Editorial Roundup: Florida

Miami Herald. April 30, 2024.

Editorial: DeSantis kisses the ring in Miami meeting with Trump and it might just pay off

Eventually, they kiss the ring.

Republican after Republican who criticized, denounced and rejected Donald Trump over the years can now be seen fawning over the former president. Most famously in Florida, there was U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio — whom Trump called “Little Marco” during the 2016 presidential primary. There’s Miami U.S. Rep. Carlos Gimenez, who eight years ago said he would vote for Hillary Clinton because Trump was not ”viable as a presidential candidate,” but now can be seen schmoozing at Mar-a-Lago.

Fewer Republicans have chosen to stand by their opposition to Trump, despite the political consequences.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has officially joined the ranks of Republicans who have bent their knee to the leader of the Republican Party who demands nothing less than blind loyalty.

DeSantis and Trump, whose relationship soured after a contentious presidential primary race as Trump repeatedly insulted the governor, met in Miami on Sunday. The meeting, first reported by the Washington Post, has been described as a “potential détente” between the two and Trump’s advisers hope DeSantis will tap into his network of donors to help Trump return to the White House in November.

DeSantis endorsed Trump when he dropped out of the presidential race after the Iowa caucuses but hasn’t been seen campaigning for his one-time ally. The governor must recognize that to run for president again in 2028 and remain relevant, he cannot afford to alienate the former president. Sitting down for a kumbaya moment with the man who nicknamed him “Ron DeSanctimonious” must have been, at the very least, a bruise to the ego of the governor.

It’s been done before. Rubio said in 2016 that Trump’s habit of saying anything he wanted on the campaign trail was “dangerous.” Fast forward to March 2024, Rubio was being considered as his vice-president choice, though he said at the time he hadn’t discussed that prospect with Trump.

It happened again when some of the Republicans who denounced the Jan. 6 attack began to soften their criticism of Trump and the rioters who stormed the Capitol and turned to attacking Democrats for harping on the issue.

Politics isn’t a game of consistency. If anything, it’s calculation and opportunism that wins in the end, no matter party affiliation — and Trump commands voters other Republicans also need to win elections. DeSantis was clearly aware of that even as he challenged Trump in the primary. He pulled punches until he had no choice, and even when he attacked Trump it wasn’t for his lack of democratic values but, oddly, for not being Trumpian enough.

DeSantis will have to swallow his pride if he doesn’t want to have an enemy in Trump. The former president, according to the Washington Post, told advisers during the primary he not only wanted to beat DeSantis in 2024 but also hurt him in 2028.

That’s the ironic twist for DeSantis. He is known in Tallahassee for taking revenge against lawmakers and even businesses that cross him. Under his direction, the Legislature passed laws to target Disney after the company spoke up against a parental rights law. For a couple of years, it felt like there was no checks and balances in Florida government. DeSantis called the shots and lawmakers fell in line.

When it comes to revenge politics, DeSantis has a lot to learn from Trump, who has openly said that, if reelected, he would order the Justice Department and FBI to go after his enemies.

It paid off for DeSantis to connect with Trump when he was a little-known congressman running for governor in 2018. The former president will certainly be happy if DeSantis can bring more wealthy donors into his orbit.

Kissing the ring — to America’s detriment — has worked in the past, and it might work again for Florida’s ambitious governor.


Orlando Sentinel and South Florida Sun Sentinel. April 25, 2024.

Editorial: Editorial: Restoring runoff may loosen extremists’ grip

When Republicans abolished Florida’s runoff primary in 2002, they eliminated a tool that had produced four beloved Democratic governors. The strategy worked: For that reason and others, Democrats haven’t won a governor’s race since.

But it’s Republicans who may yet regret the winner-take-all primary they created.

A half-dozen or more right-wing figures could be competing for governor in 2026. That means the Republican nomination could be won with as little as 17% of the statewide turnout.

That would be a gift to the Democrats, assuming they practice better candidate discipline and coalesce around one strong candidate.

Helping the radical right

It could also mean Florida being governed by someone as radical as Matt Gaetz, the enfant terrible congressman who would owe his nomination to a sliver of the Florida electorate. (He claims he’s not running.)

