Robert Mongomery: Rick Scott: Will Florida Do It Again

July 5, 2014 30 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

The election of Rick Scott as Governor of Florida, was a masterful move of one millionaire to guile a majority of people hoping for a political outsider that would espouse the virtues of God and limited government. He is a bald headed white guy willing to say all of the right things at the right time, and in a language people, who like to refer to themselves as conservatives, want to hear. What they got was a corporatist who would champion the cause of deep south politics, “Tea Party Style”, and the former employee of George W Bush would bring the state into a new age of crony-corporatist government with a little verbal nods to Christianity and covert bigotry for good measure.



But that was 2010, and since then it is arguable that the Floridian between the major, and questionably, civilized urban centers, got what they asked for. They got a governor who would protect civil liberties by requiring welfare recipients to submit to drug testing in order to receive benefits: a smashing success. Who’d have thought “so many” drug abusers would be removed from welfare rolls by such a masterful move. It was reported that roughly 108 of 4086 people on state welfare failed drug testing, and has, by reports cost the state roughly $400,000 for reimbursing the fee charged and the resulting legal battles with the ACLU that led to Scott’s law being stricken earlier this year. But never fail, Rick Scott has vowed that homes and workplaces in the State of Florida deserve to be drug free and, despite the inconvenience that “rule of law” provides, will continue to champion Conservative values - whatever they may be.

As most, so called, Conservatives, Rick Scott is also the education governor who would liberate the children of Florida from the tyranny of union thug teachers and federal education mandates. His answer: charter schools. Well actually, and I tarry, Scott in an open letter asked that the public accept the maxim, supported by the hard right, to move federal fund to religious based schools which was rejected by voters in 2012. But the move towards privatization of schools isn’t going to stop at public rejection. SB 850 - still on the table - has been addressed currently by the Florida Education Association in an open letter calling for Scott to veto it as unfair in that public funds will be allocated to unaccountable private schools at the expense of public schools. So, in other words, it isn’t acceptable to take public funds to expand Medicaid, or to build a high speed rail, but it is okay for the public to fund religious schools.

Charter schools are getting funding even now in Florida, championed by the right, despite many studies indicating that these privatization schemes are failing. The Orlando Sentinel reported that only 12 percent of students are reading at grade levels in these schools, despite 1.5 billion being poured into 300 charters in the state, serving 92,000 students. Despite the low amount of students being served they still make up 25% of failing grades among Florida schools. Recently in the Tampa Tribune, reported the hypocrisy that free public schools are held to, albeit stupid, federal and state standards whilst private charter schools aren’t and the lack of success shows. Moreover, it is also reported that although Florida law doesn’t allow charter schools to issue bonds, charter school debt - remember business is supposed to act more efficiently than government - is being commoditized by Charter School USA, thus creating more opportunities for frauds in the financial services sector to make a little more money at society’s expense. What is Rick Scott’s answer: more of the same.

Of course the assault against people who may not vote for Scott, or his ilk, has been thwarted despite many attempts to purge voter rolls by the courts - who incidentally opened the can of worms to begin with for those who remember. The polls, according to publicpolicypolling.com, have him at roughly a consistent 35% among people unaffected by potential purges. It seems that even the average voters isn’t impressed with tax cuts for corporations and the modest 42 cent an hour “living wage” increase passed on top of the federal minimum of $7.25 an hour for Florida workers, attempts at privatizing Medicaid, and 7% reduction in unemployment isn’t enough to herald him as a local Ronald Reagan of sorts. According to many Republicans, another term one has to use loosely, unemployment was at 11% under current hopeful Charlie Crist now running as a Democrat, who incidentally happened to be the seated governor at the time the “Great Recession” hit the state. His argument that austerity - reducing the deficit - has done much to bring back the economy. It has brought back the economy for the wealthy in that services are being privatized and those left who can be taxed are paying less for government. Even the average Tea partier has to ask themselves, “If the economy in Florida has improved so dramatically, why aren’t people feeling it?” They might then look at Rick Scott’s poll numbers and find a justification for his general lack of support.

Rick Scott represents the “Khaki-Set”: the suburbanite in the gated community whose wife sports a bleached bob and kids who barely notice he’s alive, the repressed cracker who clutches his flag, gun, and KKK hood and is resentful because a government bureaucrat chose a “welfare queen” over him, or her, for food stamps once, the minister who still believes that good health and poverty reduction is just a prayer away, the white collar worker who really thinks his company’s success depends on virtual impunity to law, ethics, and humane treatment of people and the small-time shop keeper who believes that the only thing holding him back from realizing his potential in a capitalistic society is the 25 cents he pays in fuel taxes, and those pesky employees he has to pay a wage.

So what is left for Rick Scott? Recently he has passed a rather weak acceptance of cannabis oil as a retort to Crist and John Morgan’s calls for passage of legislation allowing medical marijuana in Florida. That should get him a few Libertarians willing compromise what little real principles they have. He could attempt to take credit for the rebounding of the stock market again which, arguably, any incumbent government could do if there are enough bumpkins out there who would falls for it. He has made a play recently by going after a prohibition of abortions within 24 weeks and that will certainly attract the religious who are never interested in the civil rights of the individual. His only hope is the fact that the Florida Democratic Party is as intellectually and politically inept as always. They, thankfully, aren’t running Alex Sink but they are trying reconcile themselves to Charlie Crist as Nan Rich was neither inspiring nor really any better an option.

The next Florida governor will be elected based on his ability to get independents who typically vote moderate to the polls. Crist has a better chance at doing it than Scott as he is more like a Barack Obama or a Mitt Romney. The average independent is a right/center voter and is not at all enthusiastic over the Florida Republican Party anymore than its counterpart. And as Progressives have yet to relearn the fine art of venturing beyond the bubble of special interest groups, and actually trying to reach the public, they’ll continue to be a non-factor in Florida politics and the party they believe represents them.