I got this post from my friend Susan Smith, who is president of the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida, and she's ticked off. After all, it's Florida, where you'd think people would be interested in Social Security and Medicare, right?:
A couple of years ago, a group of progressives fought for the right to form an official caucus of the Florida Democratic Party. We won that battle and the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida was born.
Some other states have progressive caucuses and I’m told that there are even places where the Elizabeth Warren Wing of the party is ascendant. But, down here in Florida, the DPCF was sorely needed.
Now there’s an effort by a local party official to disband the Progressive Caucus of Florida. What did the DPCF do that was so terrible?
We asked a candidate for U.S. Senate about his positions on Social Security and Medicare.
On Monday, I joined other members of the DPCF in a conference call to raise some concerns we have about Patrick Murphy’s commitment to core Democratic values. Here’s how the Sun-Sentinel summed it up:
The challenge from liberals indicates that Murphy, a former Fort Lauderdale businessman and now congressman from Jupiter, faces opposition from within his party in his race to replace Republican Sen. Marco Rubio.
Members of the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida raised “serious concerns” with Murphy's record on Social Security, Medicare and Wall Street reform. They also questioned whether he would be a “bold champion” capable of inspiring voters.
Ok, so we did a little more than just ask questions about Murphy’s positions on Social Security and Medicare. The truth is that we have some serious concerns about his record on Social Security, Medicare and other key issues that we Democrats hold dear. Given his sudden switch from Republican to Democrat just in time to run for office and his past support of Mitt Romney, we believe those concerns are justified.
At a time when “expanding Social Security and Medicare has become a mainstream position among many Democrats,” Murphy’s support for benefit cuts is troubling.
At a debate with Allen West in 2012, Murphy said he supported the so-called “grand bargain” that would have averted sequestrations. That’s troubling too.
Yes, we have concerns over Patrick Murphy. Yes, we would like to see Alan Grayson get into the race. Yes, we said both of those things out loud. Oops.
Out slipped the dogs of war:
Celeste Bush, chairwoman of the St. Lucie County Democratic Executive Committee, emailed party leaders across the state advocating to the "de-certification" of the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida, which like other Democratic clubs and caucuses must be reauthorized by party brass every few years. […]
"This action runs counter to our Democratic Party's very existence," she wrote. "We cannot have 'so called' Democrat leaders aggressively attacking an elected Democrat or any Democrat running for office. A Democratic leader is just that -- a leader of Democrats -- not just some Democrats that fit a preconceived notion of what constitutes a Democrat."
We didn’t express our concerns with Patrick Murphy’s record with the aim of creating conflict. All we wanted to do was hold his feet to the fire on the issues that matter most to Democrats. We don’t want a war; we just want a primary and a healthy debate about the direction our party is taking.
To his credit, Murphy’s spokesman later told the Palm Beach Post that, “under no circumstances would [Murphy] ever cut or means-test Social Security benefits or force seniors to pay more, raise the eligibility age, or privatize these important programs.”
Now that we have that settled, we have some more questions for Murphy. Let’s hope the dialogue is a little smoother moving forward. A productive debate would be good for the party, good for Florida and good for the country.