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The social gospel of Andrew Gillum

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum continues to make good on his promise to campaign in and compete for all 67 Florida counties during his campaign for governor.

Following up a well-received speech in Tampa, where he cautioned against a “Democrat lite” approach, Gillum hit Jacksonville on Sunday.

Jacksonville’s major challenge for Democrats: bridging the divide between various intraparty groups, including younger people inspired by Bernie Sanders and the older establishment types who reflexively backed Hillary Clinton a year ago in the presidential primary.

Finding a way to excite Democrats down-ballot locally has been tough for statewide candidates of late, despite a Democratic edge in party registration.

With that trend in mind, Gillum is smart to get going early.

Putting in the work in Jacksonville, including engaging young grassroots supporters, is key. And in Jacksonville, he found himself evangelizing for a brand of social justice absent from local politics and politicians.

It is a message activists have yearned to hear for a while now. And in Gillum, they have a ready exponent.

But the trouble comes in getting people to hear it. During a day in Jacksonville, Gillum made three stops and worked a national TV hit in. But he didn’t draw much local media interest.

For them, 2018 is remote. However, for Gillum – who regularly talks about his “18-month strategy,” – the time to launch and to get attention is now.

With that in mind, Gillum made many stops: the first at a popular Jacksonville church.

“I don’t know if we’re in a bad reality show or another season of 24,” Rudolph McKissick, Jr., the pastor of Bethel Baptist Church said about this “strange political season,” by way of introducing Gillum at the 7:45 a.m. service.

The pastor referenced VP Mike Pence and Gov. Rick Scott being in town Saturday, saying “the only thing that changes anything is a vote … seems like anytime we have the chance to shift things in the right direction, we don’t vote.”

“Anything I can do to get him elected the next governor of Florida, I will do,” the pastor said, noting Gillum’s family ties locally.

After a spot on MSNBC, Gillum’s next public stop was at the New Town Urban Farm near Edward Waters College.

The Urban Farm took an unused plot of land and turned it into a community garden – a real need in a food desert.

The land, founder Diallo-Sekou told us, was a vacant lot that had rubble in it previously.

The neighborhood is still transitional: an interesting backdrop to the speech was a pickup truck blaring Barry White as it trolled the block, with a sign on the side soliciting donations of clothes for military veterans.

But the Urban Farm is an oasis in the middle of an area always on the news for the wrong reasons, and it was an appropriate venue for Gillum talking about subjects at the heart of his appeal: finding ways to ensure that people have the leg up they need so they don’t end up a statistic.

“There’s a budget director in Washington, D.C. who said that there is no evidence that after school food assistance programs did anything to change the outcomes for kids,” Gillum said.

“That’s what I want as an educator: a hungry kid – attempting to get them to learn a lesson, understand, comprehend … if I’m that kid, and all of us have been there, if your stomach is growling, you can’t think of anything but the sound,” Gillum said.

His thirty-minute Q&A wasn’t one with applause lines or rah-rah moments: it was Obamaesque in its relating policy to real life for those in this state trapped by poverty and its myriad incapacitations and indignities.

Gillum spoke of a farm in his own youth, on his grandparents’ property in South Dade, where collards, squash, tomatoes, and fruit grew in a residential area.

“We lived off the land. Literally. In a place as urban as this, Miami-Dade, Florida. Here, you’ve got land and opportunity,” Gillum said, to do the same thing.

In much of Jacksonville, the physical hunger is palpable. But so too is the hunger for civil rights. Gillum addressed an issue close to his heart: the re-enfranchisement of the state’s 1.5 million who have lost their rights to vote.

“They paid their debt to society. Yet they come back into communities, and they still lack the ability to participate fully in our democracy. The majority of these individuals have committed crimes that are nonviolent – largely, drug-related crimes,” Gillum said.

“We cannot be tried twice for the same crime,” Gillum says. “Yet it seems you can be punished forever for having made a mistake.”

In addition to the vote, re-entry, such as through Ban the Box, is a Gillum priority.

