“What we have here is a failure to communicate.”
That quote from “Cool Hand Luke” could be directed squarely at the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party has been suffering from this issue and a message problem since 1998.
The performance of the Florida Democratic Party has led to a complete Republican dominance in both the Legislature and the Governor’s mansion. In 2008, Florida helped elect a young, vibrant senator to the highest office in this land under the premise of hope and change. Unfortunately, this message did not flow down to the Florida Democratic Party.
The State Party has overseen three election cycles where Democrats have run candidates anointed in a backroom and forced them down the voters’ throats. This delusion of “the party knows best” has led us where we are today.
Untested candidates with nothing to offer had the support of a party that has no message and no clear identity except simply a “we are not Republicans” mentality. This tactic does not work and has been proven time and time again that it does not resonate with the voter.
Soul-searching is a term that has been thrown out anytime an election does not go as anticipated. Instead of coming up with a real plan of action, we revert to our place of comfort by selecting individuals who have ran for office in the past.
We summon them out of their “retirement” holes and encourage them to run again as if that will be the key to bringing Democrats back to power and relevance.
FDP retrenches with a plan to right the errors of the last election. In the meantime, the rest of the state and especially Republicans are devising strategies to fill their bench with young Republicans for generations to come.
Meanwhile, the Republicans have multiple members in the Legislature in their 20s. These members will have an unprecedented experience in governing by the time they are 40. They are building up their youth and their bench in a way Democrats are not. They’ve got redshirt freshmen when we’re running seniors, and we’ve got to stop that.
As a young, African- American progressive, it was crucial to becoming a member of an organization called the New Leader’s Council. New Leader’s Council has 44 chapters across the country, and six chapters across Florida.
Our goal is recruit, train and promote the progressive leaders of the future. We are making great strides in our immediate community, statewide and nationwide. Since our chapter’s creation in 2013, we have trained over 40 young progressives in Tallahassee alone, because we all understand the collective obligation we have in our future; which begins with leadership. Our fellows are learning the critical skills of governance, political campaigns, messaging and fundraising.
There is an opportunity for real change in the Chair of the Florida Democratic Party.
Beyond the structure of the party, where the focus has been on raising money, there is actual room to encourage younger individuals that embody the spirit of Bob Graham, Reuben Askew, Lawton Chiles, and all the other great legends of the Democratic Party.
It is time to embrace younger candidates with new and fresh ideas. More than ever, we need people with the energy and courage to fight for our environment and water quality, the protection of our elderly, quality public education and affordable higher education. These sort of policy issues are going to affect our generation far more than baby boomers, so it is time that we begin to take responsibility for these decisions as the Republicans are.
Economic equality, restoration of felon voting rights, protecting the liberties of all citizens, and allowing women the right to protect their body free from the burdens of government are just some of the issues we must have those who are willing to stand up to challenge.
As the third largest state, we have an enormous duty to train the future of this country’s leaders, but we won’t ever get the chance to lead if we’re behind Democratic politicians from the 80s and 90s.
If the party doesn’t begin to accept young people into its ranks, we as a party are going to be in this hole for a very long time. There are many passionate young people all across this state that need and want to pick up the mantle of leadership, I just hope they let us.
Let us on the team coach.
Carlos Nathan is a 33-year-old political and government professional and a board member of the Tallahassee Chapter of the New Leader’s Council.