Darryl Paulson, Author at Florida Politics

Darryl Paulson

Darryl Paulson is Emeritus Professor of Government at USF St. Petersburg.

Darryl Paulson: Al Franken is a big, fat sexual predator

In 1996, Al Franken wrote a book called “Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot.”

I understand Limbaugh is working on his book about Franken, which he will call “Al Franken is a Big Fat Sexual Predator.”

What comes around, goes around.

After 20 years as a writer and cast member for Saturday Night Live, Franken concluded that he had much to offer to the political realm. He wrote a series of books critical of conservative politics. In addition to his Limbaugh book, Franken wrote: “Why Not Me” (1999), “Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them” (2003), “The Truth” (2005), and “Giant of the Senate” (2017).

Franken also decided to sign with Air America Radio and go head-to-head with Limbaugh on the radio. Franken got crushed, and Air America folded after a few years.

The death of Minnesota Sen. Paul Wellstone in an October 2002 plane crash would create a new political opportunity for Franken. Minnesota Democrats selected former senator and Vice President Walter Mondale to replace Wellstone and take on Republican St. Paul Mayor Norm Coleman.

Coleman pulled off a surprising upset of Mondale, defeating him 50 to 47 percent.

Six years later, Franken moved back to his native Minnesota and was positioned to take on Coleman. Franken led the field of Democratic challengers until a Playboy article that he wrote in 2000 surfaced. The article was about a virtual reality sex institute where men were free to do whatever they wanted with women. Feminists were outraged, and Franken apologized and was able to secure the nomination.

On election night, both Coleman and Franken received 42 percent of the vote, with Franken leading by 206 votes. A recount increased Franken’s led to 312 votes and July 7, 2009, eight months after the election, Franken was sworn in as Minnesota’s junior senator. As the 60th Democrat in the Senate, Franken was critical in securing passage of Obamacare.

After defeating Coleman, Franken worked hard to suppress any comedic impulse flowing through his veins. Franken wanted to be considered as a serious politician, not a funny politician. He impressed senators across the aisles, who praised Franken for his hard work and serious demeanor.

In 2014, Franken easily won re-election, defeating his Republican opponent Mike McFadden by a 53-43 percent margin.

After Hillary Clinton’s loss to Donald Trump in 2016, speculation immediately arose about Franken running for president in 2020. Progressives created a “Why Not Al” movement along with a “Draft Al Franken” website. Few doubted that Franken would be a serious candidate.

Franken’s announced resignation from the Senate not only ends his Senate career but also any talk of a presidential campaign.

Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton will now appoint a replacement for Franken until a 2018 special election. Speculation is that Dayton will appoint Tina Smith, his Lieutenant Governor.

Smith is the likely replacement for Franken for three reasons. First, Dayton picked her as his Lieutenant Governor, so he is a close personal and political friend. Second, a female replacement seems appropriate since seven women have come forth and alleged they were assaulted by Franken.

Finally, Smith has indicated that she will be a caretaker replacement and is not interested in running in the 2018 special election.

Possible Democratic candidates in the 2018 special election include Betty McCollum who represents Congressional District 4, Keith Ellison from District 5 and Rick Nolan in District 8. Another possibility is Ileana Omar, a state representative, who would become the first Somalia-American in the Senate.

Republican candidates include members of Congress Tim Walz of District 1, Erik Paulsen of District 3 and Tim Emmer of District 6. Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty is another possibility, along with former Sen. Norm Coleman. A final candidate might be Stuart Mills, heir to the Fleet Farm fortune, who narrowly lost a campaign against incumbent Democrat Richard Nolan for the Congressional District 8 seat.

Whoever the nominee, the open seat race will force the nominees to raise $20 million if they want to seriously contend.

Although Minnesota has voted for the Democratic presidential nominee since 1976, longer than any other state, the Republicans hold the state Senate by one seat, the state House by 20 seats and Clinton carried the state by just 1.5 percent, her smallest margin of victory of any state other than New Hampshire.

Minnesota is turning redder than most observers note, and this will create a very interesting 2018 special election.

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Darryl Paulson is Emeritus Professor of Government at USF St. Petersburg specializing in Florida politics and elections.

Darryl Paulson: Republican prospects in the 2018 Florida congressional campaign

Republicans have controlled the Florida congressional districts for almost three decades.

During that time, the size of the Florida congressional delegation has jumped from 23 in 1990 to 25 in 2000, and 27 in 2010. Projections have Florida adding two more seats after the 2020 census, growing the delegation to 29 seats in the House of Representatives.

Only California and Texas have larger delegations.

Currently, Republicans hold 16 of the 27 congressional seats, meaning Democrats need to flip three seats to take control of the delegation. How likely is that to happen?

That’s the topic of Paulson’s Politics for next week.

Three decades of Republican control of the delegation is testimony to the party’s ability to attract quality candidates and to provide them with the organizational and financial support essential for victory.

Is Republican dominance of the delegation over?

