Talented actor Andrew Gillum excelling in the role of his life

Photo from the City of Tallahassee

Is he a progressive or a centrist? An environmentalist or pro-development? Is he for universal health care or aligning with the insurance industry?

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, the Democratic nominee for and likely Governor of our state, has been in elected office since the age of 23. Like most politicians he’s flipped and flopped on issues. Much like many politicians he’s kept close company with lobbyists and those looking to develop land. Unlike many politicians he’s been able to somehow win a statewide party nomination by downplaying his record and ratcheting up his rhetoric—albeit temporarily and just to get through a primary. Following his primary victory, Gillum wasted no time racing to the middle and making it clear to those paying attention, he wasn’t beholden to any set of principles or ideology. Still progressives love him despite unanswered questions still persisting regarding municipal government in Tallahassee.

His history tells us he is beholden to one thing: power (reflecting the preferences of those around him.) Perhaps this isn’t the worst thing when contrasted to the Florida GOP as those who surround him aren’t the sort evil people with a straight agenda of empowering corporations and keeping the working class down, the way some around Republican officials in this state are. But it still casts doubt on his independence and his ability to actually deliver on that he’s been promising voters. Gillum as we’ve learned before is very loyal to those who surround him even pushing their agenda as en elected official.

Gillum’s ideology isn’t progressive, centrist or conservative. It’s based around the fundamental principles of political survival and advancement. The company he’s kept since the age of 23 tells us he’s a climber and a talented actor playing various roles assigned him at a given moment. During the Democratic Primary for Governor facing off with Gwen Graham, a bonafide centrist and Phillip Levine, a self-proclaimed moderate, Gillum raced left and was able to con many into believing he was a true progressive. Meanwhile he’s adroitly found ways to personally profit off his own campaign which shows an impressive business acumen. Gillum has also been able parlay his candidacy into a consulting job with a PR firm that appears to be secretive.

Not surprisingly given all of this, the day after he won the primary, Gillum’s swung hard from Medicare For All to “affordable healthcare,” and echoes the concerns of right-wingers about the government in Nicaragua which might lead to believe that what he really stands for is ‘not much.’ That is, not much that isn’t vetted by lobbyists such as close associate Sean Pittman who lobbies for AT&T, TECO and Florida Crystals among others and who recently penned a column declaring Gillum something other than a progressive.  It’s worth recalling Pittman was one Gillum’s travel buddies on his now infamous trip to Costa Rica where the Tallahassee Mayor unbeknownst to him sat down with an undercover FBI agent and finds himself in a tangled web of scandal (great graphic from the Tallahassee Democrat by the way)

Politicians changing their tune shouldn’t surprise anyone. What is remarkable, though, is the left’s willingness to enable the shift by pretending it hasn’t happened, or worse yet, justifying it as a wise General Election strategy. This is the most Clintonian of defenses.

A lack of historical perspective and institutional knowledge about Florida politics and government, combined with an insatiable need to “feel important” and appear powerful have pushed many on the left toward behaving like Republicans.  Thus in an environment where the collapse of local newspapers has created a vacuum in investigative journalism and further empowered partisan and political activists, Gillum hasn’t faced the type of scrutiny he would have 8, or 12, or 16 years ago. These activists have either been conned by Gillum or have thrown-in with him in order to obtain power. They’re either blissfully ignorant of a pattern of behavior that would be questionable to any true progressive or willing accomplices hoping to beat the GOP and conservatives that have damaged this state at their own game.

Fair enough, this is politics now and it has to accepted as reality in this era of polarization that an “our team” versus “the other team” framework would emerge.

But it is worth noting virtually no one I have spoken to around the City of Tallahassee in recent years sees Gillum as a progressive. They see him as a talented Democratic Party pol in a one-party town, which also happens to be the state capital, giving him access to even more connections. He’s often seen as a pragmatic political survivor who has been racing to get to the top. He gets high marks for political adroitness and flexibility. He’s well-respected by those around power because he is of the same ilk—which depending on your perspective could be a good or bad thing.

Gillum’s pattern of questionable behavior is an open book for all to see but hasn’t fazed Democrats one bit. While progressives get caught up nuance saying Gillum isn’t a formal target of an FBI investigation (neither is Donald Trump in all likelihood, yet we know most likely Trump HAS abused power in some respect) and that those who accuse him of wrongdoing are engaged in a witch hunt, Gillum’s seemingly convinced them all. The pattern of behavior Gillum has engaged in is either careless and reckless or worse, deceptive and deliberate.

