Sean Phillippi: Challenging path ahead for new Democratic leadership
FDP Chair Diaz wants divestment from Russia.

Manny A. Diaz FDP
Diaz and Dixon need to tear FDP down to the studs and start from scratch.

I always wonder whether newly elected Florida Democratic Party Chairs regret taking on that role a few weeks or months after taking over. That thought has definitely crossed my mind more than once this month. While doing that job well is incredibly important it is in many ways a truly awful job that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. Like being a candidate for office, if it isn’t the hardest or among the hardest things you have ever done then you aren’t doing it right and will be an abysmal failure. Even though I had no role in the election of the new FDP Chair I was rooting for Manny Diaz to win as I thought that he was the only candidate running who had any chance of being successful in the role. Most all of the other candidates running are nice people and good Democrats, but while those attributes can be helpful they are not relevant to doing the job of FDP Chair well.

If anyone tells you that FDP was anything but a complete mess when the new Chair took over, they are either lying to you or lying to themselves. I, like many others, suspected that it was a complete disaster. Those suspicions were confirmed when the report came out that Chairman Diaz reduced the size of the bloated staff down to 6. That move, weirdly enough, gave me more confidence that Diaz will do better than many of his predecessors as it shows that he is willing to make a tough call when he feels like it is warranted. The hiring of Marcus Dixon as Executive Director was also encouraging, and how they fill out the rest of the staff will determine whether they can turn things around because the jobs of Chairman and Executive Director are way too big for any one person to do alone. It needs to be a team effort to have any chance to succeed.

A new Chairman and new Executive Director doesn’t inherently change much though without more systemic changes. It is time for FDP to get back to first principles and start doing the fundamentals really well. In my mind the top priority of FDP is to elect and re-elect Democrats. How do you win an election? By getting the most votes. I know that sounds overly simplistic, but it isn’t easy. Democrats have lost the last six total presidential, gubernatorial, and US senatorial elections in this state so you can’t go wrong by mastering the basics. There is a lot of noise and innumerable distractions in politics, so it is easy to take your eye off the ball. The question that I ask myself for my campaign clients, and FDP should constantly ask themselves, is whether an activity directly or indirectly leads to getting more votes. If it does then it is worth consideration. If it doesn’t, then it is a distraction that should be ignored.

Things that lead to votes are direct and active voter contact, registering more Democrats, and raising money among many other things. If you cannot scientifically prove, since Democrats are purportedly the party of science, that an activity leads to more votes then you really have to strongly consider reallocating those resources. It was the stated position of then-interim Executive Director Roosevelt Holmes that the Florida Democratic Party wasn’t at all interested in doing advanced analytical work in that or any other realm. His successors at FDP didn’t seem to deviate from that path, and the subsequent election results show it. FDP has to learn to crawl before it can walk though, so investing in advanced analytics, while necessary, should not be a high or immediate priority any time in the near future.

Diaz and Dixon need to, if they haven’t already, tear FDP down to the studs and start from scratch. They shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater, but there are too many issues to try and fix the current way of doing things as it simply doesn’t work. The first and most important part of that is a strong finance department and fundraising strategy as if you don’t have money to pay for things then nothing else really matters. Another crucial steps that need to be implemented immediately is across the board accountability. I am not a fan of shaming or blaming people for their failures, but if people aren’t held accountable then there is no incentive for them to learn from their mistakes and do better going forward. There are serious foundational issues at FDP, so throwing up a proverbial new coat of paint won’t fix much. Fundamental change is not only needed at FDP but long overdue.


Sean Phillippi is the managing member at TLE Analytics.

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