After one of the more contentious gubernatorial campaigns that I have ever witnessed, former Congressman Ron DeSantis has defeated Democrat Andrew Gillum to become Florida’s next Governor. While I will have a more detailed analysis in the days ahead, suffice it so say that I am extremely disappointed in the outcome.
I am not surprised; as I often write, Florida is still Dixie and a former staunch member of the Confederacy. Knowing such, it angers me that the more experienced candidate, the more intelligent candidate, the more prepared candidate, the more articulate candidate, the candidate with viable ideas on health care and economic issues that impact the majority of Florida residents, lost to a mediocre politician who has never led a local government, who has never had to deal with a budget, who did not even sponsor one meaningful piece of legislation while in Congress that impacted his state or America. A candidate, if I may, who was not even remotely close to being as prepared or capable as his Republican primary opponent, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, but one who won the Republican primary because he was a Donald Trump sycophant while in Congress, and now will be a Donald Trump surrogate in Tallahassee.
Folks, I learned early in my athletic/academic competition career that the best player and the best team do not always win. I get that and can accept a loss. But I cannot sit by and pretend that when I see that nearly 50k voters cast ballots for Democratic Senate candidate Bill Nelson than they did for Gillum makes me wonder out loud about the Bradley Effect. For those who don’t know, this effect is named for former Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley who in 1982, was deemed the front-runner in the California gubernatorial race by rather large margins according to polling data. When the dust settled, Bradley lost by large margins to George Deukmijean as we learned that even a great number of white Democrats did not vote for Bradley once they got behind that curtain.
Similarly, yesterday in Florida, there were a number of white and white Latino Democrats and independent voters who did NOT vote for Andrew Gillum. Those are the cold, hard, racial facts…
Some who read this blog may dismiss my concerns as “the race card,” but the truth of the matter is that if such a card exists, it was dealt from the moment that the first Africans were brought here by Europeans to toil as slaves in 1619, and continued all the way until the late 1960s when the last of the Jim Crow segregation laws were overturned–on paper at least.
Yes, we have come a long way in many respects here in Florida, a state where the Confederate Battle Flag still flies proudly at or near many of the courthouses that I frequent in the “red” parts of the state that went overwhelmingly for DeSantis. But we still have miles to go when considering that there are people who say that they watched the Gillum vs. DeSantis debates and came away with the impression that DeSantis, a trial lawyer no less, was the wiser and better prepared, better tempered and more articulate candidate. The mendacity in this position is startling, as Gillum easily dispatched DeSantis–and it was not even close.
But again, as I learned in my youth, the best player and the best team do not always win. As for Mayor Gillum, there will be more political games to play and I leave you with this reminder that in 2000, then Illinois State Senator Barack Obama was thoroughly destroyed in a congressional race against Bobby Rush. The then 39 year-old Obama was dejected, devastated, financially ruined and contemplated giving up politics to practice law full-time to support his growing family. Four years later, Obama won a U.S. Senate race and four years after that, he became the first Black President of the United States.
In the wake of this bitter loss, there is a great chance that Mayor Gillum, based upon the rave reviews he has received nationally, could become the second Black President.