Floridians, including new arrivals (about half the state) should buckle their seat belts, fasten their chin-straps, and adjust their flak jackets. It’s going to get nasty between now and Nov. 6. All the accelerants are in place: right vs. left, white vs. black. In these scratchy times, no need to even strike a match for this to be explosive.
The Bernie Sanders/Al Sharpton wing of the party is in control among Florida Democrats. Witness the surprise selection in Tuesday’s primary of Andrew Gillum, the far-left mayor of Tallahassee, as the Democrat candidate for governor. Sanders campaigned for Gillum asking Floridians to elect a “real progressive” who will lead a “political revolution.” Gillum gives Bernie, head of the Crazy Uncle Division of American socialism, much credit for his come-from-behind win. That and the fact that blacks and young people turned out in force to vote for the guy they hope will be Florida’s first black governor.
A quick review of Gillum’s platform – a $15 an hour minimum wage, Medicare for all, more gun control, more corporate taxes, spending to head off climate change, even more incontinent spending on education, abolishing ICE, and impeaching Donald Trump – it’s clear why Sanders considers Gillum a fellow revolutionary. (No mention yet of free beer and ice cream. But it’s early days.)
On the Republican side, Jacksonville Congressman Ron DeSantis, a solid conservative endorsed by Donald Trump, won easily over former congressman and current Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. This outcome was far less surprising as Putnam, with big leads in all the polls, had been losing support rapidly in recent weeks.
No one saw the results on the Democrat side coming, though perhaps those paying attention should have. This result, and to a lesser extent the Republican result, illustrates a continuation of several fairly new political trends. Not long ago it was common knowledge that blacks and young people, when they voted, voted overwhelmingly for Democrats. But they often didn’t vote. They’re still overwhelmingly Democrat. And now they vote, as they did Tuesday. And, as about a third of registered Democrats in Florida are black, advantage Gillum. These trends helped Gillum beat establishment Democrat Gwen Graham, an off-the-rack-liberal like her father, former Florida Governor and U.S. Senator Bob Graham, by three points.
Gillum was also helped to November’s ticket by the fact that Florida no longer has primary run-offs when no candidate receives 50 percent of the vote. Gillum got 34 percent of the vote to Graham’s 31 percent.
The Gillum victory also demonstrates the declining importance of money, experience, and endorsements in politics. Since 2016 the ins are increasingly out and the outs are getting in. Money seems to mean less in elections than it ever has. Gillum spent less on his campaign than any of the five Democrat candidates. On the other side, DeSantis spent about half what Putnam did. Graham not only outspent Gillum but had the endorsement of formerly important groups in the Democrat firmament – environmental groups, women’s groups, et al. But this couldn’t prevail against left ideology and identity politics.
So batten down the hatches. The ordnance will soon be flying. It’s not clear that DeSantis will be all Marquis of Queensbury with Gillum. But Gillum has already given an indication of the path he plans to take.
On a recent CNN appearance, Gillum said, “Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis are both scraping from the bottom of the barrel… I actually believe that Florida and its rich diversity are going to be looking for a governor that’s going to bring us together, not divide us, not misogynist, not racists, not bigots.”
Perhaps before Nov. 6 Gillum will enlighten Floridians on exactly how it’s unifying to call your opponent and those who support him a bunch of women-hating, racist bigots scraped from the bottom of the barrel. Some might consider comments like these, well, deplorable.
Can Nov. 7 get here soon enough?