As the Republicans solidified their hegemony over the state during the late 1990’s, they badly wanted a partisan Attorney General who would implement a doctrinaire conservative interpretation of the law and would take on a Democratic President if required. In many cases conservatives misinterpret the law, manipulate its intent while misrepresenting the debate and discussions behind the passages of these laws. This should not come as a shock considering we are discussing a political party that has actively promoted anti-intellectualism as a part of its appeal to voters, culminating with the Trump election in 2016.
As we saw during the Obama years when Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi helped lead the charge against various administration initiatives, using the court system to her advantage and that of the ideologues she represents, a Democratic Attorney General in Florida could prove to be an effective check on President Donald Trump’s excessive use of Executive Orders designed to reshape America in his authoritarian image. Winning the Governorship is more important in terms of governance of Florida, but controlling the Attorney General’s seat may just be more critical in the national picture and in protecting Florida’s citizens from an authoritarian President.
The sole defense the American people have to constitutional protections in this Trump era appear to be the willingness of Attorney General’s at the state level such as Bob Ferguson in Washington (who filed a suit on constitutional grounds that now has effectively blocked Trump’s immigration ban) to take on the unconstitutional acts of this administration in the courts. Here in Florida, in Pam Bondi, we have the opposite – a close political ally of Trump’s who frivolously attacked Obama’s initiatives while turning a blind eye to the authoritarian nature of Trump’s actions.
Consider that many members of the American and Florida Bar consider Pam Bondi to be one of the worst Attorney General’s in the country and her Trump connections just further that notion. Bondi has been the hyper-partisan ideological law enforcement officer Florida Republicans have long craved, and that Florida Democrats have never thought necessary in the chief law enforcement role.
This is no surprise considering Bondi’s prior claim to fame was as a conservative hack on FOX News’ Sean Hannity program, which is one hour of pure right wing drivel, which in some cases could be characterized as reflexively anti-American. Bondi and her surrogates waged a campaign of fear and demagoguery about “Obamacare,” ” radical feminism”, “activist” judges and “radical environmentalism,” to ride to reelection in 2014.
Bondi has been a handmaiden for the utilities industry in the state as well as any ideological crusade the right has undertaken. In concert with other Republican Attorney General’s throughout the country she regularly sued the Obama Administration on ideological grounds, hiding behind elements of the law in order to score political points.
With Republican excesses out of control at the state and national level, having a plan to elect an activist, aggressive Democratic Attorney General might be the most important thing the Florida Democratic Party can do this cycle. Fighting against the excesses of the right requires a fearless defensive strategy that uses the court system to the advantage of those of us seeking to defend American values and democratic processes. It requires a willingness to fight at a very high level, understanding of the law.
It takes someone like Bob Ferguson, Richard Blumenthal or Elliot Spitzer, willing to engage the right in a battle to protect the citizens of Florida and the United States. While we will not misinterpret the law the way Bondi has, we can take a page out of her book and that of conservatives around the country – and thus use the anchor of state Attorney General’s to fight against a reckless and dangerous Presidency. Winning this seat gives a greater anchor and weapon to fight Trump than winning the Governorship – sure it has less relevance within the state but might just be more important as American values remain under assault during the Trump Presidency.
Disclaimer: Kartik Krishnaiyer served as the Deputy Campaign Manager in 2014 for Attorney General Pam Bondi’s Democratic opponent, George Sheldon