Wednesday, May 14, 2014

A Disorganized Party

If the Democrats ever have to blame anybody for their failure to break past such things as gerrymandering, distorted campaign financing, and Far Right extremism, they ought to start pointing at the disjointed crowd of elbow-shovers gathering at the mirror:
Ed Jany, the Marine and former police officer hailed by national and state Democratic leaders as an ideal challenger to newly elected U.S. Rep. David Jolly, dropped out of Pinellas County's 13th Congressional District race Tuesday.
The sudden and surprise announcement came days after a Tampa Bay Times report about him appearing to pad his educational background and resume. (insert /headdesking here)
Jany entered the race at the last minute, after Democrats aggressively moved to keep a prominent African-American minister from St. Petersburg, Manuel Sykes, out of the contest. In a statement, Jany said he realized he does not have the time to run for office...
The 13th Congressional District, which includes much of Pinellas County, is one of the most competitive in the country. But it appears now that Jolly will walk into a second term without a serious challenge.
With the filing deadline passed, the only other name on the ballot will be Libertarian candidate Lucas Overby, who received less than 5 percent of the vote when he ran for the seat in a March special election.
Darryl Paulson, a retired USF St. Petersburg political scientist, said the Jany saga should be a case study on how not to handle candidate recruitment.
"What have the Democrats accomplished?" he asked. "They have alienated their core constituency by assaulting Rev. Sykes and now are left with no candidate to run in what was considered one of the most competitive districts in the nation and a district that Democrats said was a must-win..."
What this looks like from the outside was a bad mix of a national/state group trying to impose its will on the county/city level of activists to dictate who the local voters had to accept as a candidate. Rather than work with the local groups, it seems from here that the Powers That Be either feared the preferred local(s) options, or just didn't care for those choices and went with someone with the shinier-looking resume (which turned out not to be a good idea...).

Where the Republicans have their own internal divisions, those factions still reside on the far side of the political spectrum, and still answer (even the Tea Partiers) to a core set of financial backers and political consultants who can keep them all on-message.  The Democrats aren't so lucky.  The divisions between the national-level Establishment types and the local Progressive types tend to hamper the Dems' ability to field candidates that could challenge the state-level political machines the Republicans have across too many Red states (especially throughout the Southern states).

The recent special election for this very district - FL 13 - is a perfect example.  Where there was a candidate in place in Jessica Ehrlich who ran previously - and almost successfully - against the long-term incumbent Bill Young, the party leaders pushed her aside for Alex Sink, the Democratic candidate who lost to Rick "Medicare Fraud" Scott thinking she was the better campaign draw.  But where the party leaders liked Sink, not enough voters in Pinellas County could: she gave flat speeches and weak public appearances for one thing, but another was that her background in banking was a turn-off to the Far Left voters who feared she would be too pro-business at a time they wanted representatives who would force the banks to play by the rules.  Much in the same way her lackluster governor's campaign failed to turn out the vote, the special election failed - 39 percent?! - and Jolly ended up winning by two percent points.

When Sink refused to run again for the seat in the regular election, you'd think the Democratic Party machine would invite Ehrlich back, as a regular local face who'd bring her fanbase with her.  But they didn't.  They pursued a few other possibilities before settling on Jany, whose military and law enforcement background would seem unimpeachable going against a Republican (never mind the fact Republicans routinely go after Democratic candidates with solid military careers all the fracking time).  Too bad in Jany's case they didn't take a closer look at that resume before the Times did...

Making this worse is how the party leadership went after Sykes to knee-cap him before he could even pose as a primary challenge to whoever the Dems could prop up:

When Sykes prepared to run, Democratic officials from Washington to Pinellas sought to discourage him. Pinellas Democratic chairman Mark Hanisee left a voice mail for Sykes promising the respected minister he would be "persona non grata" among political leaders if he ran.
The Democrats' preferred candidate: Jany, a Marine Corps Reserve colonel and first-time candidate who lives outside the district in Tampa. While embraced by the state and national Democratic party, Jany would have been listed on the ballot with no party affiliation because he had not been registered as a Democratic long enough under state law...

That's right: the Dems were trying to prop up a guy who wasn't even a registered Dem... /headdesk

And why was that?  It couldn't be because Sykes was a local Baptist minister (while Republicans would go after religious leaders the same as military types, it would be very awkward for them...). It could have something to do with Sykes being the president of the local NAACP chapter, which gets hit with the "librul" label in the regular media just as much on the Fox Not-News channel.

And so the Democrats problem comes into full view.  Where the Republicans have a problem with local extremist candidates challenging them in primaries (and winning enough of them to ruin their chances at the general elections), the Democrats have a problem finding any local candidates at all who would appeal to the actual voters.  And it has less to do with finding volunteers - why not ask Ehrlich? why not chat up Sykes to keep him in the loop rather than on the outs? - than with the Democratic leadership running scared from any candidate who's gonna make the wingnut media scream "SOCIALIST!"

Like that has even stopped the wingnut media from screaming "SOCIALIST!" at every Democratic candidate anyway.  It's a losing battle for the Democrats at the national level if they keep f-cking jumping at the shadow of the New Deal at every turn of the corner...

And now FL-13 has no Democratic option against Jolly (or the Libertarian candidate, who I now want to win just out of pure spite).  And now we're wondering why the Democrats in Florida don't put up more candidates at the state level to try and win back Tallahassee (how many GOP seats are unchallenged this election cycle?  I counted 40 state house seats either unchallenged or just primary-ing between Republicans, out of 120 seats.  That's a full third of the elections!).

And now it's left to the voters to try and stir up some positive encouragement to even get out the vote for the districts being competitive, for any of the elections at all.  I don't want to think it's because the Democratic Party at the state level is just that lazy.  I'm terrified to think it's because the Democrats are scared.

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