By Daniel Tilson
Time to praise the opposition, and challenge ourselves. In preparation for 2016, the Republican Party of Florida (RPOF) did itself proud with recent communications upgrades. Now let’s see if the Florida Democratic Party (FDP) can rise to the occasion with a new fix-it plan scheduled for public release next month.
OK, I can hear the laughter from some quarters.
That’s to be expected when you lose elections and political power as steadily as the FDP has over the past 20 years. As if the results themselves haven’t been bad enough, the tactics have been miserable enough to keep them good company. Meanwhile, a legion of Democratic faithful turned from loyalists, to skeptics, to cynics.
The good news for the FDP is, they still have a decent little numbers advantage overall with about 420,000 more registered Ds than Rs overall. Bad news is, that’s only potentially helpful during statewide campaigns. More bad news, the fastest growing group of registered voters is independents with “No Party Affiliation” (NPA), now more than 25 percent of the electorate.
In fact, independents have passed both Ds and Rs to become number one in 11 of Florida’s 67 counties. Republicans are number two in six, Democrats in five. And there’s no reason to expect the trend to change anytime soon.
That’s the statewide picture. At the local level, Florida’s legislative districts are as gerrymandered as ever. The party in power draws up district maps once a decade, and the RPOF’s most recent drawing lesson abandoned any vision of electoral parity. To maintain their overpowering majorities in the Florida Legislature, most incumbents were given mostly Republican voters. And yes, back in the day, the Democrats did the same.
But that day was way, way back. Now, the FDP plays perpetual catchup…which brings us back to the terrific job their friends over at the RPOF are doing with new communications strategies.
About two weeks ago they rebooted their website, and for the most part, brilliantly. Even its greatest potential weakness, a Hillary Clinton obsession, will work fine with the base. The brilliance lay in the website’s recognition that most voters are sick and tired of political parties, platforms, issues and agendas. So instead, it focuses onaction, action, action.
Meant to first push the buttons of conservative Republicans and NPAs who aren’t “Ready For Hillary,” the site slyly offers an assortment of graphically eye-catching actions you can take to vent…from signing a “Pledge To Stop Hillary in 2016” to signing up to “let Governor Rick Scott know that you’re proud to call him Florida’s Governor.” Get people’s adrenaline going, get them to take action and get their all-important contact information.
Instead of listing “Our Values” like the FDP does, there’s a single “About Us” message suggesting today’s RPOF was forged in the hearts and minds of the founding fathers.
New RPOF Chair Blaise Ingoglia followed the website reboot with a PR push for “Project 29” – the 29 Electoral College votes Florida grants the winner of its presidential election. Lots of plans to open “Victory Offices” statewide, “fully engage with all communities” and be “embedded in communities where we have been absent in the past.”
Maybe that’s lip service…maybe not.
Sadly, it’s precisely what people like me have been pushing the FDP to do for years, with the kind of gusto, resource allocation and consistency that wins trust between elections and votes at crunch time.
Compare the RPOF’s public commitment to fight on all fronts to the FDP publicly questioning the wisdom of running Democratic candidates in Republican strongholds, for fear of riling up yet more Republicans to turn out and vote.
That’s no way to win back legislative competitiveness. And it never will.
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.