WTF? Florida Democrats getting attention with bad language

Under Nikki Fried, curse words have become a staple in Democratic messaging.

Image by Sam Williams via Pixabay

If you think Nikki Fried is going to let up on her use of bad language, you need to get the you-know-what outta here. 

Fried, chair of the Florida Democratic Party, has steadily incorporated F-bombs into her public vocabulary. It started in April, when she and others were arrested during a protest outside Tallahassee City Hall against the six-week abortion ban passed this session. 

Related column – Bill Cotterell: The unmentionable is now mentionable

Fried was photographed being led away in handcuffs and a shirt that read “Just F**ck!ng Vote.” Before her arrest, she had tweeted the uncensored version, and still has a photo of her being arrested in the shirt as her profile picture.

During the party’s Leadership Blue gala this month, the cuss words continued. A hype video that played at the gala and was posted on social media included the F-word.

In her address, Fried said the party needed to “back Ron DeSantis into a corner and call out his bulls–t.” Moreover, keynote speaker and “West Wing” actor Bradley Whitford said DeSantis “is a f–cking coward.”

The use of swear words isn’t unheard of in political discourse. In fact, their use by political figures nationally, specifically on social media, has been steadily trending upward since 2016.

Nikki Fried speaks with members of the media during her "Something New" bus tour on August 18, 2022 in Gainesville, Florida. (Photo by Gerardo Mora/Getty Images)

Fried told City & State that she’s speaking to the despair and frustration Democrats across the state are feeling after the party’s devastating losses during the 2022 elections. She hopes cursing will call attention to issues she views as devastating to Floridians, like increased abortion restrictions. 

“We're having to fight differently. We're having to show our frustrations and, hopefully, light a fire under not just Democrats but everybody who's living under this regime that is Ron DeSantis’ government,” Fried said.

Republicans see it differently. Republican Party of Florida chair Christian Ziegler said the cursing is because Democrats are desperate to become relevant as Republicans continue to boost their voter registration lead in the state. 

“Weaving in awkward F-bombs throughout their marketing efforts may get some laughs from their radical fan base, but to undecided voters it simply serves as a constant reminder of their insane agenda and just how vile their style of leadership is,” Ziegler said.

The use of profanity, however, may be a way to make inroads with a specific demographic Florida Democrats must court if they are going to turn Florida around: younger voters. 

The use of swear words is most common among Gen-Z (age 24 and younger) and Millennials (those 25-40). Those groups tend to not have negative associations with those words, instead using them for emotional release.

For instance, Fried said she knows Florida’s student population, the second largest outside California, is important for her party to reach. She said they have grown distrustful of politicians as they’ve watched school shootings occur, environmental crises go ignored, abortion rights be stripped and friends in the LGBTQ+ community be targeted

“This generation is angry, and it is incumbent upon the Democrats to make sure that we are finding avenues for their engagement and for them to truly believe that the Democratic Party is where they belong,” she said.

Charles Zelden, a political science professor at Nova Southeastern University, said that making inroads with younger prospective voters should be a priority for Democrats; they are more likely to support their politics than any other age group. 

They are also one of the few groups that have substantial room to increase their political participation. Messaging using curse words could be a way to communicate to those voters in a way they are used to, he said. 

At the same time, Zelden cautions that it could backfire by turning off older voters who bristle when they hear such language. It may be better for Democrats to keep the cursing to social media, he added. 

“If they're using it strategically, it's a good idea. If they're just using it, because ‘Hey, let's curse’, then that could come back to bite them,” Zelden said.