WE ARE ALL FLORIDIANS NOW
by James Crotty
October 31, 2004
This Florida thing is no longer just coincidence. As Hamlet said to Rove, "there's more to Florida, Rasputin, than are dreamt of in
your electoral strategies." I'm a believer. The oldest continuous city in America, St. Augustine, is in Florida. It's even older than
Santa Fe, the second oldest and capital of another paper thin swing state with a huge Hispanic population (and wiggy retirees).
Saint Augustine, the purported "father of the church," was a spiritual-shopping effete before he became a self-righteous
champion of church authority. He's an apt symbol of the conflicting forces within our fourth most populous state.
Take a look. You have Castro-hating Cubans pitted against liberal-leaning Jubans (Jewish Cubans), Redneck Riviera
homo-haters against South Beach homo-lovers, white trash and Eurotrash, the Kennedy Palm Beach clan versus the Bush
Tallahassee bunch. There's filial subplots too: Dubya needing Jeb, the one who speaks fluent English, and the one Pappy
passed over for the top spot. And you have my Orlando dermatologist brother Christopher, who, like many GOP boomers,
sequestered his rabidly anti-war self in a Gore-like lock box, pitted against Fort Myers-based, and staunchly Democratic, Aunt
Marcia -- and who doesn't have an aunt in Florida these days? -- who's my late and very Republican mother's only sibling.
But it's bigger than family. The state has a Lear-like capacity for tragedy and delusion. Four straight hurricanes battered Florida
this summer. Yet while it hosts most of spring training in Major League Baseball, the state still blithely forgets that Nature Bats
Last, plowing ahead with reckless seashore development, ex-urban sprawl, and greedy grabs for Everglades wetlands. Is Nature
sending a message? Yep. But most Floridians, blinded by sunny skies and stucco vistas, don't give a manatee's ass.
Perhaps the state's recurring electoral role is karmic payback. As a native Nebraskan, for three decades I've endured the taunts
and triumphs of Florida's ridiculously successful football programs. With a brief respite in 1994-1995 -- greatly aided by
Florida-raised QB Tommy Frazier -- the Florida State Seminoles, the Miami Hurricanes, and Florida Gators have all had their way
with the Cornhuskers. Now Nebraska has adopted the very symbol of capitulation -- a passing game. Nebraskans are as suited
to throwing a football, as Floridians are to life without candles.
Sure, I perversely enjoy Florida's Weeki Wachee, tacky-wacky pink flamingo facade, its goofy ubiquitous snowbirds, and its balmy
weather, but I abhor its NASCAR knuckleheads, its Key West cracker wannabes, and the abominable Limbaugh. I loathe the
shallow fashionistas along SoBe's Ocean Drive as much as I detest the corporate family values groupthink of Disney's
Celebration. There is little to like about the place and a lot to hate.
But Florida keeps insinuating itself into my life. My best friends are rarely Floridian, but those Floridians I know have a quiet sunny
chutzpah that -- unlike Texans or New Yorkers -- make them hard to shake. When they visit, they are mindful and polite. And,
unlike the state's sugar farms, they clean up well.
I am starting to see them everywhere. There's this dance department Mafia from FSU circulating through Manhattan. There's top
New York City public school teachers who are former Gators. There's sweet, average-looking white guys, with low-key Floridian
personalities, snagging and shagging the city's top supermodels. Goddamned Florida. The state has snuck up on me, and is
affecting my life, my country, and the fate of the world.
Every morning for the last two months I've obsessively checked http://www.electoral-vote.com to see where the red states and
blue states stack up. Almost every day the site's distillation of polls has Florida a toss-up. Four years after tens of thousands of
African-American voters were systematically disenfranchised, thousands of Palm Beach County residents -- in a confounding act
of mass self-hatred ... NOT -- mistakenly selected Pat Buchanan for President, a Republican-leaning U.S. Supreme Court denied
a manual recount, and several neutral studies concluded that Al Gore would have won had there been a recount, the
disconnected mishmash of humanity we call Florida will most likely decide another Presidential election. This is no accident.
This is a message from on high.
Just as Dubya Bush, in his cock-eyed mendacity, hoped Osama would fizzle out after we attacked Iraq -- we'll smoke him out of
his foxhole! -- most Democrats after the last election secretly hoped Florida would just sink into the Caribbean sunset. But it has
Any way you squeeze it, the Citrus Capital is going to figure prominently this November 2nd. All objective observers say the future
President must win two of the three major swing states still in play. Pennsylvania, due to liberal Philly suburbans and pissed off
manufacturing workers, is tilting -- true to form -- Democrat. And Ohio, despite millions of dollars spent by both candidacies, and
one of the worst economies in the country, will probably tilt -- true to form -- Republican. Which leaves Florida. Bush could sweep
the secondary swing states of Iowa, New Mexico New Hampshire -- don't believe the hype: He's not taking the Democratic
strongholds of Minnesota, New Jersey, or Hawaii -- and would still lose the election unless he carried the Sunshine State. Even
Kerry would lose the election were he to sweep the secondary swing states but lose Florida, because it would leave him tied with
269 electoral votes. With a Colorado ballot measure that would scrap the state's winner-take-all system headed for defeat, the
election would be sent to Congress, where Bush, in another election not decided by the voters, would likely triumph.
The message is clear: We are all Floridians now. Like it or not, the fate of the planet now turns on how this one state votes. The
future of genuine multilateralism, a real solution to global warming, an enlightened energy policy, an end to the dire mess in Iraq,
full-throttled cooperation in the war on terror, safer borders, bridges, and ports, an educational system that prepares Americans
to compete with the rising giants of India and China, a balanced budget, a secure retirement system, a fair and wise Supreme
Court that understands the separation between church and state, and a robust economy, all pivot on Florida. The United Nations
sees Florida's importance, which is why they are sending observers to monitor Jeb and his election underlings. The Democrats
see it, which is why they are energetically rallying newly registered voters. And you can be damn sure that Karl Rove and his
henchmen see Florida's importance, which is why they are aggressively "scrubbing" from voter rolls those wrongly listed as
felons, emboldening the Florida Nader campaign, stoking turnout from Florida's large military contingent, dropping billions in
hurricane aid on the state, and rallying the decreasing numbers of rightwing Cuban-Americans in Miami's Little Havana.
If you are serious about a Kerry victory, you need to get serious about Florida. If you have Florida friends living outside the state,
make sure they vote back home by absentee ballot. If you are from safely Democratic havens like Illinois, New York or
Massachusetts, and know Nader-leaning Floridians, offer to vote for Nader in exchange for their vote for Kerry. Votepair.org
makes it easy, and legal. And if you live near Florida, and are free on or near election day, help get out-the-vote in the Sunshine
State. You can tap into the network at www.moveonpac.org.
You may not like it, but the tempest-tossed state of Florida is going to decide your future. As you decide what you are going to do
over the final week of this historic campaign, remember the outrage you felt when Bush was awarded the 2000 election. Maybe
it's time to say, "I'm not letting others do the hard work of democracy for me. This time I'm making sure that everyone votes, and
that every vote counts."
Especially in Florida.
James M. Crotty
Author, "How to Talk American" (Houghton Mifflin), co-author, "The Mad Monks' Guide to New York City" (Frommer's) and "Mad
Monks On the Road" (Simon & Schuster)
Cofounder, Monk: The Mobile Magazine
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