The losses Democrats took during the 2014 midterm election are causing rifts within the party ranks. Still the general consensus is for the party to unite and move forward. But, some political scientists say that can only happen once what’s called the “blame game” phase is over.
Losing Florida’s gubernatorial race was a big blow to Democrats in this election. They also lost a number of races across the state and the nation.
Among the losses were several seats in the Florida House—which created a GOP supermajority.
And, those defeats led Daytona Beach Democrat Dwayne Taylor to publicly challenge West Palm Beach Democrat Mark Pafford for the role of minority leader.
“A 7th vote in one year and eight months! How the optics of that looks good for Florida is beyond me. As a Democrat what is going to inspire anyone to run for office with that kind of scenario playing out,” remarked Florida Democratic Party Chair Allison Tant, speaking to the News Service of Florida.
She says in her close to two years on the job, she’s seen seven leadership votes within the caucus. And, Tant adds the party has no time for the drama.
“We have to marshal our energies, put on our big-girl pants and move the heck down the road,” added Tant. “The bed-wetters need to shut up, and we need to move on. It is time to get back to what matters and that is protecting and standing up for the middle class Floridian, and quit this belly aching and be a leader and grow up.”
Her latter remarks caught the attention of many within the party and outside, like outspoken Fort Walton Beach Republican Matt Gaetz, who commented several times about the in-fighting on twitter—even at one point comparing the Democrats to cannibals.
What's the difference between cannibals and @FLHOUSEDEMS? Cannibals only eat their enemies.
— Matt Gaetz (@mattgaetz) November 17, 2014
“Never have I seen so few fight so hard for so little,” said Gaetz, earlier in the week.
And, weeks later and the day of the leadership race, Taylor pulled out of the race.
“I still believe I had the numbers or the following, but it wasn’t really about that,” said Taylor. “It was more about me being able to work with the leadership there at the Florida Democratic Party. I think they may have undermined any and everything that I would have tried to do to help recruit members and to get members here. So, I think they need some leadership there.”
Taylor says he’s already spoken with Pafford and will assist him in any way he can. And, in his recent remarks to the caucus as its new leader, Pafford spoke about the importance of unity.
“When we’re here, when we have 38 folks in the back row, and it’s important that we maintain that unity over the next two years.”
And, as for Tant, she says,“Really, glad it’s behind us.”
So, now, with the Party trying to move forward, Tant has created a 14-member task force, which includes Miami-Dade Democratic Chair and Miami Senator Dwight Bullard.
“You know, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again—expecting a difficult result,” siad Bullard. “And, unfortunately, we’ve been putting out an energy as Democrats that has not been successful in terms of statewide elected office. So, I’m hoping to bring some recommendations that hopefully will be listened to—some successful tactics that have worked in a number of local races that I’ve been a part of—and hopefully that will translate on a statewide level.”
But, other Democrats are doubtful the taskforce can deliver, and Nan Rich is one of them. The former gubernatorial candidate says that’s because she believes there are some people on the panel that shouldn’t be on there.
“I think it’s important not to put people on committees and task forces that were part of the ones that created the strategies that I think were part of the reason we lost…to me, it’s like the fox watching the henhouse. You have to be careful about who you put on these committees to make sure that you can have a legitimate, honest objective analysis of what happened,” said Rich.
“Same thing happened after Republicans lost the 2012 presidential. They blamed each other, they blamed the pollster, they blamed they’re strategists, they blamed their get-out-the-vote people,” said University of South Florida Political Scientist Susan Macmanus.
Macmanus says this sort of “infighting” and trying to get back on track to a united front is very typical after an election—no matter the party.
“When it falls short, people just point fingers and it happens to Republicans who lose a big race and it happens as we’re seeing here to Democrats who lose a big race. It’s just the name of the game. The ‘blame game,’ then the ‘fix it game’…that’s always the cycle that it goes through,” added Macmanus.
Meanwhile, like the state’s Dems, Florida Congresswoman and National democratic Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz is also putting together a similar panel to find out what went wrong on a national level. She recently enlisted the public’s help for their input as well.
For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter: @SaschaCordner.