The next Big Election Day in Florida, as in most of America, is still a year away. On November 2nd, 2010, voters will have the opportunity to rid themselves of an awful lot of public office-holding dead weight -- as in the kind that drags down a state -- starting with but in no way limited to Governor Charlie Crist, his hand-picked lackey of a fill-in U.S. Senator, George Lemieux, and Attorney General Bill McCollum.
On 11/2/10, Floridians will get a chance to elect Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink as our next governor, U.S. Congressman Kendrick Meek as our new United States Senator, and one of two fine State Senators, Dave Aaronberg or Dan Gelber, as our top law enforcement officer.
Take a close look at these talented, true public servants, visit their websites, read their positions on the issues and compare the talk they talk with the walk they walk -- as opposed to their Republican counterparts currently holding or seeking to inherit the offices in question.
What I think you'll find if you take a closer look, is that there is a vast and growing credibility gap between the way that top office-holders and candidates of the two major parties, in Florida and nationwide, are talking, acting, and taking action about the key issues of our time: Unemployment, Lagging Recession, Health Care Reform, Tax & Insurance Policy, Education Reform, Energy Policy, and Environmental Protection.
I wouldn't begin to suggest that all Democrats have credibility, or that Democrats have all the answers, or that only Democrats come up with good ideas. But I would indeed suggest that there is proof in the counter-productive pudding that passes for the Florida Republican Party's attempts to remedy the ills that ail us -- proof that the Sunshine State GOP has followed the national trend and become primarily the "Party Of No".
Rather than developing and advancing credible, viable initiatives that may actually meet the critical challenges facing the struggling middle class, the working poor, the unemployed, and retirees on fixed incomes, Florida Republican politicians are almost all content to follow a simplistic, destructive two-play playbook.
Play #1: Rile up and activate folks who are already under-informed, anxious and angry about the way things are going. Do this by attacking and blocking any and all Democratic efforts to achieve meaningful reforms that reverse the damage done by Republicans in recent years. It's all about inciting and exploiting fear: fear of taxation, of government, of liberals, of intellectuals, of Gays & Lesbians, of immigrants -- and of our first African-American President. Perhaps, in addition to calling them the Party Of No, we should be calling them The Party Of "Boo!"
Play #2: Develop and advance alternative "reform" initiatives in coordination with Big Business, special interests and lobbyists, and sell them as "private sector" and "free market" solutions to our problems. And don't forget to design these initiatives in ways that either doom them to ineffectiveness and failure, or that help and protect special interests far more than the average Floridian. For just a couple of many examples, see Governor Crist's Cover Florida healthcare program, or Attorney General McCollum's "enforcement" of (and the state party's "adherence" to) The Sunshine Law, which is supposed to promote "open government" in Florida.
Given the grave nature of the problems plaguing our state and nation, it is at the very least unseemly, if not downright disloyal for politicians to engage in such destructive partisan politics. And I know that there are the occasional Democrats who engage in the same behavior. But they usually end up paying the political price, exposed and ostracized -- not praised and elevated, as is the case with Republicans in this current political climate.
In order to truly be free of elected officials like these, voters throughout Florida who "get it" are going to have pull out all the stops for the next year, reaching all across this enormous state to enlighten and enlist the active support of those who still don't get it -- those who continue to vote against their own interests, or who are so alienated from the process that they don't vote at all.
Also, keep in mind that the problems we've had for so many years in making real progress in Florida have much to do with the self & special interest-serving, Republican-dominated state legislature.
This means that in order to make real progress, Democratic candidates for the legislature in 2010 must get financial and volunteer support on a level unparalleled in recent history. Solid, public-spirited citizens must come forward in every single community where there is not yet a good Democratic candidate, and consider running for office -- or help to find someone worthy who will.
I don't pretend to have all the answers, but it's pretty clear that we must first reverse the vast advantage that Republicans hold in our state legislature in order to begin turning things around in Florida.
Towards that end, we need to put an end to the gerrymandered legislative districts that keep incumbent Republicans in power, by passing the critically important Fair Districts Florida Amendment that will be on the 2010 ballot. Look into it, and stay tuned for a future column focusing exclusively on this crucial effort. If passed, it can help turn the tide in future elections -- but not in 2010.
On November 2nd, 2010, we're all going to have to do it the old-fashioned way.
Just as Howard Dean got the Democrats to finally see the light and use a "50-state strategy" to win the Presidency, so must concerned Floridians now take a deep breath and get ready to fight "tooth and nail" to win in every nook, cranny and corner of this incredibly diverse and difficult electoral challenge of a state.
The bell has rung. One year to go. Yes, We Can.