And it’s personal.

“I’ve got brothers who have lost their rights. They’ve committed wrongs, and they have to pay the penalty for that. When they got back out and started trying to reintegrate into society, it was very difficult for them to find a job,” Gillum said.

“I’ve got some real entrepreneurial brothers. But actually, it’s survival. If they had a choice, they’d probably be working somewhere with somebody making a decent, honorable wage to take care of themselves and their families. But because door after door after door got shut to them, they had to create a way for themselves,” Gillum said.

“And that meant, for my brother Chuck who lives here in town, opening up a carwash. And going around with his mobile detailing unit and power-washing businesses and cars and sidewalks, and hiring other former felons,” Gillum said, emotion driving his voice.

Then he dialed it back.

“I think it’s a no-brainer … felon re-enfranchisement … to democratize those brothers and sisters,” Gillum said.

Leaving the Urban Farm behind, Gillum’s next stop was a fundraiser/meet-and-greet at a downtown art gallery 3 miles away.

A different venue and largely a different crowd.

Gillum smiled and posed for selfies, looking relaxed, as people like Sen. Tony Hill and other local political types mixed and mingled.

There was no charity truck blasting slow jams inside the gallery space. However, wine was available.

The key to Gillum’s viability is going to be bridging environments like the Urban Farm with the fundraising circuit, succeeding in both spheres – especially while he’s the most prominent Democrat in the race.

And, before it’s too late, ensuring that local market media in the state is paying attention to his message.

Tea Party parallel? Liberals taking aim at their own party

Four days after Donald Trump‘s surprising White House victory, the liberal organization CREDO Action fired off a frantic warning to its 4.6 million anxious supporters.

Their worry wasn’t the new president. It was his opposition.

“Democratic leaders have been welcoming Trump,” the email said. “That’s not acceptable. Democratic leaders need to stand up and fight. Now.”

Amid a national surge of anti-Trump protests, boycotts and actions, liberals have begun taking aim at a different target: Their own party.

Over the past few weeks, activists have formed a number of organizations threatening a primary challenge to Democratic lawmakers who offer anything less than complete resistance to the Republican president.

“We’re not interested in unity,” said Cenk Uygur, the founder of Justice Democrats, a new organization that’s pledged to replace “every establishment politician” in Congress. “We can’t beat the Republicans unless we have good, honest, uncorrupted candidates.”

While party leaders have urged Democrats to keep their attacks focused on Trump, the liberal grass roots sees the fresh wave of opposition energy as an opportunity to push their party to the left and wrest power from longtime party stalwarts.

The intraparty pressure is reminiscent of the tea party movement, where conservative activists defeated several centrist Republican incumbents. Their efforts reverberated through the 2012 and 2016 presidential elections, forcing candidates to the right on economic issues.

Like Uygur, many founders of the new groups are supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders‘ presidential campaign, eager to continue their effort to remake the Democratic Party.

Uygur’s group says they’ve already found 70 possible candidates who will refuse corporate campaign donations while running for Congress— challenging elected Democrats if needed. Those people are now going through candidate training.

Democratic officials from more conservative states worry that those primary contests will result in the party holding even less power in Washington.

Sen. Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat likely to face a tough re-election fight in a state won overwhelmingly by Trump, said the effort will make Democrats a “super minority” in the Senate.

A coalition named “WeWillReplaceYou” is urging Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York to remove Manchin from his new role in the party leadership after Manchin expressed openness to working with Trump.

“If you want to go ahead and beat me up in a primary then go ahead,” Manchin said. “All it does is take the resources from the general.”

Even without primaries, the party faces a challenging political map in 2018. Republicans will be defending just eight Senate seats, while Democrats must hold 23 — plus two filled by independents who caucus with them. Ten of those races are in states Trump carried November.

The activists say they’re willing to trade power for conviction.

“I’d rather have 44 or 45 awesome Democrats who are lockstep together than 44 or 45 really awesome Democrats and three to four weak-kneed individuals who are going to dilute the party,” said Murshed Zaheed, CREDO’s political director.

