Active Shooter Overkill

As we’ve been reminded recently, when the Florida Legislature drafted new laws to make schools safer, it included a requirement for schools to hold active shooter drills. But it didn’t specify how many. Presumably common sense would carry the day in each county.

Well, that doesn’t seem to apply to Pinellas County, which will have active assailant drills monthly–or 10 times this year. A number of parents have complained. That many drills, they worry, will more likely reinforce fear than expedite a safety precaution. Can only imagine how Pinellas County handled the duck-and-cover school drills during the Cold War nuclear crisis.

Statewide Signs

* For the first time since Florida became a swing state, more vote by mail ballots are being sent to Democrats than to Republicans this year. The change can be seen as a savvy sign of party enthusiasm–and the results of field efforts that placed a priority on VBM requests. It’s also a reminder of a principle that has to be in play: When Democrats vote, Democrats win. MAGA memes notwithstanding.

* Amid notably improved Democratic prospects, the statewide bottom line is still this: The only way Rick Scott wins the senate race is by replicating how he won his previous gubernatorial races. That is, spend a lot of money, robotically repeat a con-jobs mantra about the economy–and then count on an uninspiring opponent and an uninspired, off-year, Democratic base. In short, he can’t win without Democratic complicity.

For All Of Us

When it comes to Amendment 4, which needs 60 percent voter approval to pass, let’s make this as appealing as we can. This is not just about ex-felons who have met all the terms and conditions of their sentencing. This is about ALL OF US. The recidivism rate for ex-felons who remain disenfranchised is dramatically higher than for those who have had their rights restored. And right now, those disenfranchised ex-felons number about 1.7 million. Moreover, minorities are disproportionately impacted.

This is in everyone’s self-interest, because society at large is inevitably and adversely impacted. I’m tempted to say “enlightened self-interest,” but the usual right-wing opposition would probably deride that as “elitist.”

It’s also fiscally smart. Since ex-felons who have been reintegrated into society are much less likely to re-enter the criminal justice system, the money saved is no pittance. In fact, the Washington Economic Group has estimated the savings at more than $300 million. There’s also an obvious upside to ex-felons’ increased job earnings and taxes paid.

Last–but only for pragmatic, referendum-passage purposes–is that Amendment 4 embodies what is simply fair to those–excluding those convicted of sexual and/or violent crimes–who deserve to be reinstated into society. It’s only fair to those who have fulfilled their end of the sentencing obligation to get a second chance. And it’s only fair to the rest of us too.

Nelson Ads

Sen. Bill Nelson doesn’t have the resources that Gov. Rick Scott does in their senatorial race. But Nelson just spent wisely on two 30-second ads. One uses video of Scott mouthing one of his mantras: “Results speak for themselves.” They are juxtaposed to graphics and a voiceover underscoring issues ranging from health-coverage denials and education cuts to the toxic algae crisis and portfolio self-interest while in office. The “one’s own words” approach is never bad political strategy.

The other ad reinforces the political axiom that a candidate shouldn’t go solely negative, even if said candidate doesn’t have a high-profile, high-accomplishment congressional track record. This one references Nelson’s space flight from back in the day–a reality that a good chunk of this electorate is surely clueless about. Nelson reflects on his literal view of America from space. “I look back at Earth. I didn’t see religious divisions. I didn’t see political divisions. I didn’t see racial divisions. What I saw is we’re all in this together. If we just remembered that, we’d get a lot more done.”

Vintage DeSantis

Amid all the issues impacting this state–from coastal environment concerns, public education funding and health care priorities to assault-weapon bans, improved mass transit and a Florida-first approach to Cuba–we get a self-serving head’s up from Rick DeSantis that we need to be on the alert for anti-Israel bias in school textbooks. Even Boca Raton residents will see right through this.

“Flori-duh” To “Flori-did it!”

Maybe we won’t be “Flori-duh” this time.

It’s a lot more than “Stand Your Ground,” climate-change denial and an unenlightened approach to Cuba. “Flori-duh” is also the swing state carried by Donald Trump that allowed Ron DeSantis to “monkey up” the process. And it’s the state known for two terms of the awkward, con-jobs Governor Rick Scott–whose off-year elections were facilitated by moderate, charisma-challenged Democratic opponents and embarrassingly low voter turnouts. It has all helped reinforce Florida as red-leaning, self-defeating and clueless.

But now “Flori-duh” could become “Flori-did it!”

The nation’s media–and the Democratic National Committee and a number of wealthy activists–are taking another, longer look. Florida could become a swing-state, blue microcosm of what we might see in November. It’s all because Andrew Gillum, 39, the unapologetically progressive, African-American mayor of Tallahassee, will be the Democratic standard-bearer against the Trump-channeling DeSantis, R-Fox News.

