BRYAN ADELINE FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Andrew Gillum, the Democratic nominee for governor of Florida, has continued to stay in touch with supporters even though he's also been out clearing debris after Hurricane Michael. Gillum is still the mayor of Tallahassee, a city barely carved out from the middle of a forest that runs from just west of Jacksonville across 350 miles of relatively lightly populated panhandle to Pensacola. At the border with Alabama, it turns into wetlands on the west side of Escambia Bay. Tallahassee didn't suffer the utter destruction of the small towns and villages west and south of the city, but large numbers of pines and stately oaks, hundreds of years old, toppled across streets, power lines, cars, and homes.
Zombie Governor Rick Scott was seen handing out a case of water, which is nice. No idea where Ron DeSantis was. Where was Ron during all that wind?
Sunday night witnessed the first of two debates between Gillum and DeSantis. Taking place in Orlando, hosted by Jake Tapper on CNN, it was a tightly packed, fast-paced one hour joust that had both candidates coming out swinging hard at each other. The difference is that Gillum was cool and comfortable at his podium while it seemed most of the time that DeSantis might crush his own teeth at any moment from nervously grinding them so hard.
The basis of DeSantis's attacks and the gist of Gillum's responses were as follows:
- Gillum's support of Medicare-For-All somehow means that seniors won't have Medicare anymore. What part of "For-All" is lost on him?
- Gillum must be antisemitic and anti-Israel because he once gave a speech to a group that is pro-BDS even though he is expressly anti-BDS. Meanwhile, DeSantis repeatedly spoke favorably to a group that is openly Islamophobic and racist.
- Gillum is corrupt because an old friend who became a lobbyist is under investigation by the FBI. And that's because that old friend was approved by the Tallahassee city commission (with Gillum recused because of his long friendship) and his client granted a city contract. Oh, and there were tickets to "Hamilton" involved. Meanwhile, DeSantis resigned his seat in the House of Representatives last month to end an ethics investigation involving misuse of campaign funds to rent a condo in Palm Coast. Neither allegation appears to offer much insight into either candidate as corrupt.
- Gillum will raise taxes on the middle class by 40%. Well no, he will raise taxes from 5% to 7.5% (yes that's 40%) on big corporations that have benefited from the Trump tax cut. The result is that a $6.5 billion windfall would be cut to $5 billion, retaining the difference in the state coffers to increase teachers' salaries and contributing to the environmental fund that was drastically cut under Governor Nosferatu.
Besides that, Gillum explained his approach to environmental cleanup in some detail, placing much blame on agricultural interests (code for Big Sugar and the phosphate mining which creates the fertilizer for Big Sugar), and invoking science(!!) to address algae and the threat from global climate change. DeSantis invoked his buddy relationship with Donald Trump.
In all, it seemed a clear victory for Gillum, who capped off the event with a stirring closing that was worthy of Ronald Reagan at his "city on a hill" best.
The race has been considered a toss-up leaning towards Gillum since the primaries ended. Shortly before the debate began, though, news broke of a CNN-sponsored poll which had Gillum up by an astonishing 12 points. No one believes that this could possibly be accurate. But a look at what the poll indicates as the reason for the suddenly lopsided result could hint at a deeper reality that is now starting to develop.
The main explanation for the unexpected results comes almost entirely from the skew of independent voters. Independents make up just over a quarter of registered Florida voters. Republicans and Democrats make up slightly more than a third each with the Dems edging the count by roughly the same disparity as exists between R and D in Broward County (home of Fort Lauderdale, Stoneman-Douglas High, and yours truly). Typically, in this most purple of states, independents split fairly evenly between Democrat and Republican when the votes are cast.
The CNN poll makes the claim that, this time, independents are leaning heavily towards the Democrats at all levels throughout the state, a consequence which also bodes well for moderate Democrat Senator Bill Nelson against alien-baby Rick Scott.
None of this takes into account how newly registered voters of color and young people of all colors will affect the outcome. If they do vote in numbers beyond the pathetically low norm, that will skew heavily towards the Democrats and by itself could tip the scales in their direction. And the potential source of more of those voters than anywhere would be in densely populated, heavily Democratic Broward County where the pain of the Stoneman-Douglas remains as fresh as if it happened last week.
The sole key for the Democrats, as it always is in Florida, as it always is throughout the country, is turnout. All the Democrats ever have to do to win and stay in power in Florida and the US is to show up. If voters could set aside the notion that they need to fall in love with a candidate who is pure as fresh snow but warm at heart and in programmatic lockstep with their every utopian desire, it might be possible to begin the process of wiping away the sludge of Trumpisti Republicanism; to then begin to return to an America that is recognizable to us and to the world; to become again the deeply flawed but always striving light of hope for all who wish to seek their own way.
The next debate between Gillum and DeSantis will take place on Wednesday October 24 in Fort Lauderdale at 8PM Eastern.