I have been involved in the Florida Democratic Party on and off for over two decades. During that time, which started in 1991, I have been involved in elections at the local level as well as talking to those that are the movers and shakers in Tallahassee. In those last 20 years, technology has vastly increased, making targeting and precinct organization much easier. After 2004, local activists, who mostly came together thanks to the efforts of the Howard Dean campaign, started to, and currently do, make an impact in local Democratic politics. The world of Democratic politics in the State of Florida is on the rise, and I am sure of it.
There is only one problem though. Those that live inside what I like to call the “Tallahassee Bubble” have no concept whatsoever of anything outside of the intersection of Adams and Pensacola.
This is something I first noticed back in the day. But back then I was only in my late teens or early 20s. I assumed that those that were older knew much more about the electoral process. And, for all I know, they might have.
Now let’s fast forward 20 years to 2012. Now, knowing what I know about elections and how the Florida Democratic Party works, I have realized that these people who live inside the “Tallahassee Bubble” are extremely clueless. Not only does this group consist of lobbyists, but those that work on the staffs of House and Senate members as well. Granted, when they get back home, they lose a little bit of that “Bubble Speak”. But overall, many of these staffers lose sight of reality.
Recently, I was in a meeting with a few associates discussing a recent election. During this discussion, those that live in the “Tallahassee Bubble” constantly talked about which lobbyists were supporting which candidate, as if they are the ones that actually vote in the races. On the other hand, I highly disagree. I take the approach that getting to know your voters, and listening to their needs, is the main way to electoral success.
For some reason, everyone that lives in the “Tallahassee Bubble” thinks that all politics is centered around mixers and fundraisers in Tallahassee. When these people get sucked into this system, they feel that every solution to every problem should come out of Tallahassee. While this might be the case when trying to pass legislation, this is not the case when dealing with elections.
So, back to my meeting that I was having. One person that was at this meeting was talking about who, let’s say, “Lobbyist A” was supporting. Continuing the conversation on “Lobbyist A”, I mostly remained quiet. When I finally was asked of my opinion, my answer was something similar to “the voters don’t give a rat’s ass who “Lobbyist A” is. Yes, he might have some influence, but when you are looking at getting votes and are dealing with the local level, who gives a crap about” Lobbyist A”.”
Of course, those that do “Bubble Speak” didn’t agree with my analysis. On the other hand, I told them that understanding the voters, and knowing what they are going to think is the real way to electoral success. My belief is that in order to be a successful campaign consultant, one must be able to read the mind of what the voters are thinking and formulate a campaign strategy based on those factors. This was something I mentioned at our meeting. And what did the “Bubble Speak” people say? They told me, exactly, “I was full of shit.” Yes, apparently when I used this method in the Clelland vs. Dorworth race, I was incorrect as well. Again, “Bubble Speak” people don’t get it.
The “Tallahassee Bubble” can even warp the minds of otherwise rational people. For example, there was one person that I knew who was in charge of Senate Victory during Al Lawson’s tenure in that position. Instead of staying in South Florida, where he was originally from, he decided to move to Tallahassee. During that time, this individual became less and less in touch with reality, as well as less loyal to the Democratic Party, working for a registered Republican for judge in Leon County. His performance as a skilled political consultant went down the toilet and is now quite delusional when it comes to politics centered around Tallahassee. See, the “Tallahassee Bubble” can corrupt as well.
The reason that I bring up “Bubble Speak” and the “Tallahassee Bubble” is because when elections are turned over to people who live in the Bubble, they are absolutely dismal at producing results. While it is one thing when these people are handed one small election, it is another thing when we possible hand over the entire Florida Democratic Party to those that live inside the “Tallahassee Bubble”. Allison Tant is one that is a Tallahassee socialite and fundraiser…the perfect “Tallahassee Bubble” protégé. My big fear is that if we turn over our party to someone that has no concept of elections, and who is mainly experienced in “Bubble Talk”, we are setting ourselves up for another four years of failure.
As many of us know, we need someone that knows how elections work and how candidate recruitment and building grassroots organizations is the cornerstone to any electoral success. “Tallahassee Bubble” people think that the beginning and end of all political campaigns is fundraising. While I am not saying that fundraising isn’t important, I feel that “Bubble People” think that it is the only factor when winning elections. Mark Danish proved in Tampa that grassroots organization is more important than shaking a money tree. On the other hand, Mitt Romney’s endless money pit didn’t produce any results whatsoever.
The way that we get our Florida Democratic Party back is by taking Tallahassee out of our party. The Republicans understand this and do this well. Besides doing their typical fundraisers, Republicans know that their connections are local, not in Tallahassee. Yes, they do get their “Bubble Money”, but that is only because they have learned to win at the local level first.
If the Democrats want to keep the “Bubble People” in the loop, they should do so on a fundraising-only basis. These people, such as Mrs. Tant, can be vitally important when helping the party raise funds for the 2014 election cycle. She would be a perfect addition to a FDP Finance Committee, which Alan Clendenin supports. Therefore, those living in the “Bubble” do have a very important role that they can play.
But when it comes to anything else regarding the party, they need to stay as far away as possible. Grassroots organization, candidate recruitment, issue knowledge and overall election strategy knowledge is far from the strengths of those that “Bubble Speak”.