Winner and Loser of the Week in Florida politics — 2.28.21

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Teachers scored a big vaccine win, but Dennis Baxley is up to his old tricks again.

We hear the words “cancel culture” almost every day now. Republicans use it as a catch-all complaint that Big Tech and Godless Media hate them.

Former President Donald Trump became the cancel celebre when Twitter banned him because he lied approximately 12 trillion times about, well, everything. It culminated on Jan. 6 with the attack on the U.S. Capitol. Militants with mayhem on their minds justified the attack because the election was stolen, except it wasn’t.

Five people died, remember?

Anyway, Republican Sen. Ray Rodrigues has SB 264 working its way through committee hearings. If passed, state colleges and universities would ensure students are exposed to multiple viewpoints — not just liberal ones.

Other conservative state leaders routinely complain that platforms like Twitter squelch their views.

In January, for instance, Sen. Joe Gruters and Rep. Randy Fine filed bills to prohibit the state and local governments from doing business with companies like Twitter, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, and Google.

At a news conference, Fine noted that Big Evil Tech (ok, my words) “shut down the thoughts of half of our state.”

Guess which half?

Of course, as the Orlando Sentinel deftly noted, “If what he said were true, Fine wouldn’t have been able to post the video of his attention-seeking news conference on Facebook, which he did, or retweet a news story about it on Twitter, which he also did.”

Matt Gaetz, Marco Rubio, and Rick Scott are regular social media posters. They also regularly complain about Big Evil Tech (still my words).

Gaetz was prominently mentioned in a report by California Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (more on this later). She compiled social media posts by Florida congressional members that spread lies about the November election, including dozens from Gaetz.

His response?

A tweet that read: “Cancel culture is a cult with no grace.”

Speaking of cancel culture and grace, though, remember when NFL players took a knee to raise awareness of police brutality? Conservatives went berserk and urged people to boycott the games.

Colin Kaepernick can tell you a thing or three about the cancel culture grace. Remember when Ted Cruz burned his Nike gear because the company canceled plans for a Betsy Ross flag sneaker following protests.

Country radio stations nearly ran the Dixie Chicks (now the Chicks) out of the music business. Why? Lead singer Natalie Maines criticized President George W. Bush.

But that was different, right?

Bottom line: Conservatives have plenty of options to get their views into the public arena. Fox News offers up Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson. For those more interested in baloney than facts, One America News and Newsmax are also widely available.

Stop whining.

Winners

Honorable mention: No super spread from Super Bowl. Despite concern that having the Super Bowl in Tampa would trigger a COVID-19 super spread, health officials reported a relatively small number of cases linked to the event.

The Tampa Bay Times reported that official Super Bowl events account for just 53 COVID-19 cases statewide. That’s according to Michael Wiese, chief epidemiologist at the Hillsborough County Health Department.

Many feared much higher numbers, especially after unmasked revelers partied hardy after the Bucs beat Kansas City to win the championship.

University of South Florida immunologist Michael Teng told the newspaper the numbers are “not nearly as troublesome” as he feared.

Officials caution, though, the actual number of cases likely is higher because of the reluctance of people to share their medical information with contact tracers.

Almost (but not quite) biggest winner: Ron DeSantis. Does the Governor wear a Teflon suit? It sure seems so because the more negative publicity he receives, the better his fortunes look.

Nothing seems to stick.

Early polling gives him a substantial lead in a theoretical 2022 election against either Nikki Fried or Charlie Crist.

He had the strongest showing by far of anyone not named Trump in a presidential straw poll last week at the CPAC conference in Orlando.

Even a potentially damning story by The Miami Herald doesn’t seem to have the impact it might have. The newspaper reported that while many elderly Floridians awaited COVID-19 shots, residents in what it called “an ultra-exclusive neighborhood” had no problem.

Looks suspicious.

Democrats called for an investigation, which is a good idea.

However, DeSantis denied involvement, although there’s some dispute about that. However, unless a smoking gun emerges, the story may not change many minds. It solidified those who already believe DeSantis plays politics with the vaccine, but this, like everything else, could roll off his Teflon coating.

The biggest winner: Florida teachers and childcare workers under 50 years old. Speaking of vaccines, the pharmacy chain CVS bucked DeSantis and will follow federal guidelines and allow teachers of any age to receive COVID-19 vaccinations. Walmart and Walgreens quickly followed suit.

