Last night my colleague Dave Trotter brought forth some interesting facts about FDP Chair Candidate Allison Tant’s professional past. These revelations come as little surprise if you think about it for more than a few passing seconds. Tant and her insider allies are creatures of the environment in which they exist. This is an environment that emphasizes access over competence and relationships over results. It is an environment that is mentally blocked off from the rest of the state, be it the large urban areas that support Democrats, the military oriented western Florida counties that support Republicans or any of the many rural counties in the center of the state south of Gainesville who have been forgotten by party elites. As out of touch as many nationwide grassroots activists of both parties claim Washington D.C. is, they are more in tune with reality than many Democrats in Tallahassee insider circles.
The FDP is a party that under the leadership of these Tallahassee insiders has accumulated a worse record in state elections since the year 2000 than any other Democratic Party east of the Mississippi. This comes at the very same time as the state is realigning towards national Democrats in a way it hasn’t since FDR was President. Yet Democrats continue the game of self flagellation by doing the same failed things over and over again. With about 35% of legislative seats won in 2012 despite a completely new map post-reapportionment, the FDP failed yet again this election cycle. Despite this reality, many in the party want to continue business as usual, in a style which will extend an almost two decade losing streak in state elections.
My personal support for Alan Clendenin has to do with what he stands for, who stands with him and for his plan to fix the inherent problems in the party that have not been addressed in over a decade. His plan reads much like a plan the firm I then worked for wrote for Chairman Bob Poe eleven years ago, and was never implemented. It is amazing that more than a decade later the basic issues with local infrastructure and organization that were so plaguing the party at that time still need to be addressed.
Tallahassee based lobbyists and consultants have, in coordination with elected officials, concocted various schemes to keep control of the party apparatus. The feeling among many is that they have done little if anything to support local DECs, even in Florida’s most vote rich counties, and continue a trend of hiring inexperienced staff whose world view tends to revolve around the State Capitol building and lobbyists in the area. No doubt these lobbyists and consultants have a role to play in the party’s structure, but they should not have complete control over the party apparatus as they have now for most of the last two decades. The staff can be properly trained if given a real plan to work from and ideas about what goes on politically outside Tallahassee and the second congressional district.
What is painfully obvious is that the environment that Tant comes from is largely responsible for the ineptitude of the state party. This race for chair offers a clear choice between the failed management of recent years and a new approach.