They point to a postelection shift among Democrats as a sign that their efforts are working.

Initially, Schumer and even liberals such as Sanders and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren cautiously spoke of working with Trump on certain issues. After the wave of liberal fury, most Democrats have shifted into full opposition mode.

“Democrats have a reflexive instinct to compromise,” said Ben Wikler of MoveOn.org, which has directed its members to protest at Democratic as well as Republican congressional offices. “At this moment of successive Trump crises, resistance rather than compromise is what the country needs.”

Democratic leaders say the path to victory next year depends on a strong economic message, one that casts Trump as betraying the working-class voters who boosted him to victory.

“What we have in common, whether you’re West Virginia or Massachusetts or Kansas is a commitment to economic opportunity,” said Tom Perez, the newly elected Democratic National Committee chairman.

A memo this past week from Priorities USA gave Democrats a “10-point checklist” for criticizing Trump’s economic policies and conflicts of interest, saying the party cannot simply count on the president to remain “his own worst enemy.”

Many of the most vulnerable Democratic senators avoided town halls meetings during the congressional recess last week, hoping to evade politically damaging confrontations.

Party officials are trying to channel the new energy into more targeted electoral efforts.

In the weeks after Election Day, the Ohio Democratic Party held a series of meetings across the state with new activists. Since then, they’ve teamed up with some organizations for events.

“Our goal is to build good relationships so that come spring, summer of ’18 everyone moves to an election mindset,” said David Pepper, the state party chairman.

Last month, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee installed full-time organizers in 20 swing districts, with the goal of building stronger connections with activist groups.

Their message: “We can’t add by subtracting,” said the committee chairman, Rep. Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico.

That may be a hard sell for some of the new anti-Trump organizations.

“Something the tea party was really smart about early on was not giving a big bear hug to the Republican National Committee,” said Ezra Levin, the executive director of the new anti-Trump group Indivisible. “Keeping the political parties at arm’s length is crucial to remaining an outside political force.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Groundhog Day for Democrats: Selecting the Party chair

Democrats in Florida and at the national level have a similar problem. In both cases, there are more Democratic voters than Republicans, but in both cases, the Republican candidates have trounced the Democrats.

Between 2009 and 2016, which coincides with the terms of Barack Obama as president, Democratic candidates suffered heavier casualties than many military divisions. Democrats lost 11 Senate seats (-16 percent), lost 62 House seats (-24 percent) and, in the biggest surprise, lost control of the White House.

It was even worse at the state level. The numbers of Democratic governors declined from 28 to 16 (-43 percent), and Democrats lost 959 seats in the state legislatures. The only good news for the Democrats is that it can’t get much worse. The seats they still hold are mostly in strong Democratic areas.

Democrats hope that a change in party leadership will be the first step in reversing party fortunes and helping to lead the party out of the political wilderness.

Florida Democrats held their contest for a new party chair at the end of 2016. Numerous candidates came forth to replace one-term party chair Allison Tant, who had just as much success as previous party chairs.

The two leading candidates were Dwight Bullard, a black state legislator representing the liberal reform wing of the party. Stephen Bittel, a wealthy developer and leading donor to the party was supported by the establishment forces.

Bittel was backed by the teachers’ union and Sen. Bill Nelson, the only Democrat currently elected to a statewide office. Nelson, up for election in 2018, argued that Bittel would bring “professionalism” to the party and “raise money.”

Bullard was backed by Bernie Sanders and his supporters. One Revolution, a Sanders organization, believed that Bullard would stop “an extremely wealthy donor” who wants to “buy his way to lead Florida’s Democratic Party. . .”

Bittel won the required votes and is now busy raising funds for the party and is attempting to reinvigorate party fortunes.

About the time Bittel was winning his election in Florida, the race for the Chair of the Democratic National Party was heating up. The early front-runner was Keith Ellison, a Black Muslim congressman from Minnesota, who represented the Sanders and reform wing of the party. Ellison quickly won the endorsements of liberal icon Elizabeth Warren, along with incoming Democratic Senate Leader Chuck Schumer and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.

