This could have been his moment.
With racial tension boiling over across the United States, African American voices are being heard in a way the nation hasn’t seen since Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., perhaps even louder. The message is resonating beyond the liberal corners it has typically dominated and into the mainstream and even across party lines.
Never has there been a better time for African American leaders to shine.
Imagine how much Andrew Gillum would be in the spotlight right now had he not slipped into the salacious realm of drug use and South Florida partying.
Gillum, once the rising-est rising star in Florida politics, stayed in the spotlight even after he narrowly lost the 2018 Governor’s race to Ron DeSantis. He was all over CNN as a political commentator. He was the face of Florida Democrats’ get out the vote efforts. There was even talk of him being a VP contender in 2020.
That was all before police in Minneapolis killed George Floyd in what became a pivotal point in racial tensions nationwide. As a black Democrat in the spotlight, Gillum would have been a beacon of hope for the black community.
As much as the 2018 Governor’s race was historic — few expected Gillum, a progressive Democrat, to topple the establishment machine behind Gwen Graham — this time of nationwide protests and boiled over anger over institutional racism could have been Gillum’s moment.
His greatest political tragedy may now no longer be his infamous night in a South Florida hotel surrounded by booze, drugs and, allegedly, a male escort. Instead, it might be that he is now sidelined because of it.
Even as one of Gillum’s fiercest political critics, there’s no denying he would have been at the front of a now global movement.
I’m no stranger to the dark side. The skeletons in my closet are no secret and are still weaponized by those who seek to discredit me (looking at you, Anthony Sabatini). But those experiences, and the rebirth that I experienced when I found love, got married and became a dad, reshaped my life and I believe I am a better man for it.
If Gillum truly deconstructs his past mistakes and excises his demons, I know from first-hand experience that there IS a second act waiting for him. He’s too talented … too capable … too ambitious not to find his way back.
Some will argue his moment has passed, even if he enjoys a full rehabilitation, which I hope he does.
But it’s fair to consider another thing. Gillum’s slip into oblivion, fueled by addiction, came, according to his own words, after he fell into depression following his personally heartbreaking loss in 2018.
His critics asked the question after his Miami escapade: “Can you imagine if we had Andrew Gillum in the Governor’s mansion?” The state dodged a bullet, those critics argue.
Maybe we did. Maybe we did for other reasons, too. But maybe, just maybe, Gillum’s battle with addiction might not have happened had he won. Maybe the loss was too much. Maybe it pushed him into the dark, into the grim world of drugs and decline. If that’s the case, he has a path forward.
Either way, this could have been his moment.