Perhaps many progressive activists are in the business of politics to obtain power not advance causes? You might look back on the candidacies many so-called progressive candidates in the past have boasted their fealty to groups like Associated Industries of Florida (AIF), Duke Energy, or the Chamber of Commerce. They all say the same thing: it’s about access and fighting the Republicans. We’re all for fighting the GOP, particularly in this state which has been virtually pillaged by the excessive plundering of special interest-connected GOPers and corrupt legislators like the disgraced ex-Speaker Ray Sansom, Chris Dorworth, Tom Feeney, Erik Fresen and Johnny Byrd among others. The culture of corruption and cronyism created by Florida Republicans seems however to impacted Democrats and others in the political game, particularly those who hang around Tallahassee – see they know no other way anymore.

Tearing a page from the Third Way of the 90s, the way forward is to behave like Republicans: ruthless, cunning and divisive. Perhaps that is realpolitik in 21st Century Florida?

If it is, it’s worth acknowledging that the template for how this places out exists. Just go back and be honest about the manner in which policy was enacted during the Clinton administration. Looking back on that period of neoliberal excess—the one for instance that brought us the Telecommunications Act of 1996, repeal of Glass-Stegall, and the Commodities Futures Modernization Act. If it weren’t for an ill-advised blow job we would have lost Social Security.

There is simply so much at stake. Do we go forward together equipped to demand policy objectives in healthcare, infrastructure, environment (gasp!) from a Democratically-controlled Tallahassee—same as we do a Republican? If we’re to be realistic about our agenda, we’d do well remember the leadership lessons from both the Clinton and Obama administrations. War crimes, Wall Street, the public option—progressive policy wasn’t just sold off, it was used to taunt the left as when Obama’s Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel called the “professional left…fucking retarded.”

 

The ‘professional left,’ such as it is now is beholden to funders that all hail from the same circle of coastal elites that push crap candidates year-after-year. Cuomo, Bloomberg, and Clinton are all cut from this cloth. Predictably out of touch, ill-equipped and unwilling to hold the powerful accountable for the destruction wrought by their self-interest. When the professional left participates in this—and how can they not when their funding comes from billionaires protecting their own nut—they’re not doing us any favors. They’re just advancing their own careers. So how can we trust them to hold the right and cronyism culture of the GOP accountable? How can we be sure they even have the credibility to go after the next Sansom, Dorworth or Feeney?

The Third Way promises cronyism that will be deemed “our” cronyism. Is that even a realistic goal? If it’s between real progressive policy and capitulating to lobbyists, who do we really think is going to win that battle? Heck, do we think we’re going fight it? It’s easy to imagine that those who dare to push reasonable policy change will likely be met the same weaponized identity politics we’ve experienced since 2016 (and earlier if we’re being honest).

In general this all shows us a worrying trend in the Democratic Party in which donors hail from elite tech and financial circles who rely on a “gig economy” or business cycles that allow the donor class to crush the working class in the never ending quest for increasing short-term bottom lines. This is a greater long-term issue with the party and its ideology than anything related to Andrew Gillum and will need to be explored further in the near future.

Chances are Gillum will be Governor. Part of being talented is knowing what roles to take and when. Gillum picked the perfect year to run the campaign he has. With Donald Trump in the White House, and Bernie Sanders, arguably the most popular elected official nationally having fired up the left, moving left was easy for Gillum. Smooth and convincing, the Tallahassee Mayor has a penchant for being deceptive on the stump and even in small groups. This helped convince masses of Sanders’ backers to throw in with a Clintonian-style elected official who just two years earlier had enthusiastically endorsed Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Democratic Primaries, against Sanders.

Time will tell if progressives hold Gillum accountable as Governor or if they will continue to simply attack the GOP and stick their heads in the sand. In the immortal words of the Who “we won’t get fooled again,” well at least some of us won’t.

20 comments

  1. Florida Progressive Voter · · Reply

    Okay I can’t tell what this article is. Pro or anti?

