“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.

Gubernatorial Subplots

  • If you’re Ron DeSantis and you’ve just had Donald Trump campaigning with you, how do you top that? Well, you don’t, but you’d gladly settle for a three-stop Florida campaign tour with Ohio Congressman Jim Jordan, founder of the Freedom Caucus and a prime candidate for Speaker of the House. And as for Jordan being embroiled in that controversy about whether he knew about sexual abuse of Ohio State wrestlers by a team doctor when he was an OSU coach, well, that’s probably “fake news.”
  • A Gwen Graham-Bob Buckhorn ticket? The I-4 vote is still critically important and the pragmatic, pro-business, progressive Democratic mayor of a resurgent hub city in a major market could certainly help, but Buckhorn as a LIEUTENANT governor? Hizzoner could likely help get the Democratic and independent vote out and, if successful, help change Tallahassee’s GOP-skewed, political dynamics. But he might just want a reward better than a political-career dead end.
  • “The Seinfeld candidate.” That’s Adam Putnam’s characterization of Ron DeSantis, who has been, points out Putnam, running a campaign “about nothing.” Good line, Adam, but nothing neutralizes “proud NRA sellout.”

SYG Update

First the good news. Finally, an arrest was made in the fatal Clearwater parking lot shooting that made national news as everyone was reminded again that “Flori-duh” still has its common-sense-defying, gun-culture-venerating “Stand Your Ground” law.

The bad news: the Florida Legislature rejected calls for a special session to re-evaluate SYG. It was, of course, along party lines. Senate District 18 was a microcosm. The Democratic candidate, Rep. Janet Cruz, was in favor of the special session; Republican Sen. Dana Young was not. To be sure, that’s not the last we’ll hear on this issue.

SYG Timing

Timing, we are constantly being reminded, can be everything.

For most of those involved in a “Stand Your Ground” defense involving a fatality, for example, how fortuitous was it that they just so happened to have had a gun handy when some dispute, including one provoked by would-be defendants, escalates into a deadly, tragic confrontation.

This is what you get—most recently in that Clearwater convenience store parking lot–when a perilous gun culture meets the law of unintended consequences.

Courting Waldo Vote?

Amid all the controversy over how Adam Putnam’s Department of Agriculture has handled gun permit applications, is a facet that hasn’t received much notoriety. It’s not just negligent screening of those applying for concealed weapon permits, but it’s also an apparent quota system for approvals. As in more is somehow better for the “Gunshine State.” As in analogous to municipal speed traps.

Perhaps Putnam, the “proud NRA sellout” who’s been running for governor since middle school, wanted to lock up the Waldo vote as early as possible.

Sobering Reality

As Florida’s Democratic gubernatorial primary ratchets up in rhetoric, fundraising and targeted appeals, there’s a sobering reality that can—and has been–determinative. Not that many Dems turn out to vote in non-presidential years. And the costs, of course, can be catastrophic. It’s a big part of why a state can go for both Rick Scott and Barack Obama. The most recent numbers—from the 2014 midterms—are as embarrassing as they are worrisome. Fewer than one in five Dems bothered to vote.

Hopefully the past will no longer be predictably prologue for a democracy and a Democratic Party under siege.