Dan Tilson: Courageous conjunction can help Florida Democrats through dog days

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Dog Days of Summer, indeed. For lots of Major League Baseball fans like me, that describes the sultry stretch of the six-month regular season when many a contending team has historically succumbed to accumulated stress, fallen into a slump and out of contention.

For other folks, that phrase describes any prolonged stretch of steamy summertime when lethargy, stagnation and heaven forbid, a losing streak can set in.

The expression originated to describe the early July to mid-August period every year when the “Dog Star” Sirius rises in close conjunction with the sun.

Speaking of which … did you catch another “celestial conjunction” event last week, as Jupiter and Venus rose so close to one another in the evening sky, they appeared to the naked eye to be a massive “double star”?

No, I didn’t catch it either, too much cloud cover. But just the awareness of it — and of those perilous dog days ahead — got me thinking … about Florida politics.

I’m thinking the Florida Democratic Party (FDP) has suffered through two decades of dog days, replete with scaredy-cat strategy, missed opportunities, choking in the clutch, and long losing streaks.

I’m thinking this summer would be an ideal time for a team with such disappointing recent history to consider conjunction between retooling operations, and redefining itself.

Allow me to explain.

Presumably, the FDP is already implementing operational fixes recommended by its post-2014 electoral-disaster-analysis task force. Meanwhile, the party’s identity and image remain as muddled as the mind of a batter in an 0 for 20 slump.

In the words of the task force report, “Democrats did not talk to Floridians clearly enough, long enough, or specifically enough about their real-life economic circumstances.” The cure? “Florida Democrats need to lead with a new economic narrative grounded in middle class values.”

Then, five vague “values” bullet points, such as: “Building an economy where, if you work hard and play by the rules, you can get ahead.”

Does that sound any different from the newfound Republican “populism” being peddled to an under-informed public by presidential wannabes Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush? Or Gov. Scott?


Does that fuel grassroots Democratic discontent, and intensify civic disengagement among the young, poor, Hispanic and African-American eligible voters the FDP needs to engage?


So, in conjunction with operational upgrades, the FDP would be wise to begin going big, bold and public with a credible “new economic narrative” — this summer. Now’s the time to start helping people understand how Florida’s so-called “recovery” is neither shared, nor sustainable.

Show how the growth of low-wage/no-benefits jobs is a boon for big business profit margins, but a bane for middle-class taxpayers forced to pick up the resultant tab for hardworking but still poor families’ public assistance, and health care.

Explain how helping working poor people become self-sufficient consumers saves middle-class taxpayers billions, and leads to shared prosperity and sustainable, equitable economic growth.

Show people what you could do for them, if empowered by them to crack down on corporate tax scams and collect an additional $1 billion to $3 billion in state revenue each year.

Connect the damned dots for people.

Propose a “Middle-Class Comeback Plan”: Three-year series of minimum wage increases reaching $15 (with small business input and protections built in), by 2018. Five paid sick-leave days annually for all full-time workers, by 2018. Repeal “Right To Work” law obstructing union organizing and fueling wage/income stagnation. Eliminate offshore corporate tax havens and reserve tax “incentives” for smaller, homegrown businesses committed to hiring locally.

For starters.

Begin such a compelling campaign this summer, and there’ll be time and space for future political stars to emerge, rise — and maybe even align in conjunction with the FDP for a winning 2016 season.

Daniel Tilson is a communications consultant and media producer specializing in online written and video content for nonprofits, small businesses, and political candidates/organizations/campaigns. You can follow him on Twitter @danieltilson. Column courtesy of Context Florida.

Daniel Tilson


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