Protests engulfed urban areas this week as protests over police brutality became the largest civil unrest we’ve seen in this country since 1968. I know many of our readers and supporters were in the streets and those of you who made the effort I salute your patriotism.
A week that started with us honoring our fallen heroes and a miniseries about the man who saved the union, U.S. Grant, eventually devolved into the worst yet of the pathetically divisive Presidency of Donald J. Trump.
As for me, COVID-19 fears have made me more isolated than ever – a keyboard warrior who spends half his day reading the likes of David Frum and other Trump critics or informative history (We will review Frum’s latest book Trumpocalypse later this week). I have been voluntarily more isolated the last few weeks then when we were actually under lockdown, because well, too many Floridians lack of consideration and interacting with them casually is something I am avoiding as much as possible. Obviously selfishness is not only apparent in Florida, but I’d argue for multiple reasons it’s more visible here (even if not more practiced here) than in other places.
And now that Florida rules America politically, we face an even scarier proposition and one worth protesting each and every day.
Two adopted Floridians grabbed the headlines this week – President Donald Trump and George Floyd’s murderer, Derek Chauvin. The Florida of Rick Scott and Marco Rubio has become a repository for the most seedy elements of American society. Politicians of the most extreme nature take their inspiration from what our state has become. The worst of the bad actors on the national media stage also either reside in Florida or mimic the rhetoric perfected in this state.
The Floridization of the American right via adopted Floridians, Trump, and media figures such as Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter and Christopher Ruddy and the late Roger Ailes have brought us to the brink of our country exploding and international irrelevance. It’s no accident Trump’s new press secretary is Kayleigh McEnany, a Tampa native who shares all of Trump and Ailes’s devious button-pushing, dishonesty and learned her craft rubbing elbows with GOP leaders here in our state during the Rick Scott years.
With this in mind let’s review President Trump’s week, arguably the worst of his sordid tale of a Presidency.
President Trump this week, withdrew the US from the World Health Organization in the midst of a Pandemic where his leadership has been suspect to say the least, waded unsolicited into the raging India-China dispute and even lied publicly about his conversations related to it, reacted to protests for civil justice by using the word “thug” and invoking images of German Shepherd’s attacking African-Americans and praised Douglas MacArthur, who of course crushed a peaceful demonstration by war veterans before going on to be fired by President Truman for insubordination and disobeying orders. (The comparison with Truman is particularly inviting I must say, as Trump shares virtually none of Truman’s qualities.)
He had a public speech where he failed to address police violence or that he had any responsibility for the mismanagement of public health, instead attacking the WHO and multilateralism. He also repeatedly for political reasons attacked the memory of a young Florida women who passed in 2001- the less said about this the better as I do not want to get deeper into this, for risk of repeating the slander voiced by Trump about former Florida Republican Congressman turned media member Joe Scarborough.
American leadership, so important in past global crises has been absent during the Trump years. The Coronavirus crisis has only deepened China’s soft power globally and weakened America’s- this is despite the virus originating in China and the weeks long cover-up by the PRC about the potential of its spread. But since mid-January, China, a dark authoritarian regime has appeared more transparent and credible than the United States – imagine that. It took a maestro of the dark arts in Donald J. Trump to produce that.
China’s Coronavirus success includes engaging the WHO and developing nations during the pandemic in a way traditionally the US has – look no further than George W. Bush’s commitment to American resources to fight AIDS in Africa, leaving the Chinese on the sidelines 15 years ago.
Trump’s China policy has been a combination of rhetorical barbs and every possible misstep. From TPP withdrawal, to ineffective tariffs whose burden was carried by the American working class, to failing to mediate the Japan-Korea dispute leaving it to China, to not inspiring Hong Kong, to failing to back up VP Pence when he criticized Chinese treatment of its Muslim citizens, to his mishandling of the Indo-Sino border dispute, to COVID-19 and his #WuhanVirus nonsense and WHO withdrawal, everything Trump touches related to China, actually benefits…China.
As our cities exploded this week, Trump evoked the words of Walter Headley, long considered an infamous figure in South Florida history. Headley’s words were rejected even at the time by many local Dade County pols as insensitive and badly dated so it was stunning to see fifty plus years later them echoed by an American President! Trump also rhetorically continued what he’s learned from Rick Scott – who along with Joe McCarthy’s chief aide Roy Cohn can be considered Trump’s political mentor. Blame the other side, incite anger and avoid real discussions. Climate denial a hallmark of Scott’s governorship has been manifested
Most Floridians live in sprawling suburbs, exurbs or gated communities – not in urban centers or rural small towns like most of the rest of the country. The economy here hasn’t evolved, in fact its largely devolved into the gutter of low wage jobs combined with few protections for workers and active union-busting. Florida has unfortunately become a place where those who fail elsewhere or have no societal conscious can safely flee and escape the realities of American society. It is the place the unexceptional, the hucksters, the con artists and the failures gravitate. There are good people in this state – lots of them. But publicly our image is defined by the bad seeds who feel empowered here like in few other places to behave badly. Florida is, at least in its public image, the land of Donald Trump.
Urban life in Florida is minimal and we lack the critical mass of exceptional thinkers, writers, and industrialists to make our cities work. Our one major corporate relocation under Rick Scott, that of Hertz Corporation now looks a failure as the car rental giant has filed for bankruptcy. Despite big talk, Florida’s Republicans have failed to attract businesses of meaning to the state thanks to a host of educational and cultural factors, and have instead promoted a world of cognitive dissonance including desires to flaunt opposition COVID-19 advisories and openly mock those who take public health seriously.
So it’s little mystery why other cities saw bigger and more important protests than in Florida – we’re the buckle on the Trump belt in so many ways. Those who protested here deserve our praise as they did so in an environment so openly hostile to social and economic justice of any kind.
As our cities burn and protesters of all ethnic origins rightly point out the inherent racism of American life, President Trump and his Floridaized allies have done everything possible to muddy the waters of discussion. Unfortunately, by doing so the attention that should squarely be on Trump’s COVID-19 mistakes and the failure of his China policies have been lost.
Conservatism is a respectable western ideology with a strong tradition in America. Trumpism is a Florida ideology of gangster politics that has overtaken American conservatism. A sad time this is for all in our country who care about our institutions, our citizens and our global standing.
The protesters in the streets are right about what has happened to America. Their historical analysis might be wrong in some cases, but they are right about today. But let’s not allow the protests to provide a pretext for Trump to escape scrutiny of what even without our cities exploding was a week that will live in infamy.