  2. Response from Andrew Gillum would be interesting.

  3. Victoria Olson · · Reply

    WOW you just couldn’t wait to trash the best person to lead Florida in years. WHY Did you leave out that Gillum is concerned about the Florida’s toxic environment? It’s hard to take the political element out of Florida’s environmental collapse as they are directly related to Politicians starting with Jeb Bush then on to Rick Scott both the 1% are owned by Corporations. Rob Florida’s Environmental collapse is Directly due to Political motivation for the usual reasons SAVING MONEY for Corporations who POLLUTE no one has enforced laws or & polluters are pretty much allowed to do whatever they want as long as they donate to these politicians.at the expense of the state & the people who live here. The 1% have not changed, they are out for themselves, they do not see government as an institution to defend and promote the rights and needs of citizens. They see it as an impediment to unrestricted exploitation and profit. Unspoiled land and water to the 1%, are commodities they will use to increase wealth and then discarded. This is how they are wired. The 1% do not propose structural change, they do not want businesses and the marketplace regulated. They seek, rather, a mechanism to exploit America and will continue to transform us into a deindustrialized wasteland so they can continue to feed upon us like swarms of long nose lancet fish, which devour others of their own species. One day when it’s too late, people will understand how politics work. Follow the money.

  4. When it was politically convenient for Gillum to endorse Hillary, he did. When it was politically convenient for Gillum to embrace Bernie Sanders, he did. This article is spot on.

    1. Victoria Olson · · Reply

      He’s doing what every Polititian does but stays with the Democrats so whats the big deal?

      1. True, I guess we shouldn’t ask our politicians to have any moral convictions, right?

    2. To clarify, embracing Bernie Sanders now after embracing Hillary Clinton in 2016 exposes a moral failing? Which one? Did those who supported Bernie in the primaries then voted for Hillary also lack more conviction?

      1. Voters aren’t elected officials with a public profile. I expect voters to switch after their candidate is eliminated. Also we should not be holding voters who are ordinary citizens to the same standard as public officials who especially in Gillum’s case have profited off of being in office and taxpayers. I don’t see the correlation at all. Voters can do what they want and support whom they want. But public officials who preach one thing and flip flop should expect to be called out for inconsistency even if it is inconvenient for those who are married to the political process and game.

  5. Once elected a politicians main concern is staying in power…not benefiting their constituents. Dem or Repub, no difference. That is what is so sad.

  6. Ruth Ann Eaddy · · Reply

    Because of Donald Trump, this year is the first time since Lawton Chiles that the Democrats have a chance to win. We should be celebrating and believing that our candidate will live up to the platform he ran on. Remember the Bernie Sanders followers are now very involved and I believe they will stay involved and heaven help an elected official that does not live up to their platform.

  7. I wonder how many establishment Democrats who say “we have to stick with Gillum” are also the same establishment Democrats who said “we need to dump our Democratic nominee, Kendrick Meek, and go with Republican-turned-Independent Charlie Crist”. A lot of hypocrisy when it comes to these people.

    1. It’s many of the same folks Dave. I’m not going to name names because that isn’t appropriate but those people if they read this site know who they are. Undermined Meek subtly to benefit Marco Rubio but now guilt anyone who has issues with this nominee, though his issues are an open book

  8. FL Demoxrat · · Reply

    So are you going to vote for DeSantis?

    1. Yeah I am supporting a racist who is defending an (alleged, but c’mon we know) rapist.

      Please. You don’t have to vote for major party candidates FWIW. I vote for progressives. Period.

      1. FL Demoxrat · ·

        So you’re not voting for Gillum?

      2. Know anything about Darcy Richardson? Did pick a soild LG choice in Argenziano (better than either major party LG candidate)

  9. It’s up to him to come clean about things in Tallahassee. So far he hasn’t, so as of now, no. If I go after GOPers for ethical lapses I must be consistent. But I am one voter in a state of 20 million, don’t waste time on me would be my advice to them. Few others seem to share my concerns which they think are largely trivial…

    1. FL Demoxrat · · Reply

      You’re one vote,but you’ll smear Gillum publicly on this blog read by thousands. That could lead to you helping throw the election to DeSsntis. We saw how close a state of 20 million votes in the year 2000 election . 537 vote difference. You’re not “just one vote” when you have this blog.

  10. Gillum did in fact support Medicare For All prior to his nomination and then appear to remove it and started talking about ‘affordable’ health care AFTER he won the nomination…
    that is a very real concern

    But please NEVER confuse a corporatist with a centrist..

    The term ‘centrist’ makes someone sound like they are middle of the road or reasonable.
    Corporatists are neither.

    A majority of the American people AGREE on a great many things and THAT IS where the CENTER IS!

    1. This is a fantastic point and actually has me thinking I might change the terminology around centrist and corporatist going forward. Thanks for this!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: