In the town of Zion, Illinois, mostly known as the birthplace of Gary Coleman, but also the place where my family resided for years, there is a law on the books that arrested anyone who spat on the sidewalk. Back in the 1950s, it was actually enforceable. Nowadays, it is ignored, yet the law is still on the books.
While it took decades for that law to be negated, it only took Florida’s Fair Districts laws less than two years to become totally invalid. And uneducated and ill-informed Florida Supreme Court, just hours ago, ruled that the Florida State Senate map, which could leave Lakeland, Daytona Beach and Gainesville without senate representation from their towns, has passed.
In a number of articles on this website, we have stressed not only the invalidity of the plan, but the fact that the Florida Supreme Court is absolutely oblivious to the law. The plan that has been validated has 21 safe Republican seats, thus making it impossible for Democrats to “have a chance” to take back the Senate. Apparently, the simple-minded court could only handle the “appendage” issue and lacked the mental capacity to expand their thinking to other aspects of the law.
Either they aren’t that bright, or they are blatant partisans. I feel it is a mixture of both.
Not only has the ruling today been a blow to the Fair Districts law, it has now set legal precedent regarding future redistricting. Since the Florida Supreme Court says, in this ruling, that gerrymandering is absolutely valid in order to favor one political party (which the law specifically says cannot happen), any future gerrymandered maps can use this ruling as their legal precedent. Basically, the Fair Districts law died on April 27th, 2012.
But now the ruling has come in. And while we are all disappointed in the court’s lack of understanding of anything regarding redistricting, we need to move on. So, what do progressives and Democrats need to do from this point on?
First, we cannot dwell on this ruling. It has been handed down and there is nothing we can do about it. Every day that we exert energy discussing this plan, we are taking time away from working to defeat Republicans. We now have a plan, we know what we have to do, and we have to “work the plan”.
Second, Democrats need to figure out what seats, while slightly Republican, are possible pickups for Democrats over the next ten years. For example, the Seminole County Senate district as well as the Orange-to-Lakeland district aren’t shoe-ins for the Republicans.
This brings me to my third point…Democrats need to start recruiting quality candidates and start pumping a ton of money into these races. If we want to take over the marginal districts, we need to show a strong commitment to winning them. And while we are moving in that direction, we must continue and not slow down. In Central Florida, we have seen the best slate of candidates running for State House and State Senate since 1992. We must build on this, we must raise more money and we must strike the fear of God into the GOP.
Fourth, we need to start being Democrats! There has always been this “oh, we need to be more moderate” way of thinking in the Democratic Party since the early 1990s. And where has this gotten us? Exactly, with super-majorities for the Republicans in the House and Senate as well as all of the Constitutional Offices. “Moderate” means that a candidate has no soul. It means that it is hard to differentiate between the Democratic and Republican candidates. And when a candidate runs a “moderate” line, nobody is rallied to vote for them. In addition, voters can’t tell you about “moderate” candidates and what they stand for. Candidates can be good progressives, but also have a level head as well, like Congresswoman Kathy Castor.
Here in the State of Florida, Republicans have given us more than enough issues in which we can contrast our views of the future of Florida. Let’s use those. Let’s not do the “oh, I’m almost like my Republican opponent, but pro-choice.” Let’s take on the AIF and the Republican establishment. The AIF and our Progressive ratings of some of the Democrats in the Legislature is absolutely embarrassing! It is time to saddle up, come up with our plan of attack, and take these Republican on head-to-head. Are you ready to do it? I sure the hell am!
Fifth and finally, the most important race for Democrats to win in the next two years is the Governor’s race. Luckily, we do have some good candidates, if they decide to run. And, luckily, a lot of Republicans are actually drinking the Rick Scott Kool-Aid. There is still a slight possibility he could be the GOP nominee. And if he is, we should win easily.
There are two important reasons why Democrats need to work “double hard” on the Governor’s race. First, the reason we are discussing this issue in the first place is because of the Supreme Court’s ruling. If Democrats win the 2014 Governor’s race, then the 2016 race becomes even more important. In 2016, Charles Canady, Jorge Labarga and Ricky Polston are up for retention. If the voters vote “no” to retain those justices, the process of replacing those judges would take place immediately. In addition, two justices, R. Fred Lewis and James Perry, will have mandatory retirement.
This means the Democratic governor, elected in 2014, will have the final say and will, hopefully, be able to appoint progressive-minded judges, if the Florida Judicial Nominating Commission offers any. The entire face of the court could be changed, and the Supreme Court retention races should be a very high priority for progressives.
The second reason that a Democratic governor is important is because legislative races, in many cases, mirror the gubernatorial race. When did the Florida House and Senate start to switch? When Jeb Bush came within an eyelash of defeating Lawton Chiles. If we can perform a stellar campaign on the gubernatorial level, then qualified candidates in marginal Republican districts can pull off the win.
If today’s ruling didn’t energize you as a Democrat or a progressive, it should have. We always talk about how we feel we are being treated “unfair”. And a pure violation of the Fair Districts law is about as unfair as hell.
Let me steal the most famous quote from the movie Network…”I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!”
You should be as well. Time to tighten up your boxing gloves and fight. If you don’t want to fight, get out of the ring. If you do want to fight, welcome aboard!