Probably not the headline Joe Biden expected out of his Florida campaign. and it might — might — signal more than just a PR headache down the road for his presidential bid, too. Ninety members of Biden’s campaign signed a letter accusing Team Biden of “suppressing the Hispanic vote” in its operations, reports the Miami Herald. They complain in part that Spanish-speaking campaigners have been reassigned to north Florida, leaving south Florida with few if any resources who understand the mix of Hispanic groups in the south:
Over 90 field organizers for the Florida Democratic Party signed a scathing letter Friday to the party’s leadership, claiming among other things that the campaign is “suppressing the Hispanic vote” in Central Florida.
The seven-page internal letter, obtained by the Miami Herald, contains eight allegations from field organizers about what they say is a lack of a “fully actionable field plan” from the Biden campaign as it transitions into the Florida party to coordinate voter outreach efforts. …
Among the claims: mistreatment of field organizers, relocating trained staff members without explanation, lack of organizing resources and taking on volunteers who are then left in limbo.
Suppressing the minority vote? That’s usually an accusation reserved for Republican candidates, especially in Florida. Lobbing it at your own side makes for a much more interesting story, although in this case — as is usual with accusations aimed at Republicans — it looks more like hyperbole intended to embarrass Biden and his team more than a concerted and intentional suppression effort.
That’s not to say that the specifics aren’t curious. This one is a real headscratcher, if true:
One big issue is that at least a handful of organizers were recently transferred from a heavily-Puerto Rican part of the state to counties with a small percentage of Hispanics.
“Four of five Spanish-speaking organizers along the I-4 corridor who were moved to North Florida were Puerto Rican,” the letter says.
The first question this prompts is why Team Biden only had five Spanish-speaking organizers in the I-4 Corridor in the first place. Elections are won and lost in the I-4 Corridor, a point I made in my book Going Red in 2016. It’s not just that the Hispanic vote is strong in this corridor, but it’s also diverse. There are political differences between the Batista-Cuba diaspora and the Castro-Cuba diaspora, for instance, and the former is a bit more prevalent in I-4. Even apart from that nuance, there are significant differences between Puerto Ricans, Venezuelans, and other South American descendant communities.
A smart campaign would dedicate Spanish-speaking organizers with more insight into those nuances in the I-4 Corridor than most other places in the state. Moving those resources to north Florida is almost laughably inept. The Hispanic vote comprises a much smaller percentage of the electorate in that area, which is culturally closer to the Southern states, than it does in the Tampa-Orlando belt and further south.
The organizers ignored Hanlon’s Razor and see malice where incompetence might be the better choice:
Field organizers add that input from staffers connected to Puerto Ricans living in Central Florida is often dismissed.
“The [Coordinated Campaign of Florida] is suppressing the Hispanic vote by removing Spanish-speaking organizers from Central Florida without explanation, which fails to confront a system of white-dominated politics we are supposed to be working against as organizers of a progressive party,” the letter adds.
Maybe, but it might also be argued that pontificating about “white-dominated politics” in the I-4 Corridor might be a problem, too. It’s a diverse area but Biden will still need to win white moderates in the middle of the state. That kind of messaging might make sense in a primary, but it’s a fair bet that it would backfire in a general election.
That still doesn’t explain why they’re going to north Florida, though. Perhaps the campaign thought that rhetoric would play better with black voters in the Panhandle and its environs, but why send your Hispanic organizers to sell that rather than organize in I-4?
The answer could be that the campaign never did any such thing. The Hill reports that this might be less of a “suppression” argument, and more of a negotiating tactic. The campaign is unionized, and it’s contract time:
The organizer’s discontent comes amid negotiations between the Coordinated Campaign in Florida, the Democrats’ Florida campaign branch, and the field organizers’ union, IBEW Local 824, a Democratic official told The Hill.
The Biden campaign told The Hill that relocation updates have not been updated due to ongoing discussions.
Jackie Lee, the Biden campaign’s Florida state director, told The Hill in a statement that for the past six weeks no staff has been asked to relocate. She added that that the campaign “has an open-door policy” and “we look forward to working with organizers to address their concerns.”
“We are consulting with IBEW Local 824 leadership on the structure of our organizing program, including many of the issues that were raised in this letter and proposed solutions,” Lee said. “We look forward to discussing them with organizers and getting their feedback as soon as able.”
Remember when Democrats cheered the unionization of political campaigns? Good times, good times.