‘They must see that fight in us’: Shevrin Jones urges Dems to return to grassroots campaigning
Shev Jones is a senior member of the largest Black caucus in Florida history.

'We can't message our way out of this. We can't tweet our way out of this. We have to be at people's doors.'

Sen. Shevrin Jones has a message for Democrats running in the next fewΒ election cycles β€” if they want to win, candidates must be ready to leave the digital sphere and get their shoes dirty.

Jones, who joined a panel Wednesday as part of the National Democratic Training Committee’s (NDTC) ‘Build Blue Week,’ spoke about how Democratic candidates need to return to grassroots campaign tools in order to see results. The meeting Wednesday focused on LGBTQ+ rights, including the challenges and platforms Democratic candidates anticipate for the 2022 election cycle.

“I think we’ve gotten so lazy with social media that we expect that’s how we carry our message. No, let’s take it back, old school. Let’s go grassroots. Let’s get in people’s faces and have these conversations so they know we are fighting for them,” Jones said.

As Florida’s first openly gay state Senator, Jones spoke from experience, offering advice to candidates on how to reach their communities. He emphasized the importance of knocking on doors and stepping outside of digital media campaigns, which Democrats have heavily relied on as a result of the pandemic.

In 2020, while GOP operatives continued to reach voters face-to-face, Democratic campaigns took to virtual efforts like phone calls, texts and online meet-ups to compensate, according to POLITICO. But now is the time for Democrats to get their heads back in the game, Jones said.

“We can’t message our way out of this. We can’t tweet our way out of this. We have to be at people’s doors, we have to make sure that people see that we are fighting for them. They have to hear from us,” Jones said. “If Republicans want to use Twitter and commercials and things, that’s their opportunity, that’s fine. Let’s take their own playbook, go to people’s doors.”

Jones also talked messaging, saying that while the party is often seen as just highlighting what they see as negative parts of Republican policy, they have to offer alternatives.

“We have to be very careful that we are not just talking about how bad things are,” Jones said. “We have to begin to give people, show them, that if we’re going to be the alternative, here’s what we have to offer. Bring it back to the kitchen table so they understand that, ‘Listen, I’m offering you something totally different than what you’re seeing right now.'”

The panel also touched on the current state of America’s “culture war,” pitting GOP-championed policies against long-fought for LGBTQ+ rights. Included in that policy talk was Florida’s Parental Rights in Education law, dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by critics.

“When we look at the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill that happened here in Florida, it happened during a time while young people were out in the halls. You heard them chanting, you heard them crying, you heard all of this outside,” Jones said. “They also must see that fight in us, and that we are fighting on their behalf.”

On the national stage, Jones urged Democrats to make sure those voting for such policies see the impact and reality it has on the LGBTQ community β€” a community they could be close to themselves.

“We have to make our lives as real as possible in these chambers, in these rooms with these people. so they know that yes, I’m talking about your son. Yes, I’m talking about your daughter. Yes, I’m talking about your grandchild. We have to make it real for them. And that’s how we were able to flip three votes, three Republicans in the chambers in the Senate, because I made it clear to them that we are not hypothetical,” Jones said.

Kelly Hayes

Kelly Hayes studied journalism and political science at the University of Florida. Kelly was born and raised in Tampa Bay. A recent graduate, she enjoys government and legal reporting. She has experience covering the Florida Legislature as well as local government, and is a proud Alligator alum. You can reach Kelly at [email protected].


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