Krishnaiyer’s Editorial: Where Have All The Great Democrats Gone?

After reading my colleague Dave Trotter’s excellent Sunday editorial on Reubin Askew, I became sentimental about the days when Florida groomed real progressive leaders. The 1970s were glory years for the state. We pioneered “Government in the Sunshine” and unlike the 2000s where ALEC, the NRA and the James Madison Institute dictated policy, our leaders were independent and far sighted. Governor Askew, ranked by Harvard University as one of the ten best American Governors during the 20th Century led the way, but we also had Lawton Chiles, Bob Graham, Buddy MacKay, George Stuart, George Sheldon, Ken Jenne (before his unfortunate scandal in Broward County), Mike Abrams, Phil Lewis, Harry Johnston, among other leaders that came of age during the decade.

In the 1970s Florida was the envy of the nation. A dream state with a budding progressive movement related to women’s issues, the environment, health care and public education.  Florida was the most progressive southern state and long before the Villages spurned a generation of right wing senior activists, the condos of southeast Florida were filled with activism led by New Deal veterans. The legislature in those days was as defiant and obstinate as today, even though the Democrats held a large majority.

Governor Askew had numerous progressive initiatives blocked by the conservatives in the Senate but took his case directly to the Florida people and won a resounding reelection despite a well funded right wing propaganda campaign in both primary and general elections. Askew also bucked the legislature by backing several ballot initiatives that made Florida a desirable destination for new residents, businesses and tourists.

Bob Graham, one of the “doghouse Democrats” along with Buddy MacKay and a few notable others that had bucked the conservative leadership of Dempsey Barron and his cronies in the State Senate became Governor after Askew defeated the same forces that tried to foil Askew. Chiles in the meantime was working hard in the US Senate.

At the same time the Florida House was producing many progressive leaders who would continue to fight for strong environmental and growth management laws as well other progressive measures. Most of these leaders are now long gone from elected office.

During the 2002 Attorney General’s race,  I reminisced with George Sheldon regularly about this era and asked why we weren’t producing these types of statesmen anymore. We didn’t have many potential statewide candidates of quality and figured we as a party had reached rock bottom, but we hadn’t. Sadly, whenever I spoke of this era to large groups they would shake their heads. The era was long gone.

Rod Smith, the current FDP Chairman had a fondness for this era of Florida Democrats. One day in 2005, when I picked him up at Palm Beach International Airport, we began discussing Askew. Later that day Smith gave a speech to the Palm Beach DEC about the leaders of this era, and also the forerunner of this legacy, Leroy Collins. Most of the audience seemed to not care. They had either grown comfortable with Democrats who simply talk big but don’t act the way they should in public office, or had become so blinded by hatred towards the other side that none of our past mattered.

We can do better as a party, and have done better. Florida Democrats need to reconnect with their legacy and recent history to become truly great again. Alas, the current crop of “leaders” we’ve developed have none of the vision or statecraft to pull this off.


27 thoughts on “Krishnaiyer’s Editorial: Where Have All The Great Democrats Gone?

  1. Excellent article!

    I think the proliferation of money in politics and the continued growth of AIF, the Florida Chamber and the Florida Medical Association, have swung state government unnaturaly conservative. Democrats lacking in self confidence and self belief play ball with these dark forces.

    it is an ugly scene, and we long for yesteryear.

  2. Great article now you how two men who have complaints of sexual assault running both the Broward and PBC party, Democrats that sponsor vouchers, anti-choice bills and pushing Republicans….Wake up like Obama said wake up!
    The change will start in PBC!

  3. Do not forget about Betty Castor. She was fantastic.
    While we had a bad period, vocal leaders like Robert Wexler and Debbie Wasserman Schultz helped keep the flame alive.

    Now we have an emerging generation like Ted Deutch , Evan Jenne and Joe Abruzzo who will fight for our values. Things are getting better.