Other Republicans who may see a future governor in the mirror are Attorney General Ashley Moody, Agriculture Commissioner Wilton Simpson, Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, U.S. Rep. Byron Donalds of Naples and probably others who aren’t on anybody’s political radar (like eventual winners Rick Scott in 2010 and Ron DeSantis in 2018).

First Lady Casey DeSantis, the governor’s wife, is a shrewd politician in her own right who’s more popular than Gaetz in a recent poll. (Ron DeSantis is term-limited and can’t run again.)

With so many candidates to be lurching to the right, as those would, it could create an opening for someone more moderate in the tradition of former Republican governors Jeb Bush and Bob Martinez. Some former legislators also fit the description. The question is whether there are enough non-MAGA Republican voters.

But it’s something Republicans should think about, as some clearly were when they ganged up in the recent session to kill a bill restoring the runoff, which exists in only seven states. A politically explosive House bill ( SAC-24-06) did not even get a hearing.

Dead on arrival in 2024

House Speaker Paul Renner alluded to those circling GOP candidates as he quickly declared the bill dead.

“I think I heard Carly Simon singing in the background, ‘You must think this bill is about you,’” Renner said, paraphrasing her song “You’re So Vain.” “Because we certainly had some feedback from people who thought it was.”

And what do you know? Gaetz blasted the proposal on X, saying it would “empower establishment candidates over firebrands.”

Gaetz’s dislike for the runoff is telling. Reviving it may be the only way to restore some sanity to our politics.

Florida Republicans have become so dominant, it’s easy to forget when it was the other way around. For generations, Democratic primary voters decided who would run the state.

From 1896 to 1956, Republicans polled a dismal average of 20% in the November elections for governor, and Democratic candidates were as thick as mosquitoes, rarely fewer than five on the ballot and 14 in 1936.

Florida’s greatest governor

That’s why the law called for a runoff if no one got a majority in the primary, which no one did until Gov. LeRoy Collins in 1956.

Voters’ ought to have a choice between nominees who represent consensus in their respective parties, rather than those chosen by the far right or the far left in winner-take-all fashion.

The Legislature did Florida and the voters no favor when it suspended the runoffs for the 2002 election and abolished them permanently thereafter.

The argument was that they were expensive, inconvenient, drew only small fractions of those who had voted the first time, and rarely changed the outcome.

But that wasn’t always true. The turnout was higher in the 1954 Democratic runoff that deposed Acting Governor Charley Johns, a racist and rural “pork chopper,” in favor of the moderate Collins, who kept schools open when rabid segregationists wanted to close them.

The 1956 runoff nudged Florida in a moderate direction in a true turning point in our history.

Askew, Graham and Chiles

Two outstanding governors, Reubin Askew (1971-79) and Bob Graham (1979-87), also won come-from-behind runoffs, as did Lawton Chiles (1991-98) in his election to the U.S. Senate in 1970.

The Republicans’ no-runoff strategy paid off immediately when former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno, a potentially strong challenger to Bush, lost the 2002 Democratic primary to Bill McBride by 5,904 votes.

State Sen. Darryl Jones of Miami, who ran third with 157,107 votes, had split the Democratic constituency statewide and especially in Miami-Dade, which was Reno’s home. Bush handily defeated McBride that November.

In a more recent example, seven Democrats splintered the 2018 primary vote and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum won the nomination with only 34.4% over Gwen Graham, with 31.3%. His narrow loss to DeSantis that November demoralized the Democrats because Gillum had left nearly $3 million of his campaign funds unspent.

If the runoff existed, Gillum would have faced Graham. What would have happened? We’ll never know. But we know this: There’s still time for the Legislature to restore the runoff for 2026.


Palm Beach Post. April 25, 2024.

Editorial: Not a US citizen? Florida law would restrict home sales, jobs, based on race and origin.

There’s always room for debate over national security, but enforcing it through discrimination based on race or national origin is a nonstarter.

It’s one thing to stir up a non-issue to rile the base. It’s quite another when you’re just stirring base instincts. Yet, that’s what our Gov. Ron DeSantis and state lawmakers have done repeatedly, most recently in establishing a Florida foreign policy aimed at feeding American fear of foreigners.

