Joe Henderson: Next time, Democrats must understand their message isn’t working
Republican ballots take the lead, not a good sign for Democrats.

Here's a radical idea: Next time, Dems should try listening to voters instead of telling them what they should care about.

Usually, we wait until the morning after an election to offer a post-mortem, but unless the polls are completely whacked, it doesn’t seem like there’s much doubt about what’s going to happen.

After all, Florida Democrats aren’t even waiting to engage in their regular after-election ritual of hand-wringing and pearl-clutching. While the Republican juggernaut rolls on, Democrats play the blame game. Yet another shakeup in the Dems’ leadership appears inevitable as they search for answers on why Republicans routinely kick their butt.

It’s not that complicated, though, especially when viewed through the lens of this election.

Democratic candidates repeatedly lectured voters on what they should care about in the major races.

Meanwhile, Republicans focused on what voters actually care about — a big difference.

And do we have to say it? It was, is, and always shall be the economy. A candidate who can’t win the kitchen table argument will probably lose. Democrats still don’t understand that.

That’s not just me saying that. Sunburn, the excellent morning newsletter from Florida Politics, had a New York Times piece about this situation.

Among other things, several prominent Democrats worry that their party has not fully acknowledged the pain of rising prices — or effectively pointed the finger at Republicans over the higher costs.

And as former President Barack Obama said, “If there was an asteroid headed toward Earth — it’s going to land in like two weeks — if you went into the Republican caucus and said, ‘What do you want to do?’ They’d say, ‘We need a tax break for the wealthy.'”

After all, for as big of a schmuck as Donald Trump is, the stock market boomed on his watch. It didn’t seem to matter to Trump supporters that people on the lower end of things struggled in his make-billionaires-richer economy. He was a master of illusion.

Democrats believed they had a winning issue with abortion rights. Polls show that most Floridians want to protect a woman’s right to choose, but that’s not all they believe.

Millennials believe the economy left them behind and that rents are too high. Voters also believe gas and food cost too much. Seniors wonder if their nest egg will give them enough cushion through retirement. Dems looked bumfuzzled when the GOP labeled them as socialists and reaped large support from Latino voters.

What did Democrats come back with?

Abortion, mostly. Oh, Senate candidate Val Demings liked to remind us every day that she used to be a cop, thinking it might resonate with those convinced Democrats are soft on crime.

It was a gross miscalculation. She wasn’t going to pick up Republican support with that tactic, and it cost her the chance to attack Republicans on kitchen table issues.

Yes, Gov. Ron DeSantis was adept at inventing boogeymen so he could slay them. But his bigger message was that Floridians enjoy more freedom than they would under Democrats, and he was relentless in hammering that theme.

While that may be true, Charlie Crist didn’t emphasize that more than 82,000 people in Florida died from COVID-19. DeSantis turned a deadly pandemic into an economic issue by repeatedly telling everyone that he opposed lockdowns, ignoring advice from medical experts who know more about deadly viruses than he does.

So while DeSantis and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio plan their victory parties, Democrats can only grumble. They need to do more than point fingers at each other, though, lest they descend into deeper irrelevance.

First, they need a younger and deeper bench.

They also need to plan — right now — for how many times in 2024 they can repeat, “Rick Scott wants to eliminate Social Security and Medicare.”

The only question is, are they capable of doing that? Or will their need to fixate on what they say people should care about overwhelm them again?

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.


  • Joe Corsin

    November 2, 2022 at 7:50 pm

    Florida voters are much more susceptible to far right propaganda, hate mongering, fear mongering, and lies. The author has a point.

    • Impeach Biden

      November 2, 2022 at 8:25 pm

      No its the sameo, sameo from the Dems every election cycle and Joe Biden was once again going to the old Democrat playbook yesterday in Broward County. “The Republicans are going to take your social security and medicare / medicaid.” My God how many years have we heard that and it is complete BS. The Democrat party has gone too far left. They cater to the liberal wackos that really only congregate on college campuses and Portland, OR. Better get a youth movement as well. Biden and Pelosi are both senile and Chucky isn’t far behind.

      • marylou

        November 2, 2022 at 9:18 pm

        The Republicans are admitting that cutting Social Security and Medicare IS their plan. They want to use debt ceiling negotiations and program sunsetting to force Democrats to make the cuts. Republicans HAVE been cutting Medicare by funneling tax $$ to Medicare Advantage plans, which cost taxpayers far more than original Medicare. Not everyone has a lot of time to read about the Republican plans, and Fox is not giving viewers the facts.

      • Joe Corsin

        November 2, 2022 at 11:09 pm

        Anything to the left of Hitler is far left to you skin head punks. You’ve lost it.

