Vote Projections A Democratic Disservice

It’s an all-too-familiar refrain that the American electorate doesn’t always hold up its end of the democratic bargain.

It’s more than susceptibility to pandering and disingenuous campaigning. It’s more than being under-informed about important stuff. It’s more than being “undecided” in elections that feature ideological and temperamental opposites.

It’s, frankly, not voting.  Recall that fewer than one in five registered voters turned out for Hillsborough County primaries recently.

Now there’s this. The online news site Slate has announced that it plans to work with a group of entrepreneurs to project likely results of races for president and U.S. Senate in seven states–including Florida–starting early in the morning of Election Day, Nov. 8. It’s called VoteCastr.

In other words, winners would be projected before some people actually vote. In further words, yet another rationale for part of an already disillusioned or disengaged electorate not to vote. Call it VoteCastration.

And, no, a “projection” is not a synonym for official tabulation, but it’s impactful and typically on the money–unless it’s a “too close to call” situation. There’s a reason that Florida law requires election supervisors to wait until the polls close in their county to publish results. It can have undue influence. That’s why it’s a third-degree felony to release election results early.

Calling winners while voters drive to the polls or wait in line is not felonious. It’s merely a self-serving disservice to voters.

Voting should be about participatory democracy, not some entrepreneurial grasp at media publicity and faux relevance. For the record, Slate’s editor has described VoteCastr’s projection of winners before polls close as a service, one that ends a “news blackout” on voting day. This gives disingenuousness a bad name.

For pertinent insight, there is the take of Pasco County Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley. “I think of three words: “Dewey Defeats Truman,'” says Corley. “People will think, ‘Why should I vote when they’re already calling it?’ Nothing good can come of this.”

Somebody, inevitably, has to be first in the rush-to-inform business. But everybody has to be fair first. Calling winners before everyone has voted is unfair–to the candidates and the democratic process.

Help Wanted On Cuba Connection

Another day, another Cuba-Tampa scenario. From commercial flights to consulate speculation to environmental cooperation anchored by the Florida Aquarium. Now add this: transshipment.

It’s part of the ripple effect of a widened Panama Canal, Cuba’s expanded Port of Mariel and the possibility of off-loading containers to smaller boats to ship cargo to the burgeoning market of central Florida via Port Tampa Bay. It’s hardly incidental–or coincidental–that Tampa’s port recently spent $24 million for two gantry cranes that are part of a gateway-to-central-Florida marketing campaign.

Cuban port leaders are expected to visit Tampa later this year. Next month local maritime officials will travel to Cuba. And President Barack Obama could issue an executive order to facilitate the Mariel-Tampa port connection. Currently ships from any nation that dock in Cuba are prohibited from doing likewise in the U.S. for 180 days.

Maxing out on geography, logistics, economics and history are all in the mix to make a transformative difference for Port Tampa Bay.

But you know what would really help? A closer. The president can sign an order. Delegations can be exchanged. But somebody who’s proactive, a born salesman and the unquestioned political leader of this city with a game-changing port and a strong-mayor system has to step up and make a difference.

In an all-important-hands-on-deck scenario, the missing hand can’t be that of Mayor Bob Buckhorn. But it is. Apparently “This is our time” doesn’t apply to the Tampa-Cuba nexus. Tucker/Hall’s Bill Carlson is more important than the city’s CEO when it comes to Cuba.

And, yes, we know why the mayor prefers his spectator role. Loyalty to friends who suffered from the revolution and those who flew with Brothers to the Rescue. Animus to those who disdain democratic freedoms and devalue political dissent.

But Buckhorn’s first priority should be what’s best for Tampa and all its constituents and all its unrealized potential. Maintaining a personal agenda, to the competitive detriment of his city, in the waning, post-Cold War years of the Castro brothers may still be rationalized and play well in hardliner circles, but it’s blatantly counterproductive in 2016 for Tampa.

Dockery: Ex-GOPster?

Here’s a question I’ve periodically pondered: How is Paula Dockery, the high-profile, former Republican state legislator, still a Republican?

She’s progressive on a litany of issues, a critic of Rick Scott and often uses her column forum to bash Republican mindsets. Most recently she acknowledged that “Democratic voters seem to be more issue-oriented and fact-based. … They care more about the environment, renewable energy, criminal justice reform, universal health care and economic inequality.” Among other traits, Republicans are “less tolerant” and “respond strongly to fear and anger.”

“So why remain a Republican?” I asked. As it turns out, the end may be near.

“This election might be the final straw,” responded Dockery. “I might be an NPA by the end of the year.”

On-Call For Tampa

When the name of Jeff Vinik is mentioned, we naturally think of the Tampa Bay Lightning and the 40-acre, $2 billion, “Vinikville” makeover around Channelside. But under that owner-developer radar, Vinik stays involved, often eclectically, in the community he’s directly invested in.