Sadly, fostering this fear of the “other” is part of a heartless pattern. It seems like only yesterday the Florida Legislature’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill set out to equate compassion with grooming, while other laws sought to bar trans kids from teams and bathrooms, to yank offending books from school shelves, to wipe lefty lessons about slavery from classroom whiteboards, and to delete programs to promote diversity, equity and inclusion from university curricula.

Now we’ve found a new enemy, spelled out in three new laws as those of Chinese extraction, Cubans, Venezuelans, or just plain commies. To those who style their politics after the internment camps of Japanese Americans in the 1940s or the Red Scare hearings of Sen. Joseph McCarthy of the ’50s, these new Florida initiatives must feel like a homecoming.

New law would prohibit Chinese people who aren’t full US Citizens from buying Florida homes

One of the laws, known as SB 264, bans Chinese people who don’t have full U.S. citizenship from buying homes in Florida. Another, SB 1264, requires that students as early as kindergarten age receive instruction in “the evils and dangers of communism,” to quote the Governor, and not be “indoctrinated by communist apologists.” SB 846, meanwhile, restricts Florida universities from hiring student researchers from China, Cuba, Venezuela, Syria, Iran, Russia or North Korea.

DeSantis signed SB 264 in May 2023, calling it, “the strongest legislation in the nation to fight back against foreign malign influence.” The American Civil Liberties Union calls it something else: unconstitutional. In Shen v. Simpson, the ACLU has been representing an Orlando real estate firm and four Chinese citizens who are living, working and raising families in Florida. Under the new law, they’d be prevented from buying homes, based purely on race and national origin.

“Protecting Floridians and Florida’s infrastructure from agents like the Chinese Communist Party and other foreign adversaries is important to our state’s security,” the governor says. While he’s at it, international students from China, Cuba, Venezuela, Syria, Iran, Russia and North Korea will be restricted from employment as grad assistants to conduct academic research.

Ashley Gorski, senior staff attorney for the ACLU’s National Security Project, is trying the case against the housing law. She makes clear: “There is no evidence that Chinese home ownership poses any harm to national or state security.” It begs the question, she adds, why home ownership would be considered more dangerous than renting.

Of course, none of this legislation could have been expected to have any practical impact, anyway. As Gorski puts it, “We’re in a period of increased geopolitical tension between us and China and there are many examples of politicians seeking to foment and capitalize on geopolitical tension.”

It’s the same old politics of xenophobia

We’ll be less diplomatic: It’s just the same old politics of xenophobia. Rather than use the scalpel of the intelligence community and hammer of the military, alongside the experience of our statesmen and diplomats to protect from national security threats, Florida is sending a grotesque message that anyone who looks Asian had better have their paperwork in order if they want to buy a home. Some members of our electorate might like that kind of talk but most of our parents taught us better.

As for teaching the dangers of communism, well, judging from the reluctance of Republican members of Congress to support Ukraine’s defense from Russia, we might need to send teachers from our kindergarten classrooms to the U.S. Capitol instead.

Gov. DeSantis has tinkered with foreign policy before, sending Florida guardsmen to Texas’ border with Mexico, tricking border-crossers into flights to northern states, and warning off imagined hoards of Haitian rafters crossing the Straits of Florida.

There’s always room for debate over national security, but enforcing it through discrimination based on race or national origin is a nonstarter. The Governor and Florida lawmakers in this case should leave foreign policy in the hands of those to whom the Founding Fathers assigned it.


South Florida Sun Sentinel. April 30, 2024.

Editorial: A frightening tyranny over Florida women

In the novel “The Handmaid’s Tale,” a violent theocracy overthrows the U.S. government, and doctors who perform abortions are hanged. Young women are enslaved to bear children for influential older men.

Author Margaret Atwood’s imagination was inspired in part by the biblical tale of Hagar, the Egyptian handmaid whom Abraham’s wife gave to him to bear the child she didn’t think she could.

The author was thinking, as she later wrote, of “the heavy-handed theocracy of 17th century Puritan New England, with its marked bias against women.” She thought it would need “only a period of social chaos to reassert itself.”