The race was actually pushed backed a month. Some argued that it was done in order to generate more debate about the candidates. Others argued that it was done to give opponents of Ellison additional time to overcome his lead.

Critics of Ellison pointed out that he was highly critical of Israel and had supported Black Muslim Louis Farrakhan, issues that might hurt the party in elections.

The Democratic establishment found its candidate in Labor Secretary Tom Perez, who was encouraged to run by both President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. Like Bittel in Florida, Perez represented the establishment and wealthy donors who were concerned that Ellison would push the party too far to the left.

On Feb. 25, 2017, Perez won the post of party chair by a vote of 235-200 on the second ballot. Ellison supporters shouted “Party for the people, not big money.” Many Ellison supporters walked out.

Perez quickly appointed Ellison as Deputy Party Chair in an attempt at party unity. Whether this placates Ellison supporters or irritates them remains to be seen. What duties, if any, will Ellison be given?

In both Florida and nationally, the race to head the Democratic Party pitted a white, establishment candidate representing the moneyed interests versus a black legislator representing the reform and liberal element of the party. In both cases, the white candidate defeated the black candidate, and money prevailed over “the people.”

It appears that it is not only Donald Trump and his supporters who have issues with race and Islamophobia.

Bernie Sanders fired a warning shot across the bow of the Democratic Party after Ellison’s loss. Sanders warned that it was “imperative that the same-old, same-old is not working and that we must open the doors of the party to working people and young people in a way that has never been done before.”

The Democrats have their new party leaders in both Florida and nationally. The question is whether the new leaders will improve the party’s electoral performance, or will it lead to further divisions between an already badly fractured Democratic Party?

___

Darryl Paulson is Professor Emeritus of Government at USF St. Petersburg specializing in Florida Politics and elections.

Top Bernie Sanders surrogate Nina Turner to speak in St. Pete next month

Former Ohio state Senator Nina Turner, who became a national cable news star as a top surrogate for Bernie Sanders during the 2016 presidential campaign, will be speaking in St. Petersburg in March.

The 49-year-old Cleveland native served on the Cleveland City Council from 2005-2008. She resigned her seat that year to accept an appointment to the Ohio Senate in 2008. She won a full term in 2010, before losing a contest for Ohio Secretary of State in 2014.

Recently there has been a movement to draft her to run for Governor of Ohio in 2018.

Last year Turner became a prominent supporter of Sanders campaign. After he lost the Democratic nomination for president to Hillary Clinton, Turner admitted that she was considering an offer to run for vice president on the Green Party’s national ticket, but ultimately opted to stay within the Democratic Party.

Turner will speak at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, March 7 at the United Methodist Church Allendale at 3803 Haines Rd. N. St. Petersburg. To purchase tickets, go to movetobuild.us.

Beyonce, Tim Tebow for prez? Invalid votes spiked in Florida

Beyonce, Tim Tebow or the Norse god Thor for prez? Those were some of Florida’s more unusual picks for president this past election.

And the number of Florida voters who didn’t cast a vote for either Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton or any other valid contender spiked in 2016, apparently in protest over the ballot choices.

A report released by state officials Wednesday showed more than 161,000 Florida voters who took part in the elections either at the polls or by mail didn’t cast a valid vote for president.

The “non-valid votes” include those who wrote in such names as Mickey Mouse or Bernie Sanders and others who simply left the ballot blank. It also includes those who voted for more than one candidate.

All told, the invalid ballots outnumbered Republican Trump’s margin of victory over Democrat Clinton of nearly 113,000 votes to clinch Florida’s 29 electoral votes.

And the rate of invalid votes for president in 2016 — 1.69 percent overall — was more than double the rate it was in 2012 and 2008 when President Barack Obama won the state each time.

“There were some people who were very disgruntled,” said Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles, giving the read of some fellow election officials on the report.

