As an indicator of how much traction the state Democratic Party lost with Hispanic voters last year, the party leadership has announced it will launch a statewide Spanish language radio program. The rollout will begin in the Miami market this weekend.
While the 2018 elections were a boon for the Democratic Party nationwide, leading to the takeover of the House in D.C., here in Florida it was a different story. Democrats earned a number of advances in typical midterm opposition-party fashion, but in Tallahassee the GOP actually acquired more influence, albeit slight, and now have both senatorial seats occupied by Republicans for the first time since the 1800s.
Part of the reason for this was the amount of support GOP candidates received from Latinos. For years there has been an expected windfall for the Democrats from this demographic, due mostly to the influx of Puerto Rican residents over the years. However, the new arrivals have proven not to be the automatic supporters of one party. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott were energetic in demonstrating support for the island and the people in the wake of the devastating hurricane, and it led to a significant amount of support.
As a result, the Florida Democrats are working to regain a foothold with this ethnic group. “We learned our lesson,” said Luisana Pérez Fernández, Hispanic media press secretary for the state party. Following the Miami debut on AM Spanish language Actualidad Radio, the party hopes to have its program broadcast in other Hispanic-rich markets. Future plans are for it to play in Tampa and Orlando.
There is not only a statewide office-aim for the programming, but also the larger geopolitical influences that affect the region. Cuban and Venezuelan news is going to be addressed, as well as the ever-contentious issue of immigration. The timing of the radio rollout is to coincide, of course, with the upcoming 2020 election cycle, where these issues will figure prominently.
As an indication of how skewed the content may be, Pérez Fernández has already displayed a desire to misrepresent the issues, even before they have taken to the airwaves. “We have seen how Republicans are talking about Venezuelans and at same time those who are here are filing for asylum and are at risk of deportation,” said the party representative. This is a blatant misrepresentation of the laws that call for that type of action only on those immigrants not properly registered.
As influential as this new project is hoped to be, the scope and reach -- for the time being -- appears modest, to put it gently. This is not a broad radio network but a brief, 30-minute show entitled "Democracia al día" that may be syndicated to various stations across the state.
By the party leaders' own measure, this looks like a costly outlay for limited reach. The state Democratic Party is ponying up $80,000 to launch the radio endeavor. As they have stated, the expected reach is “potentially” 6,000 listeners. The cost effectiveness for such a small-audience sample size remains to be seen, to say nothing of having enough time to build up a sizable enough listenership to impact next year’s election cycle.
Brad Slager, a Fort Lauderdale freelance writer, wrote this story exclusively for Sunshine State News. He writes on politics and the industry and his stories appear in such publications as RedState and The Federalist.