Already 2018 has been a shitshow for Duval County's two political parties.
The latest lowlight: Last week's revelations that Duval Democrats' Committeeman John Parker was under investigation by the Florida Democratic Party for comments at a January dinner (such as the use of "colored people" in conversation) that were described by some observers as racist and other observers as mere verbal gaffes being exploited for political purposes.
The incident presents a mortal threat to the party as currently led, complete with the local party Chair Lisa King—Parker's wife—saying he should have resigned.
James Morton, a member of the Duval Democratic Black Caucus and the Democratic Black Caucus of Florida, was "mortified by comments from State Committeeman John Parker about 'coloreds' and 'sh*t being f*cked up after integration'" after that dinner.
One issue (possibly concerning in itself): not everyone at the dinner saw it the same way or heard the same words.
While City Council candidate Diallo-Sekou Seabrooks said Parker's words showed "blatant disregard for African Americans in his misnomer of classifications as 'colored.'" Seabrooks said it further showed further disdain for integration, which, as he reportedly put it on the night in question, was "when things really got f*cked up."
Yet others (speaking off the record) heard different words.
Here's one such dissent: "He made his 'colored people comment' and in the moment I knew he misspoke and meant 'people of color' ... He didn't say things 'got f*cked up after integration,' just that 'sh*t got real after integration.'"
That same attendee claimed Parker had apologized to the offended parties. For what that's worth.
Another attendee at the dinner saw it differently. This party's take is that the controversy is a) overblown and b) being exploited by King's enemies.
"Certain people within the Democratic Party are blowing it up for their own means. And it's been grabbed up by the right to distract from the push on City Hall.... It's so much damage for the party and we basically sent a fruit basket to Lenny Curry's office."
That "fruit basket" comes at a time when King and Duval Democrats are pushing back against the JEA sale push.
King is now fighting a two-front war: an insurrection in her own party, and a Texas Death Match with Team Curry. Most everyone wonders why Parker didn't simply step down before now. And there is a lot of pressure on King to do the same, though she won't (at least yet).
Meanwhile, African-American elected officials-such as state Sen. Audrey Gibson-tried to work toward an improbable rapprochement.
"I just think he used the term ['colored people'] because it was something he was used to using. He might be stuck in time," Gibson said, in words that are hardly a ringing endorsement-though she stopped short of calling for King and/or Parker to resign.
State Rep. Tracie Davis likewise didn't condemn Parker out of hand, though her reaction was that of being perplexed at the sad spectacle that makes the party look divided.
Davis, when asked if there were divisions in the party, said, "It can have that impression. I honestly don't want to feel like that's a division. Here we are in 2018, I don't want the term that was used to be considered negative."
"Whatever the situation is, it needs to be handled quickly," Davis advised.
As jacked up as the Dems are headed into a year that includes 2018 state elections, a U.S. Senate race, and 2019 local ballots, the GOP has its own issues.
The latest example: Local GOP Chair Karyn Morton called for King and Parker to resign, as if her own party didn't almost blow up a few years back for some similar issues.
Almost out of space, but it bears mentioning in the interest of equal time how jacked up the local GOP is. Morton has a jihad of her own; she recently tried to purge Florida Federation of Young Republicans Chair Robbie Foster, who is the sole non-geriatric left in the building, from the local party.
She wanted him voted off the executive committee, which means he loses access to the Matlock DVDs. Yet she couldn't whip the votes. So, sources say, Foster is "on probation."
That's the cruelest cut of all; it means he still has to show up to those meetings.
While the jokes write themselves with these parties, what's not so funny is the straight line between sloppy politics and sloppy policy, abetted by two political parties sabotaging themselves with rank, avoidable stupidity.
The ultimate beneficiaries of this are the power brokers who continue to run and own Jacksonville. Deals get cut, and these twin ouroboros that are our local political parties are out of the game.
And yet some folks wonder why smart pols bypass the parties and run campaigns with their own political machines.
UPDATE: After this issue went to press, John Parker tendered his resignation as state committeeman and DNC member.