Independently, he compiled a list showing his own Florida county had write-in votes for president including Beyonce, the former University of Florida quarterback Tebow, Thor of Norse mythology and even one vote for “We Can Do Better.”

There also were a number of write-ins for Sanders, the senator who lost the Democratic nod to Clinton as well as for other Republican or independent candidates.

“I think it was a reflection of the election,” said Cowles, who tracked the names and number of invalid write-in votes even though he was not required to.

Florida’s report — compiled from data collected by all 67 counties — is required after every major election. It got its start after the chaotic 2000 presidential election, which hinged on a contentious recount in Florida famously involving “hanging chads” and more.

In the latest report, Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner‘s office concluded the spike in “non-valid votes” was not the result of voter confusion or problems with voting equipment.

The report found nearly 65,000 Florida voters left their ballot blank, also known as an “undervote,” while more than 82,000 wrote the name of someone who did not qualify to run for president in Florida.

All told, more than 9.5 million Floridians voted in the election. The total of “non-valid votes” didn’t include nearly 13,000 provision ballots that were also rejected.

Pasco County Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley echoed the view of other local election officials who said the invalid vote spike showed a segment of the electorate was unsatisfied with the two major candidates.

“I would attribute the spike in invalid undervotes to a highly combative presidential election with two polarizing candidates,” Corley said. “I suspect the voter who wrote in an invalid write-in did so deliberately.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

As Donald Trump takes the oath, many voters still can’t believe it

On the morning 19 months ago when Donald Trump descended the escalator in his glitzy Manhattan tower, waving to onlookers who lined the rails, many Americans knew little about him beyond that he was very rich and had a thing for firing people on a reality television show.

No one can plausibly say they knew that the man who launched his candidacy that day would be elected the nation’s 45th president. As Trump prepares to take the oath of office Friday, many Americans still can’t quite believe that a presidency that still seems almost bizarrely improbable becomes a reality on Friday.

“I thought it was a joke. He’d run, he’d lose early and he’d be out,” said Christopher Thoms-Bauer, 20, a bookkeeper and college student from Bayonne, New Jersey, who originally backed Florida Sen. Marco Rubio‘s Republican candidacy.

Then, Thoms-Bauer recalled, came the night in November when he joined friends in a diner after a New Jersey Devils hockey game and watched, stunned, as Trump eked out wins in key states.

“Having this realization that he was really going to become president was really just a surreal moment,” said Thoms-Bauer, who gave his write-in vote to Evan McMullin, a former CIA agent who ran as a conservative alternative to Trump. “It still doesn’t make sense.”

For all the country’s political divisions, plenty of people on both sides of the aisle share that disbelief.

“I thought there was no way he could win,” said Crissy Bayless, a Rhode Island photographer who on Thursday tweeted a picture of the Statue of Liberty holding her face in her hands, despairing over Trump’s imminent inauguration.

“How am I feeling? Wow.. disgusted. nauseous and honestly like I’m in a nightmare,” Bayless, 38, wrote in a conversation via email.

When Barack Obama won the White House in 2008, the election of the nation’s first black president felt to many like one of the most improbable moments in the nation’s political history. The idea of the election of a white billionaire born of privilege feels implausible to many in very different ways — and that may say as much about the country as it does about Trump.

When Trump announced his candidacy, Kayla Coursey recognized him as the developer who had tried and failed to build a golf course she’d opposed in her hometown of Charlottesville, Virginia. She recalled him as stubborn and resistant to pressure from local residents and officials. That, she said made his candidacy for president feel like a joke. Trump’s election felt downright surreal, she said.

In the weeks since, “there was always the hope that things will somehow magically become better. However, now we know (Friday) at noon we’re going to be welcoming President Trump, which is surreal in and of itself,” said Coursey, a college student in Roanoke, Virginia.

David Sawyers, a 42-year-old truck unloader from Grindstone, Pennsylvania, who backed Sen. Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary before voting for Trump, said the big crowds that turned out for the candidate’s rallies convinced him the billionaire could win. But he never felt certain, not when he recalled how Al Gore had won the popular vote in 2000, but lost the presidency to George W. Bush.

