We once thought Jeb Bush was the worst thing we had ever seen. Then we met Dan Webster. But Webster seemed likable compared to Johnnie Byrd. Then Byrd seemed tame compared to Marco Rubio. Then Rubio seemed bookish and statesmanlike compared to Rick Scott. Now Rick Scott seems buffoonish and moderate compared to the hard-charging self-riotous Richard Corcorcan.
The constant change and evolution of the Republicans that govern Florida have moved for the last two decades what many on the left considered “right wingers” once upon the time to the middle of the political spectrum. Case-in-point: the evolution of attitudes on the likes of Mike Fasano (who was never that conservative economically but was characterized as a far rightest because of his social issue positions), Paula Dockery (who was more of a traditional Republican than a conservative from the get-go), Jeff Atwater, and many others demonstrated the drift rightward of the GOP.
But in Richard Corcoran the GOP has a new leader and one whose ideology might conflict with much those who benefit off being in power. How do we define Corcoranism? Why is Governor Rick Scott so sweaty about this challenge from within his own party that he is largely ignoring (or even praising) Democrats and using his Let’s Get to Work committee to make public appearances and deliver robo calls blasting GOP House members?
Let’s start with a point I made last week about Corcoran’s purported purity:
It is free market purity, that makes Corcoran especially dangerous even when compared to the current failed Governor Rick Scott who despite his reputation as a business-friendly conservative has kept an active role for state government in some arenas. Scott’s failures to effectively use government to stem the impact of climate change on our state or to improve higher education and bring better paying jobs to the state might pale in comparison to Corcoran who would double down on those failings of the Scott era while creating additional impediments to government activism in other areas.
Corcoran’s purity threatens the system of crony capitalism and corporate welfare that has been a staple of both parties existence in government since the 1980’s. His interest in transparency and ethics reform also threatens the heart of GOP establishment and lobbyist power at a time when the Republicans have a complete lock on state government with the Democrats alternating between total irrelevance and annoying gadfly to them.
But Corcoran is also a hard-charging win-at-all-costs conservative who sees obedience and orthodoxy as non-negotiable. His adherence to social conservatism is extreme – few House Speaker’s recently have pushed more than symbolic efforts to further endanger reproductive rights or make it even easier to carry a gun in Florida. But Corcoran is committed to these tenant not only to try and win votes or payback Marion P. Hammer/the NRA for political support, but because he is a hard-line conservative whose rhetoric can appeal to the masses that support the Republican Party.
Anything with public money and financing Corcoran is after either to cut or to bring “accountability” and “transparency” to. This includes education where Corcoran is as strong a voucher proponent as you will find but also seeks other accountability measures on public education – something that seems to rankle bureaucrats and educators but will no doubt be popular with the public.
Considering his Corcoran’s disdain for government spending and his view of state dollars being used to attract tourists to the state it’s odd he hasn’t used his soapbox to take on one place the United States spends tens of millions in public money that western European countries no long do – in the Airport sector where county and municipal governments or special taxing districts manage what have become largely private functions in the other leading western countries (seen as socialist to may on the right). But Corcoran has gone after every other angle of government spending be it on public programs, partnerships or social services.
The ideology of Corcoran is clear – religious fundamentalism, mixed with anti-government orthodoxy, and old-fashioned populism about political insiders and power brokers. Playing politics in a hardball fashion, the House Speaker has created his own ideology that threatens the cottage industry of Republicans making money off government while spewing conservative rhetoric (but in many cases inaction) to GOP voters. His ideology is in fact what many of us on the left feared would develop with the GOP in control – a rock ribbed, uncompromising conservatism dominated by a cult of personality that pushed a social agenda and stopped government from working. Thus far under GOP rule, while this state has lost valuable ground versus our competitors and is losing the race against time with regards to Climate Change as well as the looming water crisis, we have yet to completely see government stop working.
The threat is that is Corcoranism becomes fashionable and the dominant GOP ideology in the state (which it well could depending on what happens in the 2018 election) state government will collapse and we will no longer have the safety net or assurances that we have today even with the ineffectual leadership the likes of Scott, Rubio and others have provided us.