Convention week in Tampa has brought an issue back to the forefront that has been growing over the past several years. As Republican control of Florida Government grew absolute in the early 200os thanks in large measure to the incompetence of Florida’s Democrats, the RPOF developed an arrogance bordering on entitlement. The generation of Republicans who had to work their way to the top in a Democratic state and listen to Florida’s citizens has given way to a brash, young group of militants who are herded like cats by the leadership and whose critical thinking skills are rarely if ever on display.
Humility is not a trait that comes easily to today’s Florida Republican. With seemingly unchecked power and wielding an ideologically motivated ax to state programs, the GOP has developed a Soviet like control over Florida Government and politics. Defiance is crushed among activists, corporations and lobbyists using various levers of power to intimidate and punish perceived “enemies.” Submission to the leadership has become a trademark of GOP rule over the state and this arrogance has also led directly to a culture of cronyism and corruption. Either you play ball with florida’s Republicans or you get crushed, in a more subtle way than the Soviet crushed their internal opposition but with the same ruthless effect.
We see the sense of entitlement in full view again this week at the Republican National Convention. Attorney General Pam Bondi speaks of the Affordable Health Care Act as if it is an imposition on state’s rights, using rhetoric not so coincidentally used by southern Democratic racists in the 1950s and 1960s. (More on this tomorrow) Jeb Bush whose over eagerness to seek the Governorship before he was ready (and having served very little time in Government) because after all he was a Bush embodies this entitlement and yet he had the audacity to attack Governor Crist this week for “organizing his life around his personal ambition.” Yet it is Bush who ran for Governor in 1994 without an ounce of qualification besides being the son of a former President. It was Bush who was so arrogant that instead of listen to Kendrick Meek and Tony Hill about Affirmative Action he used FDLE to intimidate the lawmakers with legitimate gripes about his policies and how they were drafted without proper public input. It is Bush who has assailed his opponents on countless issues but now is seen by the national GOP as a “voice of reason.” It is Bush who created an Imperial Governorship that often clashed with lawmakers of his own party. Many of those lawmakers have now chosen to emulate his tactics.
Florida Republicans don’t believe in Democracy and the right of citizens to express themselves at the voting both.The party proved this in 2000 when knowing the likely outcome of a full statewide recount, the party led by Jeb Bush did all it could to prevent Democracy from having its day, and in the end they won. That increased the sense that they could do what they want, when they want in defiance of the rule of law, the citizens of the state, the Federal Government and common decency. Voters are only legitimate if they have some possibility of voting Republican. Democracy should only be the province of the educated, and the privileged in the world the Florida GOP has created.
The Republican “voter purge” is popular among the state’s voters according to recent public opinion polling. But this should not matter to Democrats who must take a strong moral stand against disenfranchisement and the potential return of a form of Jim Crow laws to Florida. Besides the reality of debate over these voter suppression laws is that the short gain for the GOP will be a long term benefit for the Democrats.