House Speaker Richard Corcoran’s rock-ribbed conservatism and unwillingness to really compromise with a Governor and State Senate of the same party has dominated this legislative session in Tallahassee. The Speaker sent the session into overtime (by 24 hours) with an unflinching view of state spending, angered the Governor by attempting to defund important programs related to tourism and economic development and forced a new level of transparency and ethical reform on a largely unwilling political class in Tallahassee. Simply put, Corcoran has dominated this session as he did in a more subtle fashion the previous few before he was formally Speaker. While Corcoran’s ideology, politics and personal tenor are not necessarily to our liking, his impact is undeniable and his adherence to principle is admirable.
What Corcoran has been able to do politically is create a clear distinction between a pure brand of conservatism which has some good government and ethical reforms that should rightly appeal to progressives and the type of governing conservatism which has taken hold as the GOP has assumed and maintained control of this state for two decades. The lack of two party competition has been a terrible thing for the citizens of the state and while Corcoran’s brand of conservatism is as extreme as they come, it is giving a clear contrast between two visions of governing that we have not had in this state for a long time.
Of course those two visions are between doctrinaire conservative orthodoxy represented by Corcoran and his rumored potential financial backers and crony capitalist “governing” Republicanism represented by Governor Scott, the Senate leadership in both parties and lots of lobbyists around Tallahassee.
All of this having been said it’s difficult to not admire and respect Corcoran even in a begrudging manner. He’s changed the game in Tallahassee with his force of will and courage in his convictions. He’s made it clear how comfortable so-called conservatives have become with the same government that they detested before they were in power. He’s put the fear of god into Tallahassee-based lobbyists.
His ideology is bad for this state and nation, but it is a coherent principled world view – something both political parties currently lack and the leadership of what has proven to be a meek opposition party over the past two decades has been unwilling to embrace.
Corcoran’s success and dogma should inspire progressives in our own way. Florida’s Democrats, particularly those serving in elected office have often found themselves in a position where they want government to work and want to be liked by colleagues and lobbyists – something that they claim is in the interests of their constituents but really is not because by denying the citizens of this state a true multi-party democracy, we’ve allowed one corrupted party, one set of priorities and one set influence peddlers to dominate the direction of the state.
Progressives need a Corcoran of our own in Florida, someone who understands how to obtain and exercise power yet has enough courage in her/his convictions to not let power force an unwise compromise. Simply put we need an elected official or strong candidate for high office willing to buck the establishment but unlike so many who have run before, actually know how to work the system to garner power.
Democrats and progressives can learn a lot from Richard Corcoran. We don’t like where he stands, but unlike so many in a corrupted process based around cronyism at least he does take a stand.