BY JASON KRUSZKA
The 2016 Presidential election will be dissected by political pundits for a generation. Already copious amounts of ink has been dedicated to discussing the destruction of the Democratic Party and how it can be rebuilt. The dominant theory is that Hillary was simply an extremely flawed candidate who represented the status quo amid a desire for change. But talk of emails, Benghazi, and Bill misses the point. Yes, those were all factors that taken collectively solidified Hillary as a corrupt insider in the minds of many voters. But the real tragedy was that Democrats had returned to the failed playbook of nominating someone who was unable to inspire the youth and progressives.
I am currently 34. In my voting lifetime the national Democratic Party has nominated only one candidate, Barack Obama that energized my generation.
In 2000 Nader was the trendy pick. 2004 brought Howard Dean. And last year the Obama energy migrated to Bernie Sanders.
Is it sheer coincidence that success only came in 2008 and 2012? Obama was a singular political talent but a larger message can be gleaned. We Democrats ignore young and progressive voters at our peril.
Which brings me to the race for Governor in 2018. In the 10 years I have lived in Florida (and even before that) the Florida Democratic Party has made the same mistake as the national party, eventually even nominating a former Republican to be our candidate. In retrospect the 2012 gubernatorial election was in some ways a harbinger of 2016.
Now, given the list of announced and speculated candidates 2018 is already shaping up to be an epic battle for the right to go against Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam, a Republican. Policies and prescriptions will likely be indistinguishable among the candidates on numerous issues. The question for Florida Democrats is which candidate will give the party the best chance to win.
The answer is Andrew Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee who launched his race for governor last week.
What Gillum lacks in name recognition and bankroll (as of now) is more than made up for by his intelligence, energy, passion, and charisma. He has a compelling life story and is the only candidate capable of energizing young people and progressives. In the end 90% of the voters in each major party come home each election cycle. Most statewide elections are won and lost on the margins. Florida Democrats have a 200,000-registered voter advantage over Republicans, but they haven’t occupied the governor’s mansion in 18 years. Maybe it is time to try something new.
I hope we learn the lessons of 2016. I hope we learn the lessons of past gubernatorial elections. I hope we nominate Andrew Gillum in 2018.
(Jason Kruszka is a criminal defense attorney practicing death penalty appellate litigation in Broward county. He is originally from Wisconsin and is a 2009 graduate of FSU College of Law. He is also a member of the Broward Democratic Party, the West Broward Democratic Club, and the Broward Young Democrats.)
What others are saying about Gillum’s candidacy can be seen linked here.