Joe Henderson: Self-awareness would be good for Florida Dems to have
Democrats will need a stronger message in 2020 than just attacking President Trump

Just attacking Donald Trump won't work in 2020 for Democrats. But can they convince voters they're better?

One of the most important traits to master in politics is the ability to show a basic grasp of reality. Florida Democrats have not regularly demonstrated they have that skill.

As Susan Sarandon’s character in the great movie “Bull Durham” memorably said, “The world is made for people who aren’t cursed with self-awareness.” That may be true for the world, but it will get you beat on Election Day.

When you lose statewide races as consistently as Florida Dems have, a look in the mirror might be helpful.

Well, maybe it will happen.

At their state party conference in Orlando, they heard that a sobering observation from Mike Coleman, precinct development director for the Palm Beach County Democratic Party. He told attendees Democrats would likely need 500,000 new registered voters by next year if they want to win.

That would be about a 10 percent increase.

That’s some hard reality, and that’s not all.

President Donald Trump will make multiple visits to Florida. He’ll get free media exposure worth millions every time he opens his mouth (think about that).  His presence lifts all Republican candidates, Gov. Ron DeSantis for instance.

Having  Andrew Gillum lead a drive to register 1 million new Democrats complicates things, too. The Tampa Bay Times first reported that a federal grand jury recently subpoenaed his campaign records.  That is not a good look.

Even if Democrats can sign up new voters, they must then be convinced to go to the polls. That doesn’t always happen. The good news for Democrats is that it’s a presidential election year, but Republicans are aware of that too.

Smartly, Democrats at the Orlando meeting avoided any talk of impeachment for President Trump. That’s at least some self-awareness.

Impeachment is the forbidden apple in the electoral Garden of Eden. It’s pleasing to the eye of Democrats and oh so tempting to devour. And yes, the president almost certainly deserves to be impeached.

But going there creates a two-fold problem for them this close to the election. It would galvanize Republicans like nothing we have ever seen. It also would take any focus off policy stuff Dems should be stressing to voters.

Keep your eye on the prize.

Republicans up and down the ballot have excelled at that for years. You know what the typical GOP candidate will say.

That person will want fewer regulations and lower taxes. Protect Second Amendment rights, and jobs, jobs, jobs.

They also claimed the image of patriotism while Democrats weren’t paying attention. Republicans have never given that up, wrapping themselves in the flag and painting Democrats as godless socialists.

It’s a simple but effective tactic.

What’s the message from Florida Democrats? I mean, just shouting “Trump sucks” will get them beat.

But the decimation of public schools, both on the state and federal level should resonate. Income inequality is something to which many can relate.

Climate change affects everyone.

Health care is always going to be a priority, along with a woman’s right to control her body.

Just keep repeating those things. Have enough self-awareness to ignore tweet storms and schoolyard insults.

Registering 500,000 new voters is a good place to start. Florida Democrats should know better than anyone, though, what matters is how you finish.

Joe Henderson

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.


  • Mary Pezzi

    June 11, 2019 at 11:40 am

    The Florida Democratic Party should open the primary elections. Anything less is voter suppression, considering that a majority of states now allow registered voters with no-party-affiliation to vote for either the Democrats or the Republicans in the primary elections. “Independents” are now the largest group of registered voters in most states, and they are almost the largest group, even in Florida that doesn’t allow independents to vote in the primaries. This is probably why we see a sharp increase in party-affiliation before primary elections and also a drop after the elections. Keep in mind, in 2016 many voters left the Democratic Party and became Republicans in order to vote for Trump in the primaries. Not sure those voters will come back, because they were #NeverHillary and #StopTPP voters. Then another whole group of voters made a #DemExit after it was revealed that Clinton campaign insiders were given full access to the Democratic Party national website during the primary elections.. Exactly why the Florida delegation BOOOO-d Debbie Wasserman-Schultz at the convention and forced her resignation as DNC chair. Have a moment of reality: The numbers don’t lie. 75% of all Democratic-voters under age 50 wanted Bernie Sanders NOT a corporate-warmonger. Many over 50 also wanted Senator Sanders, and all of those folks were screeched at by party-loyalist, who were extremely unwelcoming but then thought everyone should just jump on board and vote for Clinton. Party-loyalists figure young voters should be water-carriers, without any input until they have carried enough water. Keep thinking like that and Trump will win easily.

  • gary

    June 11, 2019 at 2:22 pm

    Democrats are a plague on America!

Comments are closed.


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