As the election postmortem fight begins, Democratic leaders are consoling themselves with the narrative that Florida was already lost. It’s really a red state, Democrats are being told, which is an excuse that has been echoed by multiple pundits. The problem with that is that it’s just not true. The people here are not overwhelmingly conservative. Not by a longshot. Not only do we have more Democrats than Republicans, but we are a population that consistently votes for the most progressive of ideals every election.
For decades, Democrats bypassed the conservative legislature to get progressive initiatives passed, such as restoring rights to the formerly incarcerated, reducing class size in schools, allowing medical marijuana, forcing allocation of funds for our environment, banning gerrymandering, and on and on. This year, it was the $15 minimum wage that passed overwhelmingly. Even Florida’s famous penchant for gun violence has been tempered—by a group of Florida kids from Parkland who have somehow managed to gut the once-powerful lobby of the N.R.A.
Democrats in this state have always had the ability to turn this state blue, but we have made a lot of stupid mistakes, and must be willing to change course now. Back in February, I laid out lessons Florida Democrats could learn from progressive activists in Virginia, which used to be a solid red state that now has a blue trifecta. We can be Virginia, but right now, we are on track to becoming Missouri—a former bellwether swing state that is now Republican. If that happens, Florida will be lost and destined to suffer a permanent DeSantian nightmare.