Not much came out of that Fox News Republican gubernatorial debate between U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam besides candidate homage for Donald Trump. But the zinger of the night, which proves you don’t have to be loud and ugly to score points, goes to Putnam. “Welcome to Florida, congressman.”
You can’t blame Rick Scott for running for a U.S. Senate seat as an “outsider.” You can only blame an electorate that would fall for such mislabeling. There’s precedent for the con-jobs governor exceeding expectations.
He’s a two-term governor known for opaqueness, cronyism and veneration of Donald Trump. When not bankrolling himself, he has become a magnet for special-interest cash. He doesn’t drain swamps, he complements them.
Just because Scott remains awkward and poorly spoken doesn’t make him an “outsider.” Any more than walking away from the HCA fraud with (settlement) millions makes him an honest broker. Scott is an unpolished, geeky, opportunist version of all we loathe about insiders. And he could very well win. Again.
* “Gwen and the men.” This will likely end up being a lot more than a throwaway line from that April Democratic gubernatorial debate. Demographics really matter when you are the primary’s only female, one with good name recognition.
* When it comes to LGTBQ rights, we should all be able to agree that this is one of those issues where the right thing is also the $mart thing. In that order.
* Tampa’s mayoral race is “non-partisan,” a welcome anomaly in our polarized politics–even though we still know which side of the spectrum a candidate most identifies with. Having said that, an acknowledged presidential vote for Donald Trump is not incidental or beside the point locally–mainly because Trump is neither incidental nor beside the point. Would that he were that–and not an embarrassing, worrisome, existential threat. David Straz deserves better, but there are no mulligans. The new normal can be brutal.
* Adam Putnam’s gubernatorial campaign is a reminder that a Florida primary can bring out the absolute worst in candidates.
Rick Scott seems increasingly well positioned to buy another political office. His well-financed makeover in his lame-duck year is well underway. But as we know, he wouldn’t succeed if he were matched against an impressive opponent, and he can’t succeed unless he has a lazy, enabling electorate. Scott is Scott. Even his supporters (possibly) recognize what they’re stuck with. There is no deference, but there is (off-year, voter) indifference. He counts on it. Again.
So an appeals court has denied a challenge to a “stand your ground” ruling in the Curtis Reeves theater shooting case. That means a trial is one step closer. It could also mean that we’re one step closer to formally acknowledging the manifestly obvious–even in NRA-venerating “Flori-duh.” What the hell are you doing bringing your gun to the movies?
It was encouraging that the Hillsborough County Commission exercised discretion and adopted a gun-control measure that will extend the waiting period for the purchase of a firearm in the county from three to five days. The usual suspects, from Second Amendment activists to gun-store owners, protested. But to no avail. The Republican-dominated commission passed the proposal, 5-2. The media weighed in with props for the commission for doing the right thing.
Of course, it was the right thing to do. But what it says–even in these post-Parkland, post-Pulse times–is that no more than incremental progress can be expected until there’s more pressure after the next slaughter. How low is this bar of public-safety responsibility for public officials? And keep in mind that Commissioners Ken Hagan and Stacy White still couldn’t belly up to the low-caliber bar of responsible gun control. We’re not there yet. Obviously.
What to make of the proposed Florida gubernatorial ticket of two former U.S. representatives, Democrat Patrick Murphy and Republican David Jolly? One obvious takeaway is that the current crop of Democratic candidates is less than impressive. In an election year that will be more blue than red, even an unprecedented, reddish-blue version could have a “bipartisan” shot in the ultimate swing state.
Graduation day at a major university is a day, if there ever was one, for celebration. A ceremonial forum for exuberance. For a journey successfully concluded and momentum jumpstarted for the next life stage. And everybody has a back story, some more cathartic and empowering than others.
And yet, there was the University of Florida–as embarrassingly seen on prime time network TV and across social media–with a designated “usher” pushing, grabbing and bear-hugging newly-minted grads as they walked–or “strolled”–across the stage. There was concern, apparently, that some graduates were just too exuberantly self aware. A number of black students felt targeted by the de facto bouncer.
This was as shameful as it was stupid. UF, which will now change its practice of “ushering” graduating students, should welcome celebrations, including animated ones, of those who have just earned a degree from a prestigious university.
UF President Ken Fuchs has apologized, and the university will presumably usher in graduation- ceremony changes appropriate for those proudly celebrating a milestone achievement.
Here are four names of those who have contributed, however unwittingly and ironically, to where we unfortunately are now in Florida and the United States.
*Charlie Crist. There would have been no GOP challenge by Rick Scott if the incumbent Republican Florida governor didn’t yield to ambition by stepping down.
* Alex Sink. In an election that was the Dems to lose, she led the loss with an ineffective, uninspiring campaign capped by a debate debacle.
* Bernie Sanders. The best intentions of an admirable avatar of socialistic idealism ultimately yielded liberal disillusionment that morphed into MIA leftist voters who couldn’t abide an establishment candidate.
* Hillary Clinton. Smart, informed, prepared, but flawed candidate. Think Bill Clinton enabler who couldn’t take full advantage of her vile, misogynist opponent. Plus big-money, Wall Street speeches that undermined Democratic-base identification. Plus stupid handling of emails that rallied the opposition and provoked “Lock Her Up” chants among the pitchfork and flambeau deplorables. Plus keeping on Huma Abedin as vice chair of her campaign, which meant keeping the Weinermobile nearby, which led to the final, fatal James Comey email inquiry.
Not fair? Of course not. But life, alas, too often isn’t. In this case, we had good, capable people who deserved better. As, alas, did the majority of us who are still stuck with “Flori-duh” frustration and “MAGA” menace.
When it comes to the issue of felon voting rights, which most states automatically restore after non-violent felons have completed their sentences, “Flori-duh” doubles down on its alt-Reich, Jim Crow-era, “Deliverance”-culture reputation. The state has even appealed the federal judge’s ruling–no, embarrassing rebuke–when he said the state must overhaul its sham system for restoring felons’ voting rights and come up with something that doesn’t reek of discrimination, voter suppression and unconscionable arbitrariness and unfairness. The 26-page appeal motion, in effect, a defense of the indefensible, is not exactly Pam Bondi’s finest hour, and that’s saying a lot for this Trump-supporting attorney general marking time before a return to Fox commentating.
This fundamentally is about fairness and compassion for those who need to be reintegrated into society, but it’s also about enlightened self-interest. Recidivism rates are notably lower when such felons can formally re-enter society and feel as if they belong–and actually matter. If they remain societal outliers and pariahs, nobody benefits. And this state’s population of former felons permanently disenfranchised is 1.5 million. No state has more–nor more to lose if this doesn’t change.
Speaking of change, the state’s best hope for formally and expeditiously restoring rights will be this fall when Amendment 4, which would permit the automatic restoration of rights to most felons, will be on the November ballot. If 60 percent of voters approve, it passes–and we’ll be more Florida than “Flori-duh.”