Tomorrow morning in Lake Mary, Florida’s Democrats will select a new party chair. Alan Clendenin and Allison Tant have both made strong cases as to why they should be the next leader of a once proud party which has recently been on losing streak of record proportions. Both candidates have offered ideas and a vision which contrasts with the previous three party chairs.
I have supported Alan Clendenin in this race and am hopeful of his victory tomorrow, should this election come to a floor vote. But based on Allison Tant’s record and conversations with many of her supporters I believe she will be a significant improvement over current Chairman Rod Smith who will stand down tomorrow.
While both candidates have articulated positive visions for rebuilding a party whose statewide infrastructure has collapsed, some of the supporters of both candidates have been out of line. While many have taken shots at this website about our coverage of the race, I personally have tried to keep the discourse factual and specific to issues related specifically to the Florida Democratic Party.
Others however, have gone in a completely different direction, and have set the tone for this campaign over the last few weeks. Anonymous blog like this one have popped up in support of Tant. We have also had wild misrepresentations of Clendenin’s record by some supporting Tant. These misrepresentations have fueled misinterpretations of Clendenin’s record and capabilities for the job. They have created a narrative that undersells Clendenin’s assets badly and tears down those who have worked so hard to support him against long odds.
However, on the other side of the fence we have had blatant sexism interjected into the campaign. While Clendenin himself is not to blame for this and is one of the finest men I have met in the Democratic Party in recent years some of his supporters have crossed the line.
Take for example this article that ran in the West Orlando News. Author Jerry Waxman attacks women for “seducing” powerful men when any rational person would realize the behavior of John Edwards, Bill Clinton and others actually represents the opposite: powerful and shameless men seducing somewhat helpless and impressionable women. Waxman uses this premise to slam Allison Tant and promote Alan Clendenin. While I know for a fact Mr. Clendenin who I believe will be an excellent FDP Chair has nothing to do with this shameless attack piece, it still reflected on his candidacy in a poor manner.
The same group of malcontents in Orange County that have contributed to the West Orlando News “serenaded” Susannah Randolph on Thursday with the following sign:
This sign speaks for itself. No editorial commentary is needed, although it is notable that Susannah Randolph as everyone in our party knows is a new mother who despite this sacrifices her time every single day to promote progressive causes. This sort of garbage is so below the belt it probably deserves prosecution by law enforcement. Perhaps this really has more to do with local Orange County Democratic politics and not the FDP Chair race but unfortunately it reflects poorly on a certain segment of Clendenin supporters, and is unacceptable at any level in a civilized society. As someone who personally has supported Alan Clendenin in this race it is beyond embarrassing to see this sort of vitriol coming from some who are on the same side as me.
When discussion of the actual future direction of an ailing Democratic Party have been the topic of discussion, both Alan Clendenin and Allison Tant have shown an ability to move us forward. The plan offered by Mr. Clendenin thoughtfully addressed how to correct the years of losing races at the state level we have experienced. As I have mentioned before, Florida’s Democrats have the worst record of any state east of the Mississippi since 2000 in Governor/Cabinet elections, losing 13 of 14 races. Mr. Clendenin has done the toughest thing of all- acknowledging that despite victories on November 6th of last year, Florida is still not as competitive as it should be in state elections. To her credit, Ms. Tant responded with some good ideas of her own, maybe not as detailed and specific as that of Clendenin but certainly points that show her independence from some of her more questionable backers, and a willingness to question the status quo.
I would hope after tomorrow’s election we can all come together and avoid the types of traps and pitfalls the past few weeks have brought us. The nasty, slanderous attacks on both candidates and supporters of both candidates have been counterproductive. Perhaps it flowery optimism or just plain naivety that possess me to hope tomorrow is a new beginning for our party and not simply the product of a shamefully divisive few weeks.