In defense of Florida Republicanism

Real Elephant Republican Symbol
Florida Republicanism is not an adjunct of Trumpism.

If you channel surf, travel out of state or peruse headlines, chances are you’ve heard some wildly inaccurate — ignorant, even — views on Florida.

This mythical version of the Sunshine State is an amalgamation of Florida Man stories, memories of the 2000 recount and, of course, theme parks.

The outsider view on Florida Republicans is just as fallacious.

People and the national media tend to think of Florida Republicanism as an adjunct of Trumpism. Indeed, Donald Trump is popular here. In what other state was a hundreds-strong flotilla organized to celebrate the President’s birthday?

As the coronavirus pandemic puts the spotlight on Florida government, GOP politicians are being lambasted for their handling of the crisis. Admittedly, Gov. Ron DeSantis deserves a little heat — and I’ve criticized him when he has crossed the line.

But Florida’s take on Republicanism is not synonymous with Trumpism. Not in the slightest.

Take Sen. Wilton Simpson, for example, he’s just months away from becoming Senate President. His power is nearing its peak, and he could push just about any bill through the Legislature with brute force.

But he didn’t use it to pass a Trump World priority. Instead, he expended his political capital on a bill reforming the Department of Children and Families — something members of both parties could get behind and a policy that will make a direct positive impact on Floridians’ lives.

For his environmental priorities, the Governor didn’t have to look far to find an advocate. Sen. Debbie Mayfield and Rep. Bobby Payne delivered the ambitious and comprehensive Clean Waterways Act to his desk, with unanimous support from both chambers.

Sen. Jeff Brandes, meanwhile, has been one of the most outspoken advocates — from either party — on criminal justice reform. He has sponsored legislation to reduce prison sentences for some young adult offenders; early release for certain ill or elderly inmates; and allow more diversion from state prison altogether.

Current Senate President Bill Galvano was a proponent of a Medicaid Home and Community Based Waiver, which will help the state better manage the costs of caring for disabled Floridians without making cuts to their health care.

Why? He summed it up best when the bill was signed: “In my view, one of the core functions and responsibilities of government is to ensure that our laws protect the most vulnerable among us.”

These lawmakers are not aberrations, they’re simply a continuation in a long line of Florida Republicans who have put the needs of their constituents first. Think Will Weatherford’s quest to end poverty, or Andy Gardiner’s scholarship program for special needs students, or Jeb Bush’s work to expand school choice.

Their critics might not believe it, but care for others is seemingly a prerequisite for climbing the ranks of the Republican Party of Florida.

If we could bottle up the formula for the Florida Republicanism and make others drink it, Trump’s GOP would be a better place.

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also the publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.


  • Sonja Fitch

    July 7, 2020 at 5:53 am

    Not enough! That “cockroach “ dept of Ed head! Omg our children! Desantis fire this slimy nazi wants be!

  • Sam

    July 7, 2020 at 7:22 am

    The trump thing has shown us that republicans cannot be trusted to be real Americans and uphold our values. I can definitively say right now that Charlie Crist was the last republican I will ever consider voting for in my life, no matter what the alternative. (I’d still be voting for Charlie if I was in his district, especially now that he is actually in the party of American values.)

  • Gainesville Gary

    July 7, 2020 at 8:21 am

    Are you even halfway serious? I’ve been enjoying your articles and your site for a few years now but this is by the far the lamest op-ed you’ve written and I’ve ever read. Not sure if someone in GOP political circles admonished you to write this, but its no wonder its a relatively tiny piece: There aren’t many Republicans in Florida who fit the criteria you somewhat disingenuously described, and even fewer who aren’t enthusiastic Trump stooges. The party’s long history assures us that when given a chance, it and its members consistently prioritize politics over people.

    Case in study: Voting rights. Republicans stole the 2000 election in part by suppressing votes. They are still doing that today, by ignoring the will of 65% of voters who backed Amendment 4 in order to try to seal a victory here for Trump in November, and Desantis in 2022, voting rights be damned. The GOP is even spending much-needed taxpayer dollars, MILLIONS in fact, to defend an indefensible voting ban policy that reeks of racism.

