Fumbling On The Goal Line…

Darnell Roberts
6 min readDec 27, 2018

We had it… We really did. I had my Touchdown Celebration ready. I had my dancing shoes polished so well you could see my reflection in them. I’m speaking metaphorically, of course, but anyone with a pulse who paid attention in the State of Florida during the General Election for Governor knew that Andrew Gillum was gonna win. Right?

Correct. Just take a look at any of the candidate debates, Gillum outclassed and outfoxed DeSantis in a way that catapulted him into orbit as the new rising star of the Democratic Party.

Andrew Gillum had the momentum of a runaway locomotive, barrelling down the tracks to a glorious victory, sporting a comfortable lead in every major poll leading up to Election Day, flashing those pearly whites on MSNBC to authenticate his meteoric rise to savant and savior of the State of Florida.

And on November 6th, as the clock stroked twelve midnight, many of the faces at the “Victory Party” in Miami Gardens that were filled with utopia had turned to utter dejection.

But how did we get there? Moreover, how did we lose?

We lost the momentum. We fell victim to an inadequate use of funds, untimely interceptions and the ineptitude of the “coordinated” efforts of the Florida Democratic Party.

Imagine you’re taking the field to play in the Championship Game. You look to the stands, and there’s no one there. There are no cheerleaders and no fans wearing your team colors. No band playing your fight song and no jerseys on display.

That’s what it feels like when you don’t see enough yard signs or t-shirts in your neighborhood.

That’s what it feels like when you go to early vote and there’s no Gillum presence at your poll site, especially on your home turf. Miami-Dade and Broward Counties are the Democrats Home Turf. But what about Collier County, Lee County or the other 65 Counties in Florida who were severely deprived of materials for far too long. There was a constant lack of resources, tangible or otherwise, on the ground until President Obama came to town in Late October. Suddenly 5,000 t-shirts showed up and everyone was elated, volunteers and staffers alike. I doubt those shirts came off the printing press that morning, so what warehouse were they stored in and why did it take so long to receive them?

Do yard signs, bumper stickers and wrist bands win elections? Not alone they don’t. But it does show the momentum and name recognition of the candidate, which is particularly important for someone running a grassroots campaign without an oversaturation of major TV ad buys and bulk mail.

The brunt of momentum loss was felt at the onset of the Early Voting Period in mid October. We kept getting reports of no Gillum signs nor Gillum shirts at poll sites, the worst of the reporting coming from deep South Dade, even in Richmond Heights, Mayor Gillum’s Home Town. We were woefully underrepresented in every nook and cranny of the large swaths of the Black community south of Coral Gables. Florida City and Homestead, in particular, were virtually ignored much to the detriment of our base. Looking at the voting numbers now is grotesquely painful, and the subsequent margin of defeat, we simply needed a greater ground presence in predominately black and brown communities in those areas.

What was the company line you ask? Here it is, “just focus on your area, we have that area covered by other organizations”.

Newsflash: They weren’t covered…

That’s not to say we didn’t have support. We did. And our allies bought it, literally and figuratively. With digital, yes, somewhat. On the airwaves, yes, in English. But on the ground, not nearly enough.

Andrew Gillum is the leader of a new breed of progressive politicians who are sweeping the nation with their forward thinking pragmatism. Gillum is cerebral yet compassionate, mild mannered yet meticulously sharp on the issues. He is at his apex when he displays his oratorical skills, the likes of which give us Obama vibes all over again. He is culturally adaptive enough to speak to a broader coalition of white and progressive voters yet be able govern effectively with policies that can help transform lives in our most underserved communities as this country changes right before our very eyes.

He seemed infallible. He had the Primary Posse. He deserved better, later. He deserved a better ground force capable of getting out the vote in the same Democratic strongholds that carried Obama to victory, twice.

But unlike Obama, there was no OFA. I was lucky enough to be part of Obama For America back in 2012. We were a rambunctious group of volunteers and supporters who were highly trained and indoctrinated with the Obama model of organizing taught by folks like Jeremy Bird, Jim Messina, David Plouffe and Marlon Marshall, to name a few. We were taught to believe in the power of people. We were taught to train volunteers and turn them into volunteer leaders. Obama built his OWN army of street soldiers without being indebted nor dependent on the Party to staff his operation. He built his team from the “ground” up. And, it should be said, he didn’t do it by luring high priced free agents from other teams, but I digress, that will be discussed in another episode.

In essence, we lost that palpable momentum that was at an all time high after the victory on Primary Night. Oh what a night! But then we lost 34 days from August 29th to October 1st. Thirty Four! It took wayyyyyyy to long for the campaign to get up to speed for the General Election, against a “hit dog that hollered” too much and a Republican Machine that has been winning for 24 years in the race to occupy the Governors Mansion in Florida.

So what is this proverbial goal line I speak of? That was our own version of the October Surprise. The last 3 weeks of the campaign should have been geared to chase Vote-By-Mail Ballots and create energy at Early Vote Sites.

In communities of color, there seems to be an “Entertainment Quotient” attached to activism. If you want black and brown folks to show up, then you have to make it fun and/or exciting. Believe it or not, party at the polls is a thing! If you haven’t figured it out yet, there is an 8 letter word that starts with “m”, and that’s what we were missing until we ran out of time.

Instead, we waited until the very bitter end to show our might. All that Star Power the last week of the campaign was like a 5 hour energy drink! We were streaking down sidelines ready to crown our new King (and Chris King too!). And yet, we fumbled it away in an upset of epic proportions. There is no way possible the Ron DeSantis should be beat Andrew Gillum in anything. No politics, not Monopoly, not a Lip Sync Battle, not a foot race, nothing. And yet, here we are…

I hope the next time whoever emerges as a candidate on a Statewide race on Florida, I certainly hope they staff up on the field first before they bring in consultants and pollsters. Those are the same folks who blame the field for losses, all the while updating their resumes for the next election cycle.

It sure hurts to see the other team celebrating. In this scenario, not only did we fumble, but the other team recovered it and returned it 100 yards the other way for a score…



Darnell Roberts

New York Made, Miami Paid. I used to work for Wall Street, now I work for All Streets. Twitter: @mridontsleep