This column represents the views of Kartik Krishnaiyer alone and no other writer affiliated with this site.
Florida already has a bad reputation for various reasons. Perhaps much of this owes itself to a national press that since the late 1990’s has been seemingly obsessive about anything related to the state. But another aspect of this is the state’s broken politics and the conveyor belt of low-caliber elected officials and political candidates that come from this state.
This year promised to be different, as two children of old Florida, Adam Putnam and Gwen Graham appeared to be the front-runners for their respective party nominations for Governor. But national politics overran Florida and left us with two major candidates, both so deeply flawed, it’s embarrassing, if you are truly an objective observer.
Let’s start with the GOP nominee Ron DeSantis. All Americans should appreciate DeSantis’ military service and his willingness to serve despite attending Ivy League schools. Too few of the elite in American society were willing to make sacrifices and choose to send working class people, disproportionately minorities off to war to fight and die in wars of choice, not necessity.
But moving beyond DeSantis’ military service and oft-touted educational accomplishments, he’s a clownish, empty suit. DeSantis has proven time and again in media interviews, candidate forums and debates he lacks the independent thought, quick reactions, or gravitas to lead this state. He’s proven time and again he cannot make consistent and cognitive policy arguments without demeaning or insulting the opposition. In many ways DeSantis is a lighter, more jovial version of his Florida Congressional colleague Matt Gaetz or even President Trump himself.
It’s been painful to watch DeSantis in this race. He is so clearly over his head, seemingly overwhelmed each and every day, it makes you wonder why GOP primary voters would be silly enough to have overwhelmingly rejected Putnam? Perhaps if they knew how questionable the Democratic nominee would be, they’d have acted differently?
DeSantis shouldn’t be Governor. But should Andrew Gillum? Let’s start with Gillum’s political orientation. Is he a progressive socialist or a centrist neoliberal? An environmentalist or pro-development? Is he for universal health care or aligning with the insurance industry? Is he for or against making sugar clean up the Everglades? Is he a foreign policy hawk aka Marco Rubio on Latin America (supporting right-wing talking points and opposing left-wing governments) or more into consensus-building like President Obama was? Well it entirely depends on whom Gillum is speaking to, what time of day it is and what day of the week it is. It also depends on which lobbyist, donor or activist is pulling his strings at the said time.
As we’ve said before, Gillum is a talented actor and he showed off his abilities in both recently televised debates. Going up against the feckless, ineffectual DeSantis it was no contest on style points. But Gillum still found the opportunity to look straight into the television cameras and speak dishonestly about multiple alleged ethical transgressions involving him without so much as blinking an eye. On a personal note, for me Gillum also plays the victim of racial plots too often for the liking of this progressive who also happens to be dark skinned.
What Gillum has successfully done is create a cult of personality around himself. This has been enabled by professional progressive groups desperate for power and the national media. Perhaps Gillum’s newfound celebrity and willingness to shift his views depending on audiences will serve Florida well with more pragmatic governing than has been on offing recently. What’s obvious is DeSantis would be a more immature version of Jeb Bush and Rick Scott and that is something Florida cannot afford. Can we afford Gillum? That’s for each individual to determine themselves.
That provides a good segue to the US Senate race which has proven more enlightened, even if the candidates themselves aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. Having far more establishment and less flawed major party candidates has allowed a higher level of discourse though outside groups have poured into the state to muddy the waters. But the race still offers a very different vision of how to represent our state.
Bill Nelson’s record as a representative of this state in Congress is abundantly clear – he puts Florida’s interests first, and while he reliably votes with his party, he doesn’t emphasize ideological divisions or principles that divide us. His ideology is flexible enough to wear he can be pragmatic when it comes to protecting our state from the harm of those who do force ideology and narrow-minded talking points on us.
In contrast, Rick Scott isn’t an effective advocate for Florida and it’s difficult to envision him shifting into this role as a Senator. Florida is already represented by one ideologically-driven politicized figure and while Scott’s words and deeds are less offensive than Rubio’s (honestly, whose aren’t with the possible exception of Donald Trump and Matt Gaetz?) his advocacy for the state is likely to come with ideological considerations more than Nelson’s does.
Scott claims to have advocated to bring jobs to Florida, but his policies particularly on education have cost the state. The state besides all of the Governor’s big talk hasn’t attracted the type of professional jobs or companies here in his tenure that state’s governed by similarly ideologically inclined Republicans (like Texas or Georgia) have attracted.
This points to Scott despite his propaganda being a failed advocate for the state. While Scott has tried with Enterprise Florida and various tax abatement schemes his unwillingness to bend on ideology had made the state even more so than before the repository for low-paying jobs, anti-intellectual
Nelson, unlike the Republicans who have contributed to the ruining this state from an environmental perspective has placed in many cases the needs of Florida’s fragile ecosystem over short term commercial concerns. Senator Nelson been one of the few members of our delegation to receive 100% score from the League of Conservation voters.
Nelson has stood strongly on protecting Florida’s water supply and preventing offshore drilling, as well as drilling on federal lands within Florida. As time has moved on he has moved to the left on every practical issue that effects the quality of life for Floridians, and has become a reliable partisan vote on almost every hot-button issue of the day.
Senator Nelson understands Florida, and while he’s not perfect few if anyone is better versed on what this state once was and could be once again. Nelson represents a throwback of sorts to better days in Florida, a time of progressive yet consensus driven problem-solving governance. Florida NEEDS to return him to the US Senate.