The closely divided presidential election of 2000 — in which George W. Bush defeated Al Gore by the slimmest of margins in Florida —
forever implanted the divide between red states and blue states in our political consciousness. Since that election, Florida has gone twice for Democratic presidential candidates (Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012) and twice for Republicans (George W. Bush ‘04 and Donald Trump in 2016), pointing to the fact that we are indeed the nation’s premier swing state — even if Democrats have come up on the wrong side of the ledger more often than not in other close contests.
That’s why I think it would be ideal for the Democratic National Committee to choose Miami as the site of its 2020 convention a decision likely made this week. We need to show the country that our party has the energy, activism and organization to deliver our 29 electoral votes in this most critical of elections.
As the country’s third-largest state by population, Florida is the crown jewel in the Electoral College among swing states. Simply put, Trump will not be re-elected if he loses here. In fact, no Republican presidential candidate since Calvin Coolidge has won without winning Florida, and that was almost 100 years ago.
More important, the city of Miami highlights the key issues energizing Democratic voters this primary season. We are at the forefront of the battle against climate change, as residents here deal daily with rising seas and more violent hurricane seasons. And from immigration to education to economic justice, Miami is the perfect backdrop for convention-goers hoping to bring these concerns to the forefront for the American people watching from home.
Politically speaking, Miami-Dade was once a Republican stronghold thanks in large part to older Cuban voters who became more politically influential following the Bay of Pigs invasion. In contrast, Democrats used to rely on votes in North Florida and the Space Coast in an era of much softer partisanship.
But in 2016, Hillary Clinton’s 63 percent in Miami-Dade was the most received by a Democratic presidential candidate since Lyndon Johnson’s 1964 national landslide. At the same time, she got some of the lowest totals in most Panhandle counties in a generation.
This change mirrored similar developments in other large metropolitan areas of the country — where, regardless of location, diverse, urban centers and their close-in suburbs are swinging strongly to the left as smaller, more rural enclaves veer more to the right. Democrats should undoubtedly fight for votes in every corner of Florida and the nation, but by hosting the party’s convention in Miami, the signal would be loud and clear: We are the party of the present and the future.
Florida has been home to several conventions in the past, including the 2012 Republican gathering in which Clint Eastwood argued with a chair onstage. But thanks to Trump’s impact on the political calendar, that was essentially several lifetimes ago — as distant from our memories as “Read my lips!” And “I paid for that microphone!” Democrats nationally need a reset for this political moment, and Florida — home to a diverse population of Latinos, African Americans, seniors, youth, and suburbanites — is the perfect place.
The DNC is making it decision this week, and the reported final selection cities are Miami, Milwaukee and Houston. All three cities and their respective states could be key to a Democrat winning the White House in 2020. But given our sheer size and scope, Florida Democrats have the most to prove. After losing key statewide races in November by the narrowest of margins yet again, the attention and investment will be the shot in the arm we need. Democrats should not cede anything in this election, but it all starts with winning Florida.
I hope national leaders feel the same way.
Patrick Murphy represented Florida’s 18th district in Congress from 2013-2017 and was the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate in 2016. He is currently a senior fellow at Florida International University in Miami.