“You follow history,” said Sawyers, who’s happy with the outcome, “and there are some points where you definitely know history is being made and tomorrow is one of those times.”

Sawyers will be working during Friday’s inauguration, so he plans to record it and watch it later. But others said they remain so stunned by Trump’s election it will be best if they turn away.

Tyler Wilcox, a 23-year-old musician in Riverton, Utah, has been dreading inauguration day. He lists his location on Twitter as “Not My President” and is planning to avoid all coverage of the ceremonies.

“I just feel like it’s, I guess you can say, the beginning of the end,” he said.

And Coursey, who identifies as “queer” and is deeply worried by the threat she believes Trump’s administration poses to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans, said she would avoid joining other students in the dorm television lounge to watch the inauguration.

“I’m concerned that I’d be just a crying mess in the corner, or that somebody would say something and I wouldn’t hold my tongue or I’d end up getting in some kind of a physical argument,” she said.

Instead, Coursey said, she plans to search for a recording of Trump’s speech once it’s over, when she can watch it in private That way, she figures, she can pause it in uncomfortable moments when the presidency she never imagined becomes a little too real.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

Activists in downtown Tampa protest Donald Trump’s inauguration

While the major Tampa Bay area protest against the inauguration of Donald Trump is scheduled to take place on Saturday in St. Petersburg, approximately three dozen activists gathered in front of the Federal Building in downtown Tampa on Friday night to express their dissent about the most powerful man in the free world.

The sentiment among some of those gathered wasn’t anger, but ambivalence. While fear felt for the most vulnerable in society was expressed by several people interviewed, there also was excitement about the possibility of how a newly formed opposition movement could manifest itself in the months and years ahead. At least that was the feeling of Tampa resident Wendy Babcox, who said she was felt “conflicted.”

“On the one hand, I feel energized because I feel that are only a few people right here now, but right now around the country there are people organizing in ways that they hasn’t done for, I don’t know, maybe 30 years or so?” she said. “And I think we need to do that. We needed to do that, anyway,” agreeing with the notion that progressives have become too complacent in the Obama years.

Tampa resident Heather Henry is Muslim and wears a hijab. She says she worries less about what Donald Trump might do in office that could be deleterious to her own freedom, and is more concerned about the impact of his electoral success with his more xenophobic supporters.

“People approached me in a very negative way today,” she recalled. “People feel more emboldened, because they see that their opinions have been validated.”

While protests will dominate this weekend across the country, the question some activists are already posing is: What’s next?

“The first thing we do is to be in solidarity with the people who are also fearful, ” said Jason Lazarus.“This is the first response. I’m here. I’m visible. It’s about how we galvanize our energy to become better citizens over the next four years.”

A man who only wanted to be identified as “Glen” said it was all about awareness. Not just for the general population, but for those in power.

“Donald Trump has to know that we’re watching him all the time, that he is responsible to us and that we’re going to keep him responsible to us,” he said. Assuming that Trump’s actions in officer will be viewed as so egregious to the norms of the more of the nation, he predicted Democrats will rally in the 2018 congressional elections.

Wearing a Bernie Sanders t-shirt and acknowledging that the Vermont socialist was his candidate of choice, Glen is the embodiment of how divided the Democratic party was when it came to their candidate, Hillary Rodham Clinton. His face showed disgust upon the mentioning of her name, instead telling me he proudly supported Green Party candidate Jill Stein in November.

Jason Lazarus mused that if Clinton had selected Sanders or Elizabeth Warren as her running mate last summer, the combination of a centrist and more liberal Democrat on the ticket could have been the winning ticket. “That would have been a very powerful signal that she would acknowledge and open up the platform to a lot of people,” he’ said, calling her choice of Tim Kaine to being “safe and uninspired.”

Babcox espoused another sentiment that others interviewed agreed with.