Even Publix fell in line, and DeSantis acquiesced — sort of. While he didn’t put up a fuss, he said state-supported vaccination sites like parks and stadiums will only vaccinate only K-12 teachers who are 50 or older.

“Teachers who are younger can go to CVS and they will sign you up, but our [sites] are targeting seniors,” DeSantis said in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. “Our view is, if you’re 25, you’re just at less risk than somebody that’s 80. That’s just the bottom line.”

Actually, the bottom line is to quickly vaccinate as many people as possible.

You know, kind of like the people in that “ultra-exclusive neighborhood” in the Keys.

Losers

Dishonorable mention: Bill Galvano. As Senate President, he wanted three controversial toll road projects approved before he left office two years ago. He pushed, prodded, and finally carried the day.

However, the Senate Transportation Committee on Wednesday voted to repeal that legislation. As Florida Politics reported, “that’s the first step in effectively killing all three toll roads.”

Committee Chair Gayle Harrell said COVID-19 messed with the budget so much it became necessary to re-evaluate the projects.

“We really had to readdress the fiscal impact and fiscal feasibility of these three major turnpikes throughout the state,” Harrell said.

Bottom line: Expect improvements to existing roads in many parts of the state. However, don’t expect three new major toll roads.

Almost (but not quite) biggest loser: Gaetz. That report about his social media activity we referenced up top lays it out clearly. We kind of already knew he was a tweet first and think later kind of a guy, but wow! His social media presence during the days leading to the Capitol riot took reckless to a new level.

Lofgren’s exhaustive report has 189 pages on the eight Florida lawmakers who voted against certifying Joe Biden as President. Posts from Gaetz accounted for 122 of them.

Some examples: “President Trump is not resigning, and he is not leaving the public stage at all. Donald J. Trump remains the inspirational leader of a loving and patriotic movement of people who believe America’s best days can still be ahead.”

That was January 10, after the insurrection. At that point, the “best days” were only 10 days away.

“President Trump called for protests that would be peaceful and patriotic…he got labeled a national security threat. Democrats raised funds for groups attacking our police, burning our cities, and destroying our businesses…they were celebrated as justice warriors.”

You mean the part where Trump people had to “fight like hell” to keep their country?

“Democrats were the cheerleaders, fundraisers and apologists for the people who burned our cities, attacked our police, and were on offense against the very notion of America for months this summer.”

Does he mean the very notion of America where a cop murders a Black man in broad daylight?

Say this for Gaetz: He’s often wrong, but he’s always loud.

But, there only to be one biggest loser, and time it’s …

The biggest loser: Dennis Baxley. We have learned over the years that any legislation that has this Ocala Republican’s name on it is bound to be controversial, dangerous, and maybe a little looney.

He just hit the trifecta with SB 86, which would kneecap Florida’s Bright Futures scholarship program. Since its inception in 1997, Bright Futures helped an estimated 750,000 students afford to attend college.

Baxley wants to change that.

His bill, if approved, would limit full scholarships to students earning degrees that “lead directly to employment.”

Anyone majoring in something that doesn’t pass employment muster would be eligible only for 60 credit hours of aid — about two years at full time enrollment.

Those favoring changes say it will help reduce spending, but that doesn’t add up because the cash doesn’t come from taxpayers. Proceeds from the Florida Lottery pay for the scholarships, $6.2 billion since the program began.

It’s just the latest example of Baxley’s addled concept of governance.

In 2019, for instance, he filed a bill that would have required schools to teach “different worldviews” on issues like evolution and climate change.

It didn’t pass.

He was the lone committee vote against replacing the statue of Confederate Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith in the U.S. Capitol.

There’s a lot more if you’re inclined to look.

Just Google “crazy Dennis Baxley.”

It’s out there.

Joe Henderson

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.


3 comments

  • Ocean Joe

    March 7, 2021 at 6:48 am

    Losers of the week and month: low tech, low income seniors who didn’t donate to the right “charity” and didn’t get the Cadillac vaccine plan.

  • Ron Ogden

    March 7, 2021 at 9:20 am

    Can you imagine Joe’s response if FLAPOL tripped over FB’s computers or Twitters’? Can you imagine the screams about First Amendment protections and how the “free media” is the only true source and guarantor of “our democracy”? I don’t object to Joe’s columns being laughable. We can all use a good chuckle. I object to them being typical.

  • John Adams

    March 7, 2021 at 2:30 pm

    I bet you are a cuckold

Comments are closed.


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