25 July 2005

Fineout reports of a possible blackout for Democrats

This weekend, the Miami Herald's Gary Fineout wrote an article that should have scared the bejesus out of every Florida Democrat. According to Fineout's article, the Republican Party of Florida has mathematically calculated a way to destroy the Florida Democratic Party. Fortunately for everyone who cherishes a two-party democracy in the Sunshine State, the Republican Party's claims were greatly exaggerated and didn't portray an accurate assessment of the current political climate in Florida.

According to the Herald article, Florida Republicans believe that a pick-up of five percentage points among minority voters will destroy their opposition. This feat, however, may well be outside the GOP's reach.

The Black Vote

Florida Republicans are pleased that they increased their share of the black vote in Florida. In 2000, President George W. Bush received 9 percent of the black vote. In 2004, he received 11 percent. Bush actually received 13 percent of the black vote in the Sunshine State in 2004, nearly doubling his totals from 2000.

Florida is not a red or a blue state; it is a purple state, where political control is definitely up for grabs. These black vote numbers may not appear to be much call to celebration for the GOP, but Republicans know that the state is so narrowly divided that every vote counts. Democrats should be concerned, but Republicans do face some major hurdles.

Two weeks ago, Republican National Chairman Chairman Ken Mehlman made a shocking admission when he conceded during the NAACP's annual meeting that the Republican Party had in fact carried out a Southern Strategy. The Southern Strategy allowed Republicans to encourage "disaffected Southern white voters to vote Republican by blaming pro-civil rights Democrats for racial unrest and other racial problems." This admission by the head of the national Republican Party sent shockwaves throughout the country.

Most people knew that the Southern Strategy existed. It was started under President Richard Nixon, but perfected under President Ronald Reagan. In a show of disrespect toward African Americans and those who support civil rights, Reagan actually held his first major speech in 1980 in Philadelphia, Mississippi, making a reference to "state's rights" which is a code term aimed at white segregationists. Philadelphia was the city where civil rights workers James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner were brutally murdered by the Ku Klux Klan. This infamous crime was the subject of the 1988 film Mississippi Burning.

The Republican Party has never apologized for Ronald Reagan, and until they do, the Republicans will continue to have a credibility problem with black voters. Mehlman did however apologize for the Southern Strategy, so maybe he will also apologize for the actions of our 40th President.

The Hispanic Vote

This topic was the most curious of the Herald article. Fineout writes, "Republicans also say they picked up more Hispanic voters [in 2004]." This is a powerful statement that should have Democrats concerned, except for the fact that it is not true.

The NDN Political Action Committee, who conducted extensive Hispanic outreach in Florida in 2004, made the following observation. "Hispanics went for Bush 65% - 34% in 2000, but just 56% - 44% this time. With an estimated 1 million Hispanics voting in the 2004 election according to the exit polls, this represents a net shift of roughly 190,000 votes for Democrats." [PDF]

It's also important to note that the weakening of the hardline Cuban vote could spell trouble for the GOP in the long-term as younger Cuban Americans are willing to give the Democrats a chance. Non-Cuban Hispanics traditionally lean Democratic, so the GOP must play catch-up with this rapidly increasing demographic.

So the remark by the Florida Republican was misleading. He said that their party gained Hispanic voter, but the numbers show that the the GOP actually lost Hispanic voters. (Special shout out to Mike at the Florida News blog for pointing out this discrepancy.)

In the end, Democrats hold the edge with minority voters. As FDP Chairman Karen Thurman stated, Democrats share the values and principles of minority voters in Florida. But the Republicans are trying hard, and they will always have more money than their counterparts. There are no limits in what the GOP can afford to do. Democrats should expect to see much more.

Florida Democrats should not take the Herald article to mean that the sky is falling, but they should be concerned. The hiring of Luis Navarro as FDP executive director is definitely a great move for the party. Navarro is a veteran of minority outreach in other states and has a proven track record that Florida Democrats need right now. (Another shout out to Mike at the Florida News blog for mentioning the importance of the Navarro appointment.) Navarro's salary has been the subject of debate and criticism by some of Thurman's political enemies, but Navarro is exactly what the FDP needs right now.

If the Herald article shows anything, it is that the GOP is making a move for minority voters. Democrats should be able to counter it. The question is "Will they?"


Anonymous tdog said...

I agree. The Dems need to stay on the offensive with minority voters and they cannot take them for granted. It will be interesting to see if a few carefully scripted publicity stunts by the Republican Party can make a difference. As a Hispanic voter myself, I think it's insulting by the Republicans to assume that other Hispanics and African Americans would be dumb enough to fall for these stunts.

12:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Navarro thing was blown out of proportion by Jon Ausman and Diane Glasser. They are two Dems who are only out for themselves and don't care about the Party. Thurman is doing a great job!

1:35:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Democrats have gone too long ignoring black and hispanic voters. I think the Republicans are going to be successful in picking up new voters. The Herald is right. The Democrats are on their way to extinction in this state.

6:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree that the Navarro salary issue was blown way out of proportion. And by 'Democrat' Jon Ausman! Really, when are we going to get rid of this guy? Is he on the RPOF payroll or what?

I haven't met Navarro, but I strongly believe in Karen Thurman's judgement and at this point I see no reason to lose faith in her decisions. Karen knows she'll be held accountable for this election cycle. We've got to produce results, and if hiring a rock star at $180K is what she thinks is necessary, then I'm all for it.

1:02:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

After the Democrats attack CAFTA today, see how many Hispanics flock to the GOP. In the NAFTA debate many labor oriented Democrats sounded like racists in their rhetoric.

9:12:00 AM  
Anonymous gator78 said...

If Democrats watch what they say, then they can make a meaningful argument against CAFTA. Blacks and Hispanics in this country will lose jobs too! This point needs to be made over and over. As Democrats, we need to promote economic development in Central and South America, but we cannot do so at the expensive of the American economy. (I may need an exorcism. I think I have been possessed by Lou Dobbs!)

11:15:00 AM  
Blogger Ray Seaman said...

I agree with the first anonymous' statement.

After reading the St. Petersburg Times article, I couldn't help but think that Glasser and Ausman were massive assholes.

First of all, they shouldn't be complaining. If they're that concerned about the party's future, why can't they come up with their own strategy. They can't, because their too wrapped up in their own selfish, short-sighted ambitions.

Second of all, if you wan't to complain about the state of the party, at least TALK to Karen Thurman before you GO TO THE PRESS. Its no wonder why we haven't gotten off the ground yet- because most (certainly not all, Thurman is awesome) of the leadership couldn't give a shit about the party's future, only themselves.


3:25:00 PM  
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