Far-left activists met in a quiet conclave last weekend in Orlando, home to several key leaders of Florida’s progressive movement.The event, LegiCamp 2013, was a strategy session for the upcoming legislative session and serves as notice of how these individuals are slowly changing the face of politics here in the Sunshine State.
Longstanding community organizers like Florida Watch Action’s Susannah Randolph and Amy Ritter, and Organize Now’s Stephanie Porta — all of former ACORN fame — and even deep-pocketed financier Chris Findlater of Miami Beach: These folks built a model for grass-roots political organizing in Orange County that’s setting the stage for the rest of the state.
It’s a strategy not unlike the so-called “Colorado Model” that turned that Western state from red to blue.
The effort includes creating a grass-roots infrastructure that produces an anti-Republican, anti-conservative echo chamber in politics and the media. Remind you of the “Pink Slip Rick” campaign that Randolph launched in 2011?
The LegiCamp activists gathered Saturday to brainstorm legislative priorities – in, of all places, Orlando City Hall. But, as it turns out, using public facilities for political purposes is not an unusual occurrence in Central Florida.
Orange County Political Voices, a Facebook group that bills itself as “nonpartisan,” held a candidate forum in October at the Orange County Commission chambers. Such facilities, I was told by a county staffer via email, can be reserved by the public for a mere $67 a day, plus support costs.
We must assume Orlando city officials have a similar policy. Otherwise, if Orlando City Hall came free of charge, Democratic Mayor Buddy Dyer would be granting the progressive left special consideration — and we know he would never do that.
The availability of public facilities for such overtly political uses — not widely known, nor advertised — is a testament to the left’s knowledge and experience in the political arena, which allows them to infect the bureaucracy of city and county government, building relationships and often shaping the direction of various political agendas. It’s an effort unmatched on the right.
Contrast that effort with conservatives’ spur-of-the-moment reactionary stance, where the tactic at hand is to rebuke elected officials over decisions they’ve already made.
It brings to mind the ol’ “honey and vinegar” adage.
Still, through its diverse coalitions, the left’s ability to turn out 200 activists on the doorstep of an “uncooperative” elected official’s office – a la protests, sit-ins and other political theater designed to make an opponent’s life miserable — serves as a convenient reminder of what can happen when the honey does not have the desired effect.
Former service union boss Andy Stern best summed up the threat this way: “[W]e prefer to use the power of persuasion, but if that doesn’t work, we use the persuasion of power.”
In the end, progressive organizers operate unimpeded in Florida, with few on the right bothering to pay attention — including the GOP, which appears to be convinced this is the natural ebb and flow of politics.
As Orange County continues its drift left, the rest of the state should be forewarned: The leftward migration is the product of a concerted, well-planned effort that will be repeated again and again throughout Florida. Just ask the folks in Colorado.
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