  4. Betty Castor was great. Wexler put in crazy policy but was not that great (better than he was in congress where he just yelled a lot) DWS mixed on issues…Frankel was better. Deutch was good on a few things before he became a tool. Jenne was mixed and Abruzzo was great for Republicans’ legislation. Ask the Republicans they will tell you.

    Things are getting better? You put those people in the same group? Are you nuts? Klein and Aronberg were not even seen as great on legislation. Klein at least didn’t make you want to run and hide during the 2000 recount. Wexler was thrown in the closet because people were so ashamed of him and the party didn’t want him to speak in public. The guy is a media whore. If you are going to be a media whore at least sound smart. Fake it like you are putting these people in the same group. Now Sachs is another story. I hope she is my Senator and runs against Abruzzo.

  5. I think we need some new Democrats. Isn’t Abruzzo the kid that voted with Republicans, made the deal with Mary McCarthy before she went to jail, pushed the guy Green who had said he went to Cuba and had hookers on his boat? Sorry not voting for that scum.

  6. Debbie was pretty good in Tally and Robert was so so too.
    I agree with Louis. Klein did ok minus his Abramoff connections. D Abruzzo I don’t know but all I heard was very negative. Gannon, Rich and Meek were good too. We need new blood though that have guts. Most of these people are either showmen or copycat Republicans. I remember how Aronberg co-sponsored the Stand Your Ground Bill. Maybe he thought he was running for sheriff instead of SA. Either way he will be good in that role. I think he will bust those he hangs with to run for higher office. Aronberg…A-G more like Governor! Just don’t get confused anymore cutie!

  7. Abruzzo made no deal with McCarty. He just choose not to run.

    Deutch is a rock star in today’s Florida Party.

  8. Who are you kidding we all read the newspaper. Don’t make up history honey. What party? lol the one on Green’s boat?
    We all hope Deutch will be on his own soon. Aaronson and Wexler bring him down and that loud red head that works for him. The one that worked for Robert. The girl is Broward should run things not the “Boca” Housewife one.

  9. Interesting Nelson not even mentioned in this article. He was first elected in the 1970s. I think I know why. For a long time he was associated with the party’s conservative wing.

    Just Sayin!

  10. Wexler has never been told not to speak by the party. Never. That is why he was consistently on CNN, MSNBC and even FOX from time to time.

  11. “We all hope Deutch will be on his own soon. Aaronson and Wexler bring him down and that loud red head that works for him. The one that worked for Robert. The girl is Broward should run things not the “Boca” Housewife one”

    This is the most absurd thing ever posted on this or any other political blog. Deutch is an independent thinker but an alliance with two of the most popular and respected officials in the state of Florida is a good thing. Aaronson and Wexler are both loved by the people.

    The loud red head I assume is Wendi Lipsich who is just fantastic. She is smart as can be and well loved by the vast majority locals. The Broward director, Theresa is quite excellent as well. Deutch has the best constituent service in the state.

  12. It is also about personality. These men for the most part were good one on one if not on the stump. Today’s Dens are less willing to engage the public and do the right thing.

  13. The most important thing that happened was the 1992 redistricting when the black caucus sided with the GOP to get a maximum amount of minority access districts. The GOP quickly took the majority and we’ve been cutting deals ever since.

  14. Skidmore was a great liberal. So much better than Klein. Forget Tara, Jeff etc. If Kelly runs Abruzzo should stay in the House. I like Tara but she’s not ready yet. Neither is Jeff but he is a good vote. He should stay in the House. Take out Hager.

  15. Skidmore is done. Better than Klein. Tara is good. Clemens sucks. Someone should run against Hager.

  16. I’m struck by how there is no mention of women anywhere in this article. Not as past, present, or future leaders. Maybe that’s the answer to your question of where the great leaders are. Take off those blinders, and maybe you’ll find a few more.

  17. Is Morning Star really Wendy or just some ass kissing groupie ?? The real problem is that the whole Wexler-Aaronson-Weiss-Handler bunch will not let a good candidate move up unless they pledge theis souls to them.

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