2018 is almost here, and if Democrats running for Florida’s top political posts hope to have impact – much less win – they had better shed the staid campaigns of elections past and replace them with compelling themes and relevant policies that resonate with the voters.
Democrats must craft progressive campaigns that contain easy-to-understand ideas that boost our economy, improve our schools, care for the sick and elderly and protect our environment. They should have an advantage here given their track record for developing sound proposals and turning them into meaningful government services that to date have exceeded any recent accomplishments coming out of Tallahassee and Washington.
In the nation’s capital, Republicans can’t seem to enact many of the 2016 campaign promises. The Muslim “travel” ban is stalled in the courts, the repeal of Obamacare flounders in the Senate and there’s little movement on building the wall, much less forcing Mexico to pay for it. President Donald Trump continues to be bogged down in a growing scandal, linking top officials in the White House and his political campaign to Russian espionage. The President’s forays onto the world stage have also come across counterproductive and at times comical.
Republicans fared slightly better in Florida. Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Legislature finally reached a budget deal during a three-day special session that some have described as "chaotic.” Typically, state lawmakers set the budget during the legislature’s 60-day regular session. This time, however, political infighting between the Republican leadership forced a last-minute deal that came just weeks before the start of the new budget year.
The stakes in next year’s elections are high for the Sunshine State. The winners will control the reins of state government and influence the 2020 redistricting process, which will affect how many Democrats and Republicans serve in new congressional and legislative districts.
Florida Republicans still have major political advantages that come with one-party rule. However, Democrats can take advantage of term limits, which bars the current Governor, Attorney General, Chief Financial Officer and Agricultural Commissioner from seeking re-election. Open seats typically provide opportunities for change, especially where party registrations between Republican and Democrats are close as they currently are in the Sunshine State.
Democrats also continue to ride the wave of the president’s unpopularity to the point where in the first quarter of 2017 the fundraising gap between the two parties shrunk to only $1.7 million. Given the president’s dwindling poll numbers, it will be the gift that keeps on giving to Democrats.
Florida’s “minority” party has a chance in 2018, but Democrats can’t simply rely on Republicans to politically implode. They must give voters campaign themes and proposals that offer a brighter future and a clear alternative to the status quo. If successful, voters in Florida will have an indelible opportunity to bring two-party government to the Sunshine State and make it a much better place to live, work and play.
Florida can do better with an infusion of new progressive ideas that go beyond the mantras of less spending and lower taxes. Floridians want to see policies that ensure innovation, progress, and an overall change for the better that the nation’s third largest state deserves.
To achieve this, Democrats need to do what they have not done in 20 years. They must run proudly on Democratic messages and policies.