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Florida Democrats moving forward? Comparing the LEAD and STEP proposed reforms.

Statewide Demos Sample FinalEarlier today, the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida release a party rebuilding strategy, called STEP, regarding their view of the future direction of the Florida Democratic Party. This was a response to the LEAD report released by the Florida Democratic Party earlier in the year, which was a response to the disastrous campaign of 2014. When I saw that it was the Democratic Progressive Caucus presenting this new vision of change, I was expecting that most of it would advocate moving the party ideologically to the left. However, ideology was rarely talked about, and the document was a well thought out response to the LEAD report. Still, I would not call the STEP report an alternative to the LEAD report, but instead an expansion (which will be talked about later).

Before getting into today’s recommendations, let’s first look at the LEAD report. When the report was released, it was criticized by many, mostly because it was too broad. Not only do I agree with this assessment, but the report also seemed to give the impression that the Florida Democratic Party has actually been doing well. Using their own words, 2014 was a disappointment after a “strong” 2012 election. Was it really a “strong” result? Were there any surprise seats that the Florida Democrats won in the Florida House and Senate (besides Clelland’s victory, that this blog predicted would happen)? The LEAD document continues to praise itself by saying that Democrats had good candidates, that their statewide field plans were “strong and effective”, and the legislative efforts were “aggressive”. Again, were they really?
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Florida Democrats start illogical targeting of Republican super-voters.

(Not a full-blown article, but just an examination of events today).

Today, Peter Schorsch at St. Petersblog wrote today that the Florida Democratic Party was targeting super-voters in Republican-leaning Senate district. However, the voters they seem to be targeting are super-voting Republicans. This tactic shows that the Florida Democratic Party, or the consultants that they are hiring, have very little, to absolutely zero, knowledge of voting behavior. One must wonder if the FDP, or their consultants, simply pull a campaign strategy out of a hat and say “hey, we will go with that”.
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Voters are to blame for gerrymandering.

Change in Alberta's partisanship (from the National Post).

Change in Alberta’s partisanship (from the National Post).

A little under a month ago, the Florida Supreme Court decided that the congressional district map of Florida was unconstitutional. As we go into a phase of redrawing the districts, Democrats will blame Republicans of continuing to gerrymander the congressional districts. However, are Republicans really gerrymandering districts, or are they just conforming to a political norm in the United States? That norm would be called partisanship.

One can say that gerrymandering is the cause of divisive politics in the United States, as more gerrymandered district would create more partisan bickering. But is that really the case? I will argue that gerrymandering is simply one of the symptoms of a larger problem, which is partisan loyalty.

In the late 1950s, the groundbreaking study on American voting behavior by a group of University of Michigan political scientists found that partisanship is the primary determinant of vote choice in the United States. The American Voter argues that partisan identity is passed down from family members, as well as through socialization, and that issues and ideology matter less. And while some studies have tried to refute these findings, The American Voter‘s basic principles still hold true. There are some exceptions to the rule, like the Florida panhandle, but overall, once a person is a partisan, they will always be a partisan.

The reason that gerrymandering is successful is partisanship. It is easier for partisan legislative bodies to draw advantageous maps when they know that there will be no shift in partisan loyalty among the American voters. And even if an “independent commission” drew districts, partisanship (or partisan vote choice) is the reason a district can be as non-partisan as possible, as a commission would still use partisan loyalty to create a partisan balance.

Whose fault is this?
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Time for Darren Soto to go to Washington, period.

As many of you know, I have been out of Florida politics for a while. Instead of being “part of the action”, it has been nice to be a casual observer of what is happening in the Sunshine State. While my political ideology has somewhat changed since living in Canada, it is important that strong Democratic candidates emerge, especially in the State of Florida, to help restore sanity to the state, regardless whether they are center, left, or even right on the political spectrum. With the Republican Party emerging as the “Party of Trump”, it is important that Democrats show that they are the grownups in the room, especially in a key state like Florida.

Florida’s 9th Congressional District was specifically created to increase Hispanic representation in the US Congress, something that is greatly needed with the nation’s increasing Hispanic population. However, in 2012, Alan Grayson decided that he wanted to run for Congress, seeing an opportunity to win back a seat to Washington DC. At the time, Grayson did not live in the district, and this appeared to be a purely opportunistic move by Grayson. Three years later, the move still looks opportunistic. His lack of addressing issues that are important to the Hispanic community shows that Alan Grayson is more important to Alan Grayson than the Hispanic community.

Some will point out that Hispanics have supported Alan Grayson electorally since he ran for the 9th in 2012. However, this claim of support is highly misleading. In the Democratic primary in 2014, Grayson had token opposition. In both the 2012 and the 2014 general elections, Grayson ran against two candidate with Anglo last names. Even with that advantage in 2014, Grayson still only won 54% of the vote, in a district that should be voting Democratic in much higher numbers.
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Has Rand Paul just taken issue ownership of the most salient issue for Republicans?

Rand-PaulOver the last week, the hottest topic in American politics has been the Religious Freedom Law in Indiana. Considered a discrimination bill by many, Republican candidates lined up to take a position on the issue. With all that has been said and done, the biggest winner coming out of this might have been Rand Paul.

First, let’s go ahead and backtrack. Once the law was passed and received national media attention, Ted Cruz, the only announced presidential candidate, jump on board and supported the issue. After Cruz’s announcement, a number of other Republicans decided to support the measure.
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Looking at Florida Elections: What if issues do matter?

What V.O. Key Jr. right?

What V.O. Key Jr. right?

After the publication of The American Voter, a few notable political scientists questioned the findings of Campbell, Converse, Miller and Stokes. The most vocal critic of the Michigan Model might have been V.O. Key, Jr., who was one of the nation’s top political science scholars. Many may know Key from his popular book about southern politics which, while antiquated, is still a good read even today. But at the time of the Michigan Model’s release, Key strongly opposed the psychological model and argued that issues matter. In his book, The Responsible Electorate (1966), which was never finished and published after his death, Key argued that “voters were not fools” and that issues were still an important part of electoral politics. However, the authors of The American Voter were using advanced techniques in methodology and survey research that had yet been tested. Previous scholarship, such as Edward Merriam’s classic look at the lack of voting in Chicago in Non-Voting (1924), as well as Burleson, Lazarsfeld and McPhee’s Voting (1954, commonly known as The Columbia Model, which was tested twice), still kept the research to particular geographic locations. The Michigan Model expanded the research, expanded the way that we look at politics, and realize that issues do not always matter.
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Looking at Florida Elections: Does issue position matter?

As far as I can remember, the issue of whether the Democrats in Florida should adopt issues on the right or left of the political spectrum has been prominent. I have even held viewpoints advocating both a move to the right, and more recently a move to the left (which I somewhat take back). But what if issues do not determine vote choice? If we look at the Columbia and Michigan models of voting behavior, they advocate that issues really do not matter, and that other factors really determine vote choice. In the Michigan model, partisanship is adopted from a voter’s parents. However, in the ever-changing state of Florida, the Michigan model might hold true. Even the Columbia model, which looks at socioeconomic factors, might not fully explain Florida voters. Purely, Florida is one of the trickiest places to run an election.

One of the authors of the Michigan model, Donald E. Stokes, came up with another approach to voting behavior in 1963, and created the valence model of voting. Valence voting doesn’t really look at left-right issues (though it can), but instead how voters evaluate each of the parties competing and make their vote choice based on those evaluation. Non-political factors can play a role in valence voting. For example, if we look at the 1984 and 2004 elections, the idea of patriotism played a role in the election of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush.
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