Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that police generally need a search warrant if they want to track criminal suspects’ movements by collecting information about where they’ve used their cellphones.
Republican state Sen. Jeff Brandes may not have been the first Florida lawmaker to raise concerns about that issue, but he has probably been the loudest.
In 2013, in the face of staunch opposition from law enforcement, he sponsored legislation that would have prevented warrantless cellphone searches.
Privacy in an age of boundless technological innovation is one of a barrage of issues of which Brandes is on the forefront:
— He was talking about ride-sharing before many of his colleagues knew how to pronounce Uber.
— He’s the lawmaker who paved the way for autonomous vehicle testing in Florida.
— He’s been one of the leading proponents in the Senate for the expansion of medical marijuana and the reforming of the criminal justice system.
It’s on issues like those last two which have often left Brandes with fewer allies than he would like. Then again, PolitiFact in 2011 described him as the most independent member of the Florida Legislature, at least if you go by the voting records.
Because of his forward-thinking (among several other reasons), I’ve been proud – no, make that excited – to work for Brandes’ political operation. I broke with many other progressives to support his insurgent bid in 2010 against Democrat Bill Heller, himself a good man and thoughtful lawmaker.
This November, Brandes faces a challenge from a very intelligent, exceedingly friendly challenger, Carrie Pilon, whom I’ve known since she was the president of our high school’s student government. The voters of Senate District 24 are genuinely blessed to have two competent candidates.
In any other election cycle, Team Brandes would not be very worried by the threat posed by Pilon. She’s a first-time candidate with probably a tenth of the resources Brandes has to run his campaign.
Just as he did against another smart, capable Democrat (Judithanne McLaughlin), Brandes would simply overwhelm her in a district that leans ever so slightly to the right.
But this is no ordinary election cycle. In fact, it has the possibility to be the most extraordinary non-presidential election cycle of the last 30 years. That’s because it is, simply, the Cycle of Trump.
Since Trump was elected in 2016, there has been one election after another won by Florida Democrats. If you need evidence that a blue wave is forming in Florida politics, look no further than last week. That’s when a white Democrat defeated a Cuban Republican for the Miami-Dade County Commission seat that represents – wait for it – Little Havana.
Unfortunately, if a blue wave does sweep through Florida politics, it will wipe away sensible Republicans like Brandes, U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, and/or state Sen. Dana Young.
What a blue wave is unlikely to do is take out the far-right, fire-breathing Republicans who have transformed the GOP into a party that looks nothing like ‘the party of Lincoln.’
Meanwhile, moderating forces of the Republican Party are heading for the hills.
Last week, the brilliant strategist Steve Schmidt announced he is becoming an independent and is urging others to vote Democrat.
Also conservative columnist George Will suggested that voters should punish Paul Ryan‘s colleagues in the U.S. House by giving control to the Democrats.
I am a registered Republican. Not because of philosophy but because, in Pinellas County, Florida, the only real action in the primaries has been on the GOP side. Democrats have been unable to slate an entire ballot much less recruit enough candidates to enjoy competitive primaries.
For the last ten years, I’ve waged war for Brandes and many, many others against the forces of the far-right. At some point or another, we all delude ourselves into believing we are Robert Jordan.
If there were any time to leave the Republican Party, now — in this era of Trump — now would be the time. Most people probably assume I’m a Democrat anyway.
But I ain’t leavin’.
If there ever were a time for common-sense Republicans to fight for the soul of their party, it’s now. Don’t just abandon it to the #MAGA crowd.
That’s why it’s critical to support Republicans who 1) genuinely believe in limited government, and 2) are running in vulnerable seats susceptible to the blue wave.
A vote for Curbelo or Mario Diaz-Balart or Brandes or Rob Bradley or dozens of other main street Republicans is not a vote for or against Donald Trump. It’s a vote to make sure there’s still a party left after he’s long gone.