Will Florida take a left turn?

Staff Columnist

After the rather unusual TV presentation of 27 September I was embarrassed by the political activity of our Senators.  SO, I thought I’d offer this study of Florida serious politics as elections approach again.  Enjoy! Politics & Ideas By William A. Galston (Wall Street Journal, Wednesday, September 12, 2018 21

“A lot is riding on Andrew Gillum,  the progressive nominee for Governor.”

“With a Bernie Sanders – backed progressive facing off against a populist conservative favored by Donald Trump, the Florida gubernatorial race might turn out to be a dry run for the 2020 presidential election.  But first, it could set the stage for a long – overdue debate among Democrats.

The Democratic nominee, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, advocates Medicare for all, increasing the state corporate tax rate to 7.75% from 5.5%, and the minimum wage to $15 from $8.25.  In a statement issued during the primary campaign, Mr Gillum endorsed  a ‘comprehensive immigration overhaul that includes abolishment of ICE in its current form to be replaced with a more compassionate and focused agency that actually keeps us safer.’

The Republican, Ron DeSantis, who recently resigned his seat in congress, supports President Trump’s agenda down the line.  He sports a 100% rating from the National Right to Life Committee, 94% from the Club for Growth, and 93% from the National Rifle Association.  At the other end of the spectrum, he receives 0% rating rom the NAACP and the human Rights Campaign and 3% from the League of Conservative Voters.  His website features endorsements from Sean Hannity and Mark Levin as well as the president.

Florida is the nation’s third-largest state and one of the fastest-growing.  Its population is extremely diverse: nearly 26% Hispanic and 17% African-American.  And it has become the mostly contested state in presidential elections.  In the five races from 20000 through 2016 the Democratic candidates have averaged 48.8% of the vote and Republicans 49.3%.  In each election since 1996 the winner in Florida has prevailed nationally.

Recent gubernatorial contests have been just as competitive.  In 2010 Republican Rick Scott defeated  Democrat Alex Sink by 48.9% to 47.7%.  In a hard-fought re-election  race four years later, Mr. Scott prevailed over former Gov. Charlie Christ by 48.1% to 47.1 %.  Exit polls after the 2014 contest showed that turnout had fallen short of expectations in every group that was key to a Democratic victory.  These narrow defeats formed the backdrop to this years Democratic primary.  Progressives argued that nominating business-friendly candidates favorable to suburban voters was a failed strategy.  The alternative was to select a candidate who could inspire urban-based racial and ethnic minorities to go to the polls along with unmarried women and young progressives.  Such a candidate could counterbalance the large white minorities Republicans typically run up in small towns  and rural areas, especially in the Panhandle.

Andrew Gillum is that candidate and much is riding on how he does.  If he can mobilize his base without scaring away too many moderate and suburban voters, he will be the next governor of Florida.  More than that, he will have blazed the trail for progressives seeking the Democratic presidential nomination.”

More from Mr. Galston:  “For decades, center-left Democrats have deployed a strategic argument against more- progressive  candidates: nominating someone squarely on the left  guarantees defeat.  A Gillum victory would reshape the debate undermining  the claim that a progressive candidate can’t develop broad  appeal.

It would demonstrate that in today’s polarized party system, mobilizing voters with intense preferences is more effective than persuading voters with more muted views.  If this kind of appeal works among Democratic midterm voters, who are less likely to turn out in nonpresidential years, then it should work even better when the winning Obama coalition has moved left, the party must do so as well.

Stripped of their strategic arguments, centrist Democrats would have to argue their case on its merits.  They would have to point out, for example , that single-payer health care is impractical and unaffordable.  Abolishing Immigration and Customs Enforcement  has nothing to do with enacting sound immigration reform.  A $15 minimum wage would eliminate more opportunity than it would create.  Social insurance and antipoverty  programs can’t be sustained without economic  growth, and there can be no growth if government treats businesses as the enemy.”

And, more:  “The critique of President Trump is even clearer.  The U.S.  economy  can’t be decoupled from the world, which is why it is so counterproductive to pull the plug on agreements  such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.”

Galston concludes:  “The Democratic Party needs to wage this debate.  But it won’t happen unless a center-left candidate with substance and courage steps forward to join it.”

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