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Happytown

Wherein we bemoan the demise of the Florida Democratic Party, decry the smugness of Bank of America and then stare into a mirror to discover the real ugly

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Donkey wrong: Florida’s broken Democratic Party machine isn’t going to fix itself


With all the recent cheerleading chatter insisting that somehow the Great Republican Blowout of 2010 would be a benefit to Democrats (because, well, diminished expectations), you might be forgiven for not noticing that said argument holds no sway here in the Sunshine State. Let’s check the scoreboard, shall we? We now have a $73 million otherwise unelectable governor, impenetrable House and Senate majorities, a fuse, a lighter and boom! Democrats should be angry enough to storm the capitol, banging plates with knives and calling for heads. Instead, they’re doing what Democrats do: politely shuffling around and whispering. This party needs an enema, or at least a hose.

A glimmer of hope popped up soon after the Nov. 2 slaughter when the stand-in-a-circle-and-place-blame crowd fingered Florida Demo-
cratic Party chair Karen Thurman. Thurman, a lobbyist the party paid at least $100,000 a year for part-time hemming and hawing, was rumored to be stepping down, though no proper Democrat would rush to conclusions; besides, her resignation was also rumored before the epic fail, so why hurry into things? What are they, Republicans?

Still, a number of rank-and-file Democrats dove (or were tossed) into the pool of speculation about who would ascend to the throne of party chair. Most of them had just one thing in common: the ability to lose races. Beefcake attorney general primary loser Dave Aronberg was the first to hop out and dry off, effectively saying that although the party needs a shake up, he’d rather put his energies elsewhere (or, in common parlance, “Who wants to be the head on a dead body?”). Chief financial officer loser Loranne Ausley, and lieutenant governor and 2006 gubernatorial loser Rod Smith, cluttered up some shortlists, too. In fact, the only winner’s name we’ve heard floating around is that of progressive superhero and four-time winner State Rep. Scott Randolph. Ooh, now that would be exciting!

“I put it at like a 10 percent chance that I’ll officially throw my name in the hat,” Randolph says, somewhat forlornly. Turns out that as we were talking, Smith was already zooming up the Tallahassee freeway on his way to presumed anointment. Bummer. Randolph says that his main platform, were he to achieve the post, would be to extricate the state party from its Tallahassee cigar room and plop it down in the I-4 corridor where actual people live. But even that might not be enough to save what has effectively become a loose conglomeration of county Democratic Executive Committees stuffed with old people who look like extras from Family Ties. Those people, the various precinct captains and serial gripers, are the very people that will carry the most weight in electing the new party chair, Randolph says, but one of the most important tasks of new leadership would be to shake up the system, to throw a few harsh words around where due. You have to kiss them before punching them, though, and that can be tough.

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