So much for the Dems playing it safe with a centrist candidate. So much for worrying about “socialist” labels or a Bernie Sanders nexus. The Gillum campaign will not be tacking to the post-primary middle. It will double down on a liberal agenda that shows serious signs of energizing a base too used to uninspiring compromise.

“We don’t have to run this campaign as ‘Republican Lite’ to win,” affirmed Gillum.

The primary turnout underscored the upward trend: The 1.46 million Democratic votes were 650,000 more than 2014, a 70 percent increase. And among those helped by a bigger-than-usual turnout: uninspiring incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson. The Dems need to retain him to keep hope alive for the U.S. Senate. So, there’s plenty of incentive for the Democratic Party and mainstream media to nationalize Florida in the fall.

And it helps that DeSantis, now out of the Fox cocoon, might further gin up the Democratic base with his cult fealty to Trump and viscerally turn off independents with unforced errors such as racist dog whistling to the president’s base. Speaking of DeSantis’ “monkey it up” reference, “Morning Joe” host Joe Scarborough thinks it’s been understated. The former Florida Republican congressman said it wasn’t so much a “dog whistle,” but more like a “screaming, 80-foot flashing neon sign.” That’s a “dangerous curve ahead” if you’re Republicans.

Gillum is now a de facto national player and won’t have to concede network coverage to the Fox-co-opted DeSantis.

One note of particular interest–and maybe concern–was that recent Orlando Democratic rally and show of solidarity: The only no-show, gubernatorial candidate was Jeff Greene. He spent a ton of money to finish next-to-last among five candidates. He said if he had won, he would spend big on the rest of the ticket. But he didn’t come close. Will he $tep up anyhow or go back to mogul status and grumbling about Trump at Mar-a-Lago? Everything matters for “Flori-did it!”

A Civics Amendment

Unless you’re a fan of the Constitutional Revision Commission and all things chartered, you likely have issues with the CRC’s Amendment 8. Lost in the controversial legal weeds of that misleadingly-bundled Amendment proposal is the relatively ignored component that would require civics to be taught in the schools. Civics, however, can’t be an Amendment afterthought; nor can it be an inducement to get voters to go along with charter school schemes.

This should stand on its own. It’s that critical.

But this can’t be old-school civics, with a focus on knowing the difference between senators and representatives and what the definition of the Electoral College is. No, this would have to be a re-worked hybrid.

One part should pragmatically focus, for example, on subjects such as how local, state and federal governments actually work in the real world; what constitutes voter eligibility; what the implications of gerrymandering are; and what the consequences are of not voting or not being familiar enough with issues and candidates to cast an informed vote.

The other part is the role of media–social to mainstream–in this contemporary American democracy with its evolving technology and demographics. An understanding of media and how it can inform as well as manipulate is necessary to prepare 21st century young Americans to meaningfully participate in their self-government. If the cyberattacked election of 2016 is to be a teachable moment, we have to teach and promote media awareness and savvy in our schools. Outsourcing ideology and cherry-picking media that validates is counterproductive if the goal is retaining a viable democracy.

Party Partner

We all get the pragmatic side of politics. As in, don’t unnecessarily alienate Republican Gov. Rick Scott, no matter how unconscionably repugnant, because he’s still in a position to help out. Democratic Mayor Bob Buckhorn has understandably played that card.

But this isn’t reason enough to rationalize the Tampa Bay Partnership coordinating a ($2,500-per-person) fundraiser in late September for the State Senate Campaign Committee of the Republican Party of Florida. And TBP has done it before.

And it’s problematic not just because TBP’s members are not all GOP affiliated. This fundraiser is about helping to keep a Republican Senate majority, thus assuring that the next two Senate presidents will come from this region. Not a good enough reason.

The bottom line: If it’s a Rick Scott fait accompli, then make the best of it. But stop short of actually helping the Republican Party keep its ideological hold on Tallahassee power. TBP should get its fund-raising mitts off the electoral scale and do what’s best for all Floridians in the long run. Sure, be partisanly helpful to the Tampa Bay region, but not at the expense of helping keep this state in the right-wing clutches of the Republican Party.

Gathering For Gillum

It was a feel-good moment for local progressives. Bernie Sanders’ Tampa rally for Andrew Gillum provided an emotional outlet for Gillum-gubernatorial supporters who know his candidacy needs help. But as previously noted in this space, let’s let 2016 serve as a gob- smacking, teachable moment as we head ultimately to November’s general election and the prospects for better than a blue wavelet.

In 2016, too many enthusiastic Bernie supporters, piqued that Hillary Clinton became their party’s presidential candidate, consequently sat out the general election. Ideals dashed, they couldn’t compromise. But compromise is not cause betrayal for the country. As if Clinton could somehow have been equated with Donald Trump as an existential threat to the United States.

That can’t happen again. There’s nothing wrong with holding out for one’s principles. But there’s plenty wrong with a Democratic temper tantrum that can wind up enabling a worst-case scenario. Whether it’s President Donald Trump or Gov. Ron DeSantis.