The most recent Exhibit A: He was part of the five-person team that accompanied USF President Judy Genshaft to Texas to make a pitch for USF joining the Big 12 Conference. No, it’s not in the same league as a relocated medical school, but it matters.

The bottom line: What’s good for USF is good for Tampa is good for those who live, learn and do business here. Call it enlightened self-interest, the best kind.

Sports Shorts

* Saturday’s USF-FSU game at RayJay is huge for USF, a program in resurgence, and would have been even bigger had not FSU embarrassed itself at Louisville last Saturday. Regardless, it’s a statement game for the Bulls, and a win puts USF back in the national rankings.

Needless to say, it helps to be playing at home. Too bad, however, it’s a noon game. A night game would be a bigger home-field advantage. The crowd, fueled on more than gridiron excitement and in-state rivalry, would be larger and a lot louder.

* Rice University has apologized to Baylor University over the Rice band’s half time performance. Among other things, the marching band formed an “IX” on the field. This referred to “Title IX” and the lawsuits filed against Baylor over its mishandling of sexual-assault allegations–most notably against football players. It’s an ongoing issue on too many football-factory campuses–and Baylor disgraced itself.

The wrong school apologized.

* An unsolicited suggestion for the Rays on how to handle the ceremonial farewell of David Ortiz when he comes in with the Red Sox this weekend. He’s a Hall of Fame hitter, but was never a class act like Derek Jeter or Mariano Rivera. So, what would be an appropriate going-away gift? How about a cardboard cut-out of a self-satisfied “Big Papi” watching one of his 30-some Trop home runs after a bat flip that shows up a pitcher? Or one of him slowing down the game further by ritually adjusting his batting gloves after every pitch? There’s a lot of material here.


* “Vladimir Putin is a strong leader in the same way that arsenic is a strong drink. Praising a brutal KGB dictator, especially as preferable to a democratically elected U.S. president, whether you like Obama or hate him, is despicable and dangerous.”–Garry Kasparov, Russian former world chess champion and Putin critic.

* “When U.S. leaders think about negotiating with Russia, they need to be sure their model is John F. Kennedy in the Cuban Missile Crisis, rather than Neville Chamberlain at Munich.”–David Ignatius, New York Times.

* “I understand we’re a young country, we are a restless country. We always like the new shiny thing. I benefited from that when I was a candidate, and we take for granted sometimes what is steady and true. And Hillary Clinton is steady and she is true.”–President Barack Obama.

* “Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy. I finished it. I finished it, you know what I mean? President Barack Obama was born in the United States. Period.”–Donald Trump.

* “Truth has a low priority in the misnomer known as reality TV. Rules are for losers.”–Former Boston Globe editor Martin Nolan.

* “Anything we can do to prevent the (presidential) debate from just being candidates disagreeing with each other, and to push the dialogue onto firmer ground, is a good thing.”–Lucas Graves, author of “Deciding What’s True: The Rise of Political Fact-Checking in American Journalism.”

* “A national disgrace. An international pariah.”–Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, in referring to Donald Trump.

* “On the things that are really big, (Donald Trump) will in some clumsy way force real change.”–Former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

* “I think that (Clinton’s) bodyguards should drop all weapons. Take their guns away. She doesn’t want guns … let’s see what happens to her.”–Donald Trump.

* “Standing up for children has been the work of my life, as a lawyer for the Children’s Defense Fund, as first lady of Arkansas, in the White House.”–Hillary Clinton.

* “All of the concessions that Barack Obama has granted the Castro regime were done with executive order, which means the next president can reverse them. And that is what I will do unless the Castro regime meets our demands.”–Donald Trump.

* “His (Barack Obama) is going to be easily the most valuable presidential memoir ever. And I think Michelle Obama has the opportunity to sell the most valuable First Lady memoir in history.”–Raphael Sagalyn of the ICM/Sagalyn Literacy Agency.

* “Against the candidate perceived to be the most hostile to Hispanic voters in modern presidential politics, why is (Clinton) not exceeding where Barack Obama was?”–Miami Democratic strategist/pollster Fernand Amandi.

* “The administration imagined something transformational; it ended up with something significant but incremental.”–David Brooks, New York Times, on the Affordable Care Act.

* “I think what it shows is, one, the NCAA is capable of doing the right thing. And two, when it wants to, it can act quickly.”–ESPN basketball analyst Jay Bilas, on the NCAA’s decision to pull seven championships out of North Carolina resulting from that state’s law requiring transgender people to use restrooms in schools and state government buildings that correspond to the gender on their birth certificates. The law also excludes gender identity and sexual orientation from statewide antidiscrimination protections.

* “We are unable to find any data that shows arresting youth for common youth misbehavior instead of issuing civil citations is a good idea.”–Dewey Caruthers, author of the “Stepping Up 2016” report by the Children’s Campaign advocacy group.

