ridicule.
    Sometimes the democrats need to stop blaming everyone else for their shortcomings. Maybe we will find out what bills the house passed when they open Harry Reid’s desk drawer.

  7. The Real Bunnell Resident says:

    This article is filled with racism as if being a Republican makes someone a racist. The fact is the Republican Party stands for much more than wealthy old white people. We stand for opportunity for everyone and we want to see everyone succeed. Nonstop government handouts are not a prescription for prosperity. A hand up is always better than a handout. The real message is everyone deserves equal opportunity. outcomes should result from the merits of the individual. Real hope and real change will only come from encouraging the idea of individual achievement coupled with individual generosity to help others. Government confiscation and redistribution of wealth is a sickening message.

  8. m&m says:

    Right on Tom Jacks.. When there’s something they don’t agree with they riot and plat that card.

  9. Retired FF says:

    Maybe, just maybe the intelligent voters in our state along with the rest of the nation are sick and tired of watching the Democrats buy votes by giving away the working folks money to generation after generation of lazy individuals that bleed our tax base instead of getting off their butts and getting a job. Every time you turn on the news it is something else. The latest joke is having students that just don’t do any work in school get at least a 50 on test scores, etc. This is just a continuation of the Democrats way of pushing lazy individuals through the system. You wonder why they can’t get jobs? The parents of these kids have been living off the Democrats free ride for years and they are setting up their children which there are usually many, to be the same non contributing leach off our society. Just look at cities like Detroit and Chicago. How well has the Democrats free ride buys votes worked there? Now the Democrats want to just let all the illegal aliens stay in our country to be a further drain on our system. The Democratic party should be abolished !

  10. Outsider says:

    Don’t blame Obama? Really? He has done more to mobilize the Republican base than Sara Palin could ever hope to do. It didn’t help your cause that you nominated a man with absolutely no character whatsoever. The only person Charlie Crist is out to help is Charlie Crist.

  11. Brad says:

    I would say that this entire article does a great job of summing up the real problem with the Democratic Party as a whole today and why it keeps losing elections . . . it insists on simply blaming the Republicans for winning. Crist’s core campaign was why not to vote for Scott and very little of why to vote for Crist. The sad part is that no one within that party sees any of this.

    Just as the Democrats say that you can’t blame Obama for everything, well you can’t keep blaming every loss on the right-wing conservatives. As you pointed out, the Republicans have built ” high levels of brand loyalty [which I don’t entirely agree with] and voter engagement”. So the Democrats are incapable of also doing that?

    The real truth is the Democrats have gotten very lazy since 2008. The party won a lot of spots because the nation was going off the cliff and President Obama did a great job bringing a message that rallied people. The problem is that everyone thought they could just sit back and ride the wave of popularity forever.

    Scott won because the Florida economy has improved and is continuing to improve. Unemployment is down, taxes remain low, and real estate is recovering. Regardless of party, voters don’t want change when things are going well.

    What I would hope to see is the Democrat Party that starts focusing locally, because if you did you see the larger problem with the party much more clearly. Where are the Democrat candidates in our local elections? They are no where to be seen! They have Kimberle Weeks and Jim Manfre who have been elected in the last 8 years, and both of which have been horrible to say the least.

    You don’t blame your loss on the other team winning. The Obama popularity ride is over especially with his track record lately. Until the Democrats get serious and start doing real strategic work . . . expect the same outcome over and over. And it’s not just here. You can try and run from the problem, but I guarantee you that the problem will follow you. When you point the finger at someone/something else there are 3 pointing back at you.

  12. Tracey M says:

    What I find very interesting about this piece is the fact that the writer is from South Florida. I lived in Palm Beach County for over 20 years until moving to Flagler County 5 years ago. The main reason for my family moving here was to get away from the high crime and the terrible environment there. South Florida is like another state from the rest of Florida!! The political environment is heavily democrat and the only families that can afford a decent lifestyle are the wealthy. For the record, I am a registered Independent and I don’t like how this writer is pushing the views of one party and one area of Florida to speak for the rest of us. Maybe Mr. Tilson could start a petition to have South Florida become separate state and then He will be happy pushing his party-line views on those who choose to follow him.

  13. ken says:

    The author says GOP voters are, among other things, “whiter” than non-Republicans.
    The implication is racism on the Republican’s part.
    But wait …
    37% of Whites voted for Crist. 9% of Blacks voted for Scott.
    That’s 4 times the percentage of Whites voting for Crist than Blacks voting for Scott.
    So yes, one group of voters was heavily influenced by race BUT it was the Democrats not the Republicans.
    Seriously, if Crist had won, would you be writing that the Democrats were “Blacker?”

  14. Chris Lemke says:

    My condolences to you, Mr. Tilson. I think that I understand the bitterness and sadness that you feel. It is a new day. Minorities are waking up to the fact that they have been used for decades by the Democrat party, and there is no turning back, I believe. The President and his minions have been kicked to the curb. I am certain that you can find an environment which is a much better fit with your beliefs.So, please go there. One thing that we can thank President Obama for is his failed attempt to force the progressive agenda on the American people. You see, we are people, not just votes. And we can finally see through the false promises of the Democrat party.
    Liberalism is a disease, but there is a cure. Maybe you can find it.

  15. Sherry Epley says:

    The difficulty with the Democratic party winning elections seems very fundamental and simple to me. What’s so very wonderful about our party is also what creates the biggest challenge to being elected.

    The roots of the Democratic philosophy are nurtured by the belief of the cultural evolution of the human species towards ideals such as true equality, justice, liberty, peace, courage, ethics, integrity, respect, honor, independence, the common good and equal opportunity for every single person regardless of financial standing, race, nationality, gender, or sexual preference. This is the kernel of what it means to me to be “progressive”, “liberal”, “open minded”.

    Here is the tough part. . . Coming from that place of passionately believing in open, independent, think for yourself ,”democratic” way of being, it is impossible for the leadership of the Democratic party to strongly insist that their followers pledge to vote in lockstep, regardless of the candidate or government position in play.

    The Republican party, on the other hand, has no compunction when calling their base to the polls. The Republican party is built on loyalty. Loyalty bought by wealthy overlords with uninterrupted 24/7 fear laced media propaganda. . . a land where actual fact is swept aside as the talking heads continue their manipulative diatribe. A “spoon full of sugar” never tasted so good! And, it’s so much easier than thinking and acting as an intelligent, independent human. . . plus being a member of a club,any club, feels sooooo damned good!

    • bill says:

      Naa its the Ds that do not want open thoughts and are the most un open minded. They are the party of name calling, fear mongering and pitting one group against another to advance there own personal and political well being

  16. Johnny Taxpayer says:

    This article and most of the comments are laughable. Democrats lost to Rick Scott for one reason and one reason alone, you decided to hitch your wagon to Charlie Crist, the only person in Florida who’s flaws (politically) out number Rick Scott. Bill Nelson or even Alex Sink probably would have walked away with a substantial margin of victory in this election, hell even John Morgan himself could have beat Rick Scott (instead of sending his puppet) but the party couldn’t convince them to run and instead decided your best hope at defeating an extremely unpopular incumbent was… a failed incumbent who changes political positions every time the wind blows. If this author really illustrates the thinking of Florida democrats, then Florida may as well prepare for decades of Republican rule, because it could not be further from the truth.

    Just 2 years ago, the exact same pundits and experts writing the obituary on the Democrat party because of this election, were saying the exact same thing about Republicans when Barack Obama was reelected and Republicans failed to take the senate in 2016.

  17. Seminole Pride says:

    I wish the candidates would stop running for their parties and start running for the people.

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