Democrats losing streak in Florida – 25 of the last 32 statewide races of any kind, 20 of the last 22 races for Governor or Cabinet could get MUCH worse in 2022 thanks to a new red-button issue from the right- “parental rights.”
First off, let me say this is a red-herring from an actual policy standpoint, as long-standing and credible parent organizations (which does not include Moms for Liberty, the chief agitators and GOP-adjunct group in this fight) don’t subscribe to the performative agenda advocated by Ron DeSantis and his acolytes – yet no question the Democrats in Florida and nationally are facing a backlash that they aren’t even remotely trying to address. At this rate, we will see a collapse of the Democratic vote in November 2022 similar to what we saw in Virginia in 2021, with added cultural undertones thanks to DeSantis highly-effective demagoguery.
However, closing schools for a period of time and then requiring masks for public health purposes (you know, trying to save human lives and all that?) has boomeranged as angry parents throughout the country, including here in Florida have largely blamed Democrats for this. Focus groups and recent polling indicate schools have become the number one issue for certain key parts of the electorate- and it’s not traditional education issues pushing this, but cultural ones. The GOP has continued to incite these parents using the right-wing media apparatus as they often do to foster anger. Whether it’s the completely GOP activist invented Critical Race Theory (CRT) controversy in Florida schools, “Don’t Say Gay,” or other performative “parental rights” fights, DeSantis is controlling the conversation and winning.
Unfortunately this is where we are in 2022 America – a nation where personal (ie. selfish) considerations do dominate people’s electoral preferences. But of course where it is legitimate, is that the Democrats as a party seem to have completely lost touch with working-class voters and what they are concerned about. For example, here in Florida, I’d say the three biggest issues in 2022 are actually water quality/ protection, rent control and property insurance. Yet the Democrats, as a party don’t seem interested in any of this, instead they are constantly playing defense against DeSantis and taking ineffective shots at Senator Marco Rubio about foreign policy and his record of absenteeism in the Senate.
Governor DeSantis has cleverly played the “parental rights” issue, moving from COVID and masking where he scored big W’s in terms of public opinion in this state (despite Florida’s death rate after vaccines became widely available being almost three times as high as California’s- After vaccines became widely-available, Florida has had 153 deaths per 100,000 residents. Florida blew away, California which averages only 58 deaths per 100,000 residents from July 1, 2021 onward.) as residents lauded the freedom they enjoyed to infect others and have a higher post-vaccine death rate than most blue states. But the bottom line is DeSantis is winning, the polls show it as does any interaction with normal Floridians not tied to politics.
So taking the “parental rights” thing further, DeSantis has embraced the “don’t say gay” ideology for schools as well as efforts through legislation and executive order to whitewash what kids learn in school – all in the name of “parental rights.”It’s horribly wrong from a policy perspective and fundamentally unfair to minorities- but it is also wildly popular.
Republicans in Florida have long sought to break the teacher’s unions in half. With this “parental rights” crusade, they’re further along in that effort than anytime in the past – this is doing literally what school “choice” (aka vocuhers) didn’t accomplish.
Democrats working class problems intensify
The theory is it’s working class whites only, but really it’s now a multiracial, working class backlash led by parents against Democrats. DeSantis has adroitly played this up and even on “Don’t Say Gay,” he seems to be getting the support of minority working class voters, many of whom are registered democrats.
Can the Democrats beat this back?
Sure, but right now the signs are ominous and they must first acknowledge the problem. Personally, at this moment, I expect a landslide for the GOP in Florida at this rate – perhaps a bigger landslide than Jeb Bush’s reelection in 2002 (which also saw the Democrats dip below 40 House seats) , which is scary.