    • marylou

      November 2, 2022 at 8:43 pm

      Agree! Repeated polls show Americans want taxes on the wealthy and corporations, climate improvement, expanded Social Security, Medicare for All, universal pre-k, paid sick leave, abortion rights, contraceptives access, affordable housing, no book banning, professional teachers…

      Yet, so many Florida voters remain in the Republican Party, and actually vote for politicians like The Lying King and The Pronoun Prince. I don’t understand how hate and fear can outweigh everything else for them.

      • Kno Udont

        November 2, 2022 at 9:43 pm

        “I don’t understand. . .”
        No, you don’t. And neither does anybody else wearing the big D these days. For “da-n dumb doubtful distressed and dismayed. And destitute”

        • Joe Corsin

          November 3, 2022 at 11:51 am

          👆 Report to FBI as possible terrorist

        • marylou

          November 3, 2022 at 2:29 pm

          OK, why don’t you tell me why so many people vote against the things they tell pollsters they want.

          Just one example is gun control, where another recent poll has found that 5 of 6 Florida voters support new gun control laws (reported in Florida Politics). This follows a June 2022 Gallup poll with similar results.

          So, besides hate and fear, what are Republican voters voting for??

          • seedy

            November 3, 2022 at 3:51 pm

            Wanting gun control vs gun bans is the difference you don’t understand. Dems want bans, not control…so they won’t get elected on that simple fact. An interview with mda simply stated it… “we realize bans are incremental, first you take what you can, call it common sense, then keep moving the bar on common sense until they are all gone. it takes time”

    • eva

      November 3, 2022 at 4:44 pm

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  • Leonard

    November 2, 2022 at 8:44 pm

    You really miss the point. Ds CAN’T talk about the economy because it is their policies that crashed it. You don’t bring down inflation by printing more money and spending more money—in fact, that fuels inflation. They thought abortion decision would galvanize the women’s vote—until women realized that the SC decision just pushes the issue to the states—and most Ds want tax funded abortion on demand up to the point of birth (something most people oppose). The Ds talk about “saving democracy” but it is their heavy handed policies to trample on the 1st and 2nd Amendments that are truly the threat to our Constitutional Republic. On Election Day this country will say with one loud clear vote—NO to socialist policies promoted by the Ds. God Bless America!!

    • Charlie Crist

      November 3, 2022 at 11:54 am

      👆 Victim of right wing propaganda. Needs serious help.

  • tom palmer

    November 2, 2022 at 9:17 pm

    Because, as Joe Henderson and many others point out, a lot of Democratic speeches are boring, warmed-over Hubert Humphrey orations. It is like they never go into a regular neighborhood where most of us live and see what our lives are like. They remain detached and at times the elite tag fits. And they certainly need younger potential candidates and need to make sure they vet them better than in the past. One Andrew Gillum is one too many.

  • Tom

    November 2, 2022 at 9:45 pm

    Joey Corsin snd Mary hooch, you are shameful extremists.

    Joe, I disagree. The Dems purposefully focused on non issues. They purposefully attempted to con America and not discuss. They lied about Fetterman in PA. Dems are ideologues, they are committed to their ideology. We have seen that in 20 months.

    It backfired, the WH lies daily. They lied bout social security COLA raise, it’s standard. Twitter called them out.

    Biden is unstable, 54 states?
    Beau Biden didn’t die in Iraq, brain cancer regretfully. Biden and Harris are not up to the job.

    • Joe Corsin

      November 2, 2022 at 11:08 pm

      You gonna end up worse than the Rubio canvasser before it’s all over with. Whole bar!👹

      • Whippy Skipperton

        November 3, 2022 at 9:03 am

        That’s a direct threat of harm, Joe. You need to get some mental health help. And for God’s sake, stay away from children.

        • Joe Corsin

          November 3, 2022 at 11:52 am

          A direct threat would be saying I was going to do something specific to a specific individual. That’s not what was said. Seek help for your intellectual disability.

  • Andy madtes

    November 3, 2022 at 8:10 am

    We need a working class leader at the top of the party. The consultants have hijacker’s the party and take a look at the wealth of the dems in my party.. the elitist tag fits and that’s why working class voters are bolting from this party. Look at Tim Ryan , that race should not be close but it is. Why? Because he understands kitchen table issues. Charlie Christ thought abortion would win the day in this race it did not .Christ was a bad choice for dems as he was when he lost to Rick Scott. He is not a working class democrat, he is a political opportunist who only cares about getting elected. This state is not lost to dems, but unless they change their message and have leadership who can relate to all working class people , our party will be run by a bunch limousine liberals and we will continue to lose.

  • Yrral

    November 4, 2022 at 2:34 am

    Desantis,protecting people from storm is not working,maybe he will get right next week, during the next Tropical Storm Google Florida Tropical Storm

Comments are closed.


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