* “It’s nice to agree on something.”–Charlie Crist, during his debate with David Jolly, in reference to their agreement that St. Petersburg should be the home of a Cuban consulate and the Rays should remain in Pinellas County.

* “Port Tampa Bay is Cuba-ready, and we are open to any legal opportunities.”–Edward Miyagishima, Port Tampa Bay’s vice president of communications.

* “It’s my view that these cameras do act as something of a deterrent. They slow people down. They make people more aware.”–Tampa City Council member Harry Cohen, who voted in the (4-3) majority to keep the city’s red-light camera program for two more years.

* “It’s a fraud. It’s a cash cow for the vendor and a cash cow for the city.”–Tampa City Council member Frank Reddick, who voted in the minority to keep the city’s red-light camera program for two more years.

* “These are promoters in pursuit of profit and they could care less for the health, safety and welfare of attendees.”–Mayor Bob Buckhorn, on the return in 2017 of the Sunset Music Festival, an outdoor concert where two people died of drug overdoses earlier this year.

Candidate Forum Doesn’t Measure Up

Some take-aways from NBC’s Commander-in-Chief Forum.

* I still miss Tim Russert. Sorry, Matt Lauer, but his was not a job for the host of the Today Show. And it showed.

* No forum topic is more important than commander-in-chief/national security. Yet only an hour? That meant a net of 25 minutes apiece per candidate. If this had been a forum on, say, “Campaigning in a Social Media Culture,” that would have been appropriate, but not on the ultimate existential issue.

* If the idea is to help voters compare and contrast, why not ask each candidate the same questions? Nearly a third of Hillary Clinton’s time was spent on the email matter.

* And how the hell do you host a Commander-in-Chief Forum without delving into–or even referencing–NATO or nuclear policy?

* After this disappointing forum, it should be obvious to the Clinton campaign that its candidate can assume nothing about the role and effectiveness of the moderators in the upcoming debates. Even Jim Lehrer underscored that “fact-checking” is not “the function of the moderator.” The onus will be as never before on Clinton to hold Trump accountable for what he actually says and for what he manifestly doesn’t know. I still miss Tim Russert’s follow-ups.

More Media Matters

* Vanity Fair, which is hardly an insider’s political bible, recently arched eyebrows over a  Donald Trump piece. It speculated on what might have been the ultimate motive behind the move by Trump to bring on serial sexual harasser and former Fox puppeteer Roger Ailes. In short, to do more than help out on debate prep. In fact, to actually help implement Trump’s Plan B after Clinton wins the election.

Assuming his vanity campaign would come up short on electoral votes but long on an amped-up, alt-right following, Trump purportedly envisions a new media company. Call it Trump TV. It would take advantage of his brand name, his 11 million Twitter followers and his base of white-supremacists awaiting his next bar-stool rant. And Ailes knows a thing or two about media pandering.

* Prediction: If by some catastrophic stretch Donald Trump becomes president, look for re-newed interest in Sinclair Lewis’ 1935 novel “It Can’t Happen Here” and John Frankenheimer’s 1964 movie “Seven Days in May.” The former looks at an American-dictator scenario; the latter, a military-political cabal.

* It’s hardly happenstance that as “pay for play” scenarios persist, Attorney General Pam Bondi grows increasingly unavailable to Florida journalists. And she has looked less than comfortable with non-Fox national media. Frankly, it appears that she never recovered after being schooled by CNN’s Anderson Cooper, hardly the second coming of Mike Wallace, in the aftermath of the Pulse Nightclub shootings.

* Does anybody but the Tampa Bay Times really care about “Gyrocopter” pilot updates?

* A bumper sticker that’s overdue: “Abort Congress.” Prompted by a Zika bill that couldn’t get passed because of Planned Parenthood politics.

Campaign Pain

All things are relative in politics. The subplots, the polls. Week to week. Day to day. Hillary Clinton’s “deplorables” gaffe–now being compared to Mitt Romney’s “47 percent” zinger–doesn’t look so bad contrasted with the awful optics of a sick woman stumbling into a van.

The “deplorables” remark, while acknowledged by Clinton as “grossly generalistic,” was aimed at the “half” of Trump supporters who are “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic–you name it.” Clinton shouldn’t have said it. It’s not helpful–but it’s not exactly untrue. You couldn’t cull a more off-putting following if you were doing a casting call for Deliverance II. It’s also probably more than half.

As to the health issue, this is all transparent hands on board. The electorate is more understanding of pneumonia than campaign subterfuge–especially for a candidate with trust issues.

Antibiotics can address pneumonia. But they are of no use in combating campaign-staff brain cramps. The release of more medical records is mandatory–yesterday. The public has the right to know, categorically, if Clinton, 68, is healthy enough for the world’s most taxing job. Moreover, it then turns the focus to Trump, 70, the epitome of opaque–from tax returns and detailed health records to specifics for improving the economy, defeating ISIS and paying for “the wall.”