    Devotion to Trumpism is the primary driver of this effort, and that’s obvious.

    Brandes has played a pivotal role in stifling Amendment 4. How on Earth do you begin to reform criminal justice without addressing the need to reintegrate ex-felons back into society, including offering them a chance to vote–and again, MOST Florida voters approved Amendment 4.

    When Republicans advocate for what is fair for the broader public, and that’s rare, because they are often too busy carrying out the wishes of various right wing groups and business interests, its never enough. Right now, we have a raging pandemic and essentially no leadership from either Desantis or the GOP-run Legislature. Ridiculous.

    I’m very saddened that you’ve decided to use this article as an opportunity to spread highly unbelievable GOP propaganda, Peter, instead of calling Republicans out for their gross hypocrisies and complete failure to lead during a critical time or sustain voting rights in this state.

  • S. B. Anthony

    July 7, 2020 at 8:27 am

    “If we could bottle up the formula for the Florida Republicanism and make others drink it, the world would be a better place.“

    As long as Gaetz, Sabatini, DeSantis, Scott, and their ilk are pushing the Kool Aide, no one is listening to you. Like it or not, they are the face of Florida’s Republican Party. Elections have consequences.

    • Longjohn119

      July 8, 2020 at 8:03 am

      Public Service Announcement

      Beginning January 21, 2021 the term “drank the Kool-aid” with be replaced by “inhaled the virus”

      Thank you

  • DisplacedCTYankee

    July 7, 2020 at 9:11 am

    So you are saying that as soon as Trump’s evil ass is booted out in November Florida Republicans, indeed all Republicans, will go back to being kind, caring representatives of their “constituents?”


    July 7, 2020 at 12:18 pm

    There’s no defense of “Florida Republicanism”! The Republican party and Republican leadership in this state have totally sucked for the past 22 years! Florida is at the bottom tier in state rankings for public education, teacher pay, average pay overall and working family income, healthcare coverage and costs, crime and corrections, environment, opportunity – and on and on and on. Extremely partisan rightwing wackos have taken over the state at almost every level and their whole operation is entirely devoted to self-aggrandizement, the excercise of pure partisanship, and kissing the ass of monied special interests in order to raise money for their own continued re-election.

    Florida Republicanism – like that in most of the rest of Jesusland – sucks! It’s w-a-y past the time to totally eliminate this current version of Republicanism.

  • Larry Gillis

    July 7, 2020 at 2:17 pm

    Freedom-loving, limited-government, no-crony market-driven private-enterprise, parental-responsibility Republicans should feel frozen out by the “Republican” party here in Florida and nationally.

    If they are serious about real personal responsibility, they should look at our platform and become Libertarians. FYI, we are at

    In Liberty,

    Larry Gillis ,Libertarian (Cape Coral)

  • Ex-Reader In Nassau County

    July 7, 2020 at 5:54 pm

    SHAME ON YOU PETER!! Terrible disservice to your readers. This state’s Republicans are all in for Trump, and even before they fully capitulated to that Putin loving corrupt psycho, the Florida Republican Party was knee deep in crafting terrible legislation that has had such a detrimental impact on everything from schools to corrections to healthcare and so much more.

    I think its galling of you to TRY to make excuses for Republicans when the current pandemic is so out of control because of Republicans’ complete failure to lead.

    Not sure what fantasy ride you’re on but Peter, you should be ashamed of yourself for writing such unrealistic, cheerleading GARBAGE.

  • Jim

    July 7, 2020 at 10:07 pm

    How the hell can you write something like this when DeSantis has allowed the coronavirus to spiral out of control in FL and now plans to reopen schools in August on top of that?

    The truth about DeSantis is that he has demonstrated himself willing to lie about a deadly virus and murder Florida’s schoolchildren to get himself reelected. I’m having a hard time seeing him as much of a human being.

Comments are closed.


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