Stephen Bittel is a rich a*shole.
And I was always of the opinion that was precisely why the battered and marginalized Florida Democratic Party selected him to lead it out of these dark, Trumpian, perpetually-irrelevant-in Tallahassee, times.
There was also a vocal minority of the party’s grassroots which disagreed with that notion, preferring a chair who represented the Bernie Sanders wing of the Democratic Party.
They lost. Just as Sanders lost in Florida by a nearly 2-1 margin.
So both factions of the party knew full well what they were getting with Bittel, and they got it: a rich a*shole.
To be clear, Bittel’s behavior surrounding the scheduling conflict that has been the source of the recent controversy was way out of line. Blaming black lawmakers for a slight felt by the entire Democratic legislative caucus was, in Bittel’s own words, “childish” at best, and racist at worst.
I’m pretty sure it was childish and born from the fact that we’re talking about an older, wealthy, CEO-type used to trains running smoothly and on time, dealing with the hair-pullingly frustrating chaos and logistical insanity of a major political event.
That explains his behavior. It doesn’t excuse it. But the man has apologized sincerely and profusely. Again, today he did so personally with Senate Democratic leader Oscar Braynon and incoming House leader Kionne McGhee.
He’s the rich a*shole that Democrats chose — by a fairly significant margin, if memory serves — to lead them out of the abject political wilderness they’ve found themselves. He was the only real choice to do so then, and so he remains.
What’s been lost in all this internecine drama since the weekend, is the fact that Florida Democrats cleared over $1 million in donations for their annual gala. A big part of that was the undeniable draw of former Vice President Joe Biden, who Bittel personally cajoled into headlining the event (and who the former VPOTUS thanked and praised in his remarks).
There is no planet in which the FDP could have pulled off this past weekend of fundraising and party-building — which but for the unfortunate conflict arising between Bittel and black lawmakers, went off flawlessly — under the leadership of any other chair.
Democrats need to accept Bittel’s apologies and accept that Bittel’s flaws are his strengths.
Florida Republicans love rich a*sholes, and they control the Legislature, Governor’s Mansion, and the Cabinet. A rich a*shole on the Democratic side has stepped up to help his flagging party.
Florida Democrats, take the help. You need it.