On Nuking Florida
[This post was written in coordination and solidarity with close friends and colleagues as we begin our respective blogging projects. The brilliant @thelitcritguy has discussed the false securities of post-election normality at thehaunt.blog]
Anyone in Florida with an internet connection has seen this particular post-election mimetic ritual. Bugs Bunny saws along the Florida-Georgia line, casting the Sunshine State out into the Atlantic; the death star, a fictional machine constructed for the destruction of entire planets, sets its sights on Florida in one last act of retribution; some variation on the above constructed into what I now call a ‘nuke Florida’ tweet, a biennial tradition where the internet decides that Florida and all the people who live here are so irredeemable that the only solution is complete destruction. Lovely.
After almost 30 years in the state (about 90 percent of my life), I’ve developed a special level of contempt and disdain for this type of tweet. The lack of originality and casual contempt for the third most populous state in the US are easy enough to ignore, but this year the ceremonial ritual of online, predominately liberal posters (and the Daily Show) reinforces a narrow and static popular understanding of Florida (along with many, many other states in the south), this tired and obnoxious phenomenon is enough to induce a chronic nosebleed.
Last week’s iteration of this generative posting tradition focused on the shock that racial minorities in south Florida are not perfectly homogenized, static groups. Miami Cubans became a sudden, unanticipated problem in need of postmortem diagnosis when polling has shown Biden struggling with South Florida voters (about 70 percent of registered republicans in Miami-Dade County ID as Hispanic).
It seems some context is needed and having now sufficiently composed myself, I wanted to take a moment and discuss some reasons why Democrats have not controlled a single chamber of the state legislature since 1996.
The Florida Democratic Party is a Terrible Organization and Here’s Why
Florida lives up to its swing-state reputation during election years but has been governed by a Republican trifecta for 22 years (frequently obtaining a ⅔ veto-less super majority in the FL House of Representatives). Bush and Florida Republicans also spent time weakening constraints on regulations for political campaign contributions and priming the state for the coffers of unfettered capitalism to fly open and cover Florida with a stead stream of corporate special interests. No political party has attempted to compile a multi-generational working class movement to combat this; they have instead capitulated time and again toward these special interests. Giant corporations are the true arbiters of this state.
Florida has the highest rate of voter disenfranchisement in the US, stemming directly from a constitutional provision passed in 1869 that institutes a lifetime ban on voting for anyone with a felony conviction on their criminal record. The ban can be appealed after a 5-7 year waiting period, after which one can make a written appeal to the clemency board every two years, the only powers by which a ban may be overturned. Florida’s incarceration rate has skyrocketed under both Democrats and Republicans over the past forty years; we currently have a higher incarceration rate than every founding NATO country (including the United States) and a prison population that is forty-five percent black (who make up sixteen percent of Florida’s population).
This is barely a snapshot of the barriers raised in front of working people in Florida and itself only part of the necessary context for describing the overall fecklessness, incompetence, and corruption of Florida Democratic Party leadership. Democrats’ historical attempts to appeal to working class voters have been at best profoundly unremarkable and at worst seemingly self-destructive. Recent bizarre and infuriating situations include members of leadership and others connected to the centers of party power (including a Clinton White House alum) hamstringing the Dream Defenders attempt to ban political donations from private prison corporations and affiliated PACs, requesting federal covid-19 relief money and then misappropriating it, lobby so many times on behalf of a former police chief and potential Vice Presidential candidate with an extremely questionable record while eruptions against police brutality spread across the country, elected various colorful party chairs and directors including a billionaire real estate developer and former DNC finance chair who quickly resigned after workplace sexual harassment allegations (which have since intensified) and a political operative who had never lived here and ran campaigns in a state where 0.5% of residents are black.
After brutal losses around the state, moderate Democrats shed crocodile tears and insist on their losing strategy of capitulating to right-wing reactionary tactical red baiting instead of exploring the reasons their platform fails to register, activate, and/or turnout voters; the reason their campaigns failed to combat Republican messaging. Rather than make a better case for their candidacies, moderate democrats join the chorus of GOP voices denouncing the dictatorial nightmare of mild social democratic reforms embraced by progressives in their own party. The Green New Deal, student debt forgiveness, and Medicare for All are irredeemably toxic issues and should be excised from the party’s vocabulary in favor of the strategies and platforms favored by the center, i.e.:
a former DC bureaucrat/career Veteran/non-profit manager/etc. and/or lawyer/business owner runs for congress on a platform of protecting the Affordable Care Act, supporting public schools, and a mishmash of environmental protections.
In an incredibly important election year, the Florida Democrats (and Biden campaign) blatantly ignored the warnings of grassroots activists, failed to aggressively and forcefully campaign in favor of a ballot initiative to institute wage increases (the only statewide elected Democrat remained “on the fence” regarding Amendment 2 in August, the same month the FDP quietly passed a supportive resolution). On election day, 60 percent of voters voted in favor of Amendment 2, more than either Presidential candidate.
The Florida Democratic Party is a national embarrassment, repeatedly failing to act in the interest of Florida workers and the most vulnerable members of our community. They frustrate and thwart the efforts of advocacy groups and a smattering of elected progressives willing to use their office to platform and advocate for working Floridians. They’ve let down the organizers who work tirelessly for their terrible candidates and many of the working class Floridians who volunteer their free time and money in hopes the FDP will someday get their shit together, all while capitulating to the moneyed interests who have turned this state into a playground for the rich.
FDP leadership does not get to celebrate after messing up this badly. And they definitely don’t get to keep their jobs.
I am a writer, historian, and academic. I spend most of my time writing about contemporary capitalism, continental philosophy, and culture. Before graduate school I worked on a bunch of political campaigns up and down the ballot. I tweet @laborkyle and make video essays here.
This blog is new. My goals and purpose for it will be shared soon.