“I don’ think any of us know how he’s going to do anything,” she said. “Which is very worrying. Not just for us, but for people around the world.”

Obama’s electoral legacy: After 8 years, we get a Donald Trump

(Part 2 of the Obama legacy)

With the inauguration of Donald Trump, it is a good time to review the electoral impact of eight years of the Obama White House. One of the impacts is the election of Trump which surprised the entire political universe.

Whatever Obama may have achieved in public policy, it is that policy which is in great part responsible for setting “the post-World War II record for losses by the White House party,” according to Larry Sabato. Democrats lost over 1,000 seats at the state and national level.

However important the Obama policies may have been, it is fair to argue that those policies contained the seeds of Democratic losses. The Wall Street and big bank bailouts led to the creation of the Tea Party. The Tea Party became a primary vehicle to organize disaffected Republicans against bailouts for Wall Street and not Main Street. Combined with opposition to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), mobilized Republicans took over control of both the House and Senate, and effectively denying Obama the needed votes to carry out the rest of his agenda.

After the 2016 election, Democrats held 11 fewer Senate seats than they did Jan. 20, 2009, a 16 percent decrease. Democrats hold 62 fewer House seats than in 2009, a drop of 24 percent. They also lost control of the White House giving Republicans complete control of the national government.

At the state level, the number of Democrat governors fell from 28 to 16, a 43 percent decline. In 2009, Democrats controlled both houses in 27 states; after 2016, the number dropped to dual control of only 14 states, a 48 percent drop. On top of this, Democrats lost 959 seats in the state legislatures, weakening them for years to come.

These losses mean that Democrats will have a difficult time in passing their agenda at the state and national level. It also means that the Democratic bench of future leaders has been wiped out, making it difficult for them to find and finance competitive candidates. Finally, since Democrats foolishly changed the filibuster rules in 2013, cabinet nominees and most court appointees will need only 51 votes to be confirmed. This creates the possibility for more extreme nominees to win confirmation.

One of the few positive thing for Democrats is that it is difficult to imagine them losing many more seats. The out-party normally makes gains in midterm elections. Unfortunately for Democrats, they must defend 25 of the 33 Senate seats up for election in 2018, and Trump won 10 of the 25 states that Democrats must defend.

If the Democrats could pick up only two Senate seats in 2016 when Republicans had to defend 24 of the 34 seats, it is hard to imagine them doing better in 2018 when they must defend two out of every three Senate seats up for election.

Without Obama on the ballot in 2016 and 2018, fewer young and minority voters will turn out at the polls. Although Democrats have dominated among young voters, few of them turn out, especially in off-year elections.

Democrats have complicated their problem with young voters by having an array of senior citizen leaders. Nancy Pelosi has been the ranking Democratic leader for 6 terms, as has second-ranking Democrat Steny Hoyer. Third-ranking Democrat James Clyburn has served five terms as leader. Pelosi is 76, and Hoyer and Clyburn are 77.

Although Democrats have been devastated during Obama’s tenure, he is not solely responsible. Obama is only the third Democratic president to twice win a popular vote majority, along with Andrew Jackson and Franklin Roosevelt.

Democratic National Party Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Congresswomen from Florida, was widely viewed as an ineffective spokesperson for the party and was eventually ousted for what many Democrats viewed as her favoritism for Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders during the Democratic primaries. Obama appointed Wasserman Schultz to become chair of the Democratic Party and, critics contend, for standing by her for far too long.

Politics is a strange beast. Six months ago, almost everyone believed the Republican Party was on its last legs, and the Trump nomination would doom them forever. Today the Republicans control all three branches of the federal government, and it appears that the Democrats are on life support.

Who knows what tomorrow will bring?

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Darryl Paulson is Emeritus Professor of Government at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg.

Dwight Bullard lays out plans to lead Florida Democratic Party

Dwight Bullard has released key parts of his platform for Florida Democratic Chair, and it includes a bold proclamation to replace at least half of its fundraising with donors who give less than $100 annually.

The 39-year-old former state lawmaker says that uniting the party is essential to his agenda.

