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Daniel Tilson: Can Florida Democratic Party task force avoid giving us the 'Leadership Blues'?

“Leadership Blue Gala” weekend is here for the Florida Democratic Party (FDP). Saturday night is its biggest fundraiser of the year, while the rest of the weekend features party officials and activists from across the state conferencing together in specific caucus meetings, and other more collective and casual configurations.

Allow me to take a look back — not far and very briefly — to help inform what (in my humble opinion) seems the best way forward for Florida’s wounded warrior of a “major” party; one that many Floridians now see as an enduringly oppositional but virtually powerless minority force in public policymaking.

This FDP annual event was called the “Jefferson-Jackson Gala” for a long time. But last year the party responded to criticism that those two American presidents were too connected to our nation’s racist past by coming up with the new label of “Leadership Blue.”

Can you imagine the Republican Party of Florida (RPOF) bowing to internal grassroots pressure and changing the handle for a dinner named after, say, President Reagan? No, you cannot. What you can imagine is the RPOF instead doubling down in support of its chosen hero.

Well, at least the name change helped send the right message to people of color, to disillusioned young and progressive voters who felt such renewed affinity with the party that they turned out to vote in record numbers in 2014 and — —

Huh? Oh, yeah … so can’t a guy daydream for a second? OK, I’m done.

You get the point. Much as I wanted to get right to some pointers for a Florida Democratic Party still desperately out of touch with so many out-of-touch voters; the gala name game is food for thought — if the food is skepticism, and the thought is that the FDP remains stuck in image enhancement neutral — or worse, reverse.

Simply put … No Guts, No Glory.

Sure, there are other shortcomings that can strand a political brand in no-glory land. But repeatedly missing opportunities to take strong stands that piss off some folks, but impress many, many more by seeming tough and resolute? That’s inexcusable.

Bottom line? Democrats and independents crave confidence and conviction in political leaders and organizations just as much as Republicans do. And there’s nothing that establishes credibility on both fronts as much as taking and standing by what may — at first anyway — seem to be unpopular stands, and unmountable initiatives.

Better understanding of that reality can only help the Florida Democratic Party find its way in 2016.

After mostly awful 2014 midterm election results, the FDP’s earnest new chairwoman, Allison Tant Richards, created a “LEAD” task force to research and report back on reasons for the awfulness, and chart a new course forward.

For many months the word has been that report findings will be presented during this weekend’s conference, and made public. Looking at the FDP’s conference schedule, there’s no mention anywhere of the task force or a report on its findings. But I’m hoping/guessing it will either be incorporated into Chairwoman Tant’s Saturday night speech, and/or in remarks by task force co-chairs, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and Val Demings.

The skeptical (OK, cynical) part of me suspects we’ll get a list of recommended changes to party protocols and structure, upgrades/alterations to “Get Out The Vote” systems and methods … and claims of commitment to a new and improved branding and messaging strategy.

But unless and until the Florida Democratic Party is ready to risk pissing off embedded “establishment” (rich) donors and big business boosters by establishing and standing proudly for an aggressively populist “People’s Progress” platform, they will continue to be the largely irrelevant, oppositional minority party they’ve been for almost a generation now.

So you ask, what’s a “People’s Progress” platform? How should it be framed and communicated to the general public? Well, let’s see what the Florida Democratic Party comes up with on its own this weekend, then I’ll share some suggestions and compare notes next week.

Go get ‘em, Team Blue. I’m pulling for you.

Daniel Tilson has a Boca Raton-based communications firm called Full Cup Media, specializing in online video and written content for non-profits, political candidates and organizations, and small businesses. Column courtesy of Context Florida.

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