Pure fiction? No. Again, life imitates art. Much of the nation — including Florida now — resembles a theocracy where women’s bodies belong to the state, not to themselves.

Abortion is fully or effectively forbidden in 19 states, including all of the South except North Carolina and Virginia, the closest recourses for Florida women after six weeks of pregnancy, a time at which many women don’t yet know they are pregnant or can easily mistake the symptoms for menstrual irregularity.

That will burden thousands of women, only some of whom will be able to obtain abortion pills online. Statistics illuminate the hardship: There were some 84,000 legal abortions in Florida last year, according to Planned Parenthood. The pills are generally considered safe only during the first 10 weeks. Their use without medical supervision is technically illegal in Florida, and there’s no doubt that the theocrats aspire to a nationwide ban on sending them through the mail.

Who’s responsible? The list

The greatest immediate danger is denial of emergency care to women with pregnancy complications such as ruptured membranes. Physicians will necessarily think twice about what care to provide, even if delaying it might have lifelong consequences.

Many are to blame for Florida’s theocracy, starting with former President Donald Trump, who boasts of appointing the Supreme Court justices who repealed Roe v. Wade.

There are the six justices who did it; the Florida legislators who took advantage of what they did; Gov. Ron DeSantis, whose state Supreme Court appointments were as maliciously purposeful as Trump’s; the six Florida justices who signed an intellectually corrupt opinion excluding abortion from the protection of Florida’s constitutional right of privacy; and Attorney General Ashley Moody, who maintains that the privacy right applies only to the disclosure of information, not to police-state control of personal conduct.

The opportunities for so many people to do so much harm owe to fundamental fault lines in the constitutional order, and the triumph of “state’s rights” in the defeat of democracy.

Connecting the dots

The Republican Party has lost the popular vote in five of the past six presidential elections, but its appointees hold six of the nine Supreme Court seats and are the ones who reversed Roe. Over a longer time, that Republican court has also given free rein to political gerrymandering and the corruption of unlimited campaign contributions (as in the Citizens United case), which enabled the election of most of the anti-abortion legislatures.

Between the gerrymandering and the campaign money, Florida’s Legislature is a picture of democracy in collapse.

Legislature passed the six-week abortion ban last year as Senate Bill 300, five of the 26 Republican senators who voted for it had been elected without opposition. They included Sen. Erin Grall of Vero Beach, the principal sponsor. Six more had no Democratic opposition.

In the House, 18 of the 70 “yes” voters were elected without opposition and 18 more won without Democratic opponents on the November ballot. That is 36 votes, more than half of the majority, cast by people who had not been fully challenged by the electoral process or chosen by voters.

Rep. Jennifer Canady of Lakeland, a House co-sponsor of the anti-abortion bill, who’s in line to become a future speaker, was one of those whom the Democrats didn’t challenge in 2022.

Her husband is Charles Canady, one of the justices who heard the critical abortion case and voted to nullify Florida’s constitutional right of privacy. Canady should have recused himself. Instead, he followed the odious example of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who continues to decide cases spawned by the 2020 election despite his wife’s active advocacy for Trump and parroting of his lies about that election.

Stacking the courts, legally

The Florida Constitution is flawed in failing to prevent governors from stacking the courts to suit their ideologies. It was supposed to, but no one thought to prevent governors from rigging the judicial nominating commissions, which the 2001 Legislature authorized.

On the federal level, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito haven’t given up on writing privacy out of the Constitution altogether. They want also to repeal the 1965 decision Griswold v. Connecticut, which forbade interfering with marital privacy by banning contraception. They want to repeal Obergefell v. Hodges, the 2015 decision that legalized same-sex marriage. Curiously, Thomas says nothing about Loving v. Virginia, the 1967 decision that eliminated bans on interracial marriages like his own.

Like Roe, Griswold and Obergefell depended upon the Constitution protecting the people of the United States from government intrusion into their private lives.

But now, many millions of women in the U.S., and in Florida particularly, are the handmaidens of theocrats who are doing just that.

Thomas Paine wrote, “tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered.” But in Florida today, the tyrants are winning.