“Inspiring our folks across Florida, awakening their hearts and minds to what is possible, and re-engaging the people with their Democratic Party: that is my priority,” he said in a statement issued Wednesday night.

Like some of the other candidates in the race, Bullard is also talking about a 67-county strategy, which he says includes the 12 counties in Florida that currently don’t even have a Democratic Executive Committee.

The only candidate of color in the five-person field for the chair, Bullard says it’s time to “dramatically increase the diversity of our leaders, including the representation of young people, communities of color, and the working poor in the leadership ranks of our state & local party organizations.”

Bullard has been endorsed by Our Revolution — the political organization launched by supporters of Bernie Sanders, and like Sanders, he’s encouraging the party to welcome smaller financial contributions, and less “from corporations who don’t reflect the values of the Democratic Party.” Specifically, he’s calling for the FDP to replace “at least” 50 percent of its fundraising with donors who give under $100 annually.

Bullard lost out to Coconut Grove developer and major Democratic Party fundraiser Stephen Bittel in the race for Miami-Dade County committeeman on December 20. Like Tampa’s Alan Clendenin, Bullard then relocated to a different county — in his case, Gadsden County — and was voted as a committeeman there, making him eligible for the party chair position (a complaint has been filed with the FDP regarding Clendenin’s move).

Bullard says he wants to build a party where its members and officers “are no longer influenced by threats from people in powerful positions, nor motivated by promises of personal gain.” And he says that candidates who’ll be chosen who are most likely to win in general elections “by ensuring our candidates participate in fair primaries that are not rigged by the voices or resources of Democratic organizations or officials.”

Bullard has created a new website touting his candidacy called DwightUnites.com.

Bullard served in the Florida House representing Southern Miami-Dade County from 2008 to 2012. He then won election in state Senate District 40 in 2012, but after the district was redrawn a year ago, he lost his bid for re-election to Republican Frank Artiles in November.

There are five candidates in the race for FDP chair, with the election set for January 14. In addition to Bittel and Clendenin, Bullard is also running against Duval County committeewoman Lisa King and Osceola County Democratic Chair Leah Carius.

Americans say Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton most admired in 2016

President Barack Obama is the man most admired by Americans 2016.

In a new Gallup Poll, 22 percent of respondents mentioned Obama in response to the open-ended question. Coming in second was President-elect Donald Trump at 15 percent. This marks Obama’s ninth consecutive time at the top of the most-admired list, but with a margin of only seven percentage points, it was his narrowest victory yet.

Often, incumbent presidents are ranked highest — in the 70 times Gallup asked the question, the president has won 58 times. Twelve exceptions came mostly when the sitting president was unpopular, such as 2008, when President-elect Obama was named over sitting President George W. Bush. The only other president-elect was Dwight Eisenhower in 1952, later finishing first 12 times, more than any other man in history. Gallup notes that Obama is now second all-time with nine first-place finishes.

Rounding out the year’s top 10 most admired man list: Pope Francis, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Rev. Billy Graham, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, The Dalai Lama, former President Bill Clinton, Bill Gates and Vice President-elect Mike Pence.

Americans also named Hillary Clinton as Most Admired Woman, her 15th consecutive year and 21st time overall. Her first one was in 1993 as the first lady, after which Clinton has topped the list every year but 1995 and 1996 (finishing behind Mother Teresa) and 2001 (Laura Bush). Eleanor Roosevelt holds the second-most No. 1’s among women, with 13.

First lady Michelle Obama finished second this year on the Most Admired Woman list. The remainder of the top 10 includes German Chancellor Angela Merkel, former and current talk-show hosts Oprah Winfrey and Ellen DeGeneres, Queen Elizabeth of England, human rights activist Malala Yousafzai, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

The poll — taken since 1946 — was conducted Dec. 7-11 with a random sample of 1,028 adults, aged 18 and older, from all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. The sample includes 60 percent cellphone users and 40 percent landline users. The margin of sampling error is +/- 4 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level.

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