At one point, there were as many as seven more Republicans than Democrats in the Florida delegation. Democrats had hoped that a judicial redraw of the congressional district lines in 2016, due to a League of Women Voters challenge to the legislature’s redistricting plan that they believed violated the Fair District Amendment, would allow Democrats to pick up a number of congressional seats. In the end, Democrats picked up one seat, reducing the Republican advantage to 16 to 11.

Floridians elected eight new members to the Florida delegation in 2016, the highest turnover rate of any state with at least eight members. Typically, 90 percent of House members win re-election.

Three incumbent Republicans retired and were replaced by three new Republicans. Two Republicans lost to Democrats and another Republican, Daniel Webster, moved from District 10 to 11 after his District was redrawn and made heavily Democratic. Republicans picked up two seats that had been held by a Democrat. Gwen Graham decided not to seek re-election after her District 2 seat was redrawn to favor Republicans, and Patrick Murphy abandoned his House seat to run unsuccessfully for the U. S. Senate. Republican Neal Dunn won the Graham seat and Brian Mast won the Murphy seat. The net result was a one seat gain by Democrats.

One Republican strength has been that Republican voters have been more motivated than Democrats to turn out on Election Day, especially in midterms. Democratic advantages in voter registration numbers have been diminished by Republican advantage in voter turnout.

A recent Washington Post/ABC Poll indicates that the Republican edge in motivation will not be there in the 2018 midterms. An identical percentage of Republican and Democratic voters, 63 percent, indicated that they are certain to vote in 2018. That number may change by Election Day, but it has to be a concern for Republicans.

Republicans in Florida have been advantaged over the past three decades due to their organizational strength and their ability to finally support their candidates. This is no longer the case.

Democrats, who have had a long history of forming a circular firing squad and executing their own members, finally seem to have their act together. It is now the Republicans who are divided. When Gov. Rick Scott’s hand-picked candidate to lead the party was defeated by state legislator Blaise Ingoglia, Scott told Republicans not to contribute to the party, but instead to his own Let’s Get to Work PAC.

The flow of money to the Florida Republican Party has slowed to a trickle, making it difficult to support more than a small number of candidates. During the first six months of 2017, the Florida Democratic Party raised $3.5 million compared to only $2.4 million for the Republicans. This is, and will be, a major problem for the Republican Party and their candidates heading into 2018.

NEXT WEEK:  An analysis of the 2018 congressional races. Will it be status quo, or will Florida experience a political tsunami?

Darryl Paulson: Political purges in American politics

Steve Bannon, a former Donald Trump political adviser and the head of Breitbart News, has declared a “season of war” against the Republican establishment.

Bannon is recruiting challengers to all Republican senators except Ted Cruz of Texas.

He is requiring all of the challengers to oppose the nomination of Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky as party leader. Bannon said the candidates he recruits must “play Brutus to your Julius Caesar.”

President Trump gleefully cheered the announcements this week that Republican senators Jeff Flake of Arizona and Bob Corker of Tennessee will not seek re-election in 2018. Flake was facing a difficult re-election bid, but Corker was favored to win re-election even though Trump said Corker “couldn’t get elected dogcatcher in Tennessee.”

President Trump supports Bannon’s effort to a degree but has promised Republican senators Roger Wicker of Mississippi, Deb Fischer of Nebraska and John Barrasso of Wyoming that he will support their 2018 re-election’s.

Trump has also noted that some of the people Bannon is seeking to purge are “great people” and he will “see if I can talk him out of that.”

Some purges have succeeded. Conservatives ousted House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia in 2014 after accusing him of being too moderate and too willing to compromise with Democrats.

Tea Party activists were able to purge several Republicans in 2010, including their support of Marco Rubio over Governor Charlie Crist in the Senate race. Some purges were embarrassing, such as the Tea Party support for Christine “I am not a witch” O’Donnell over proven Republican vote-getter Mike Castle. O’Donnell won the primary and got trounced in the general election.

Most purges have been dismal failures. The most famous political purge in American history was Franklin Roosevelt’s 1938 attempt to defeat Democratic opponents of his New Deal policies.

Roosevelt preferred an ideologically based party system, with a liberal Democratic Party and a conservative Republican Party. He used one of his “fireside chats” to encourage voters to throw out any members of Congress opposing his policies.

Roosevelt was operating from a position of strength. He won re-election to a second term in 1936 with 61 percent of the vote and lost only two of the 48 states.

In addition, FDR’s approval ratings were sky-high.

Key targets of the purge were Democratic senators Walter George of Georgia, Millard Tydings of Maryland and Ellison “Cotton Ed” Smith of South Carolina, along with a half-dozen other members of Congress.

How successful was Roosevelt? The purge failed. All the targeted senators won re-election and only one House member, John O’Connor of New York, was defeated.

Voters resented Roosevelt’s attempt to influence state elections. The use of the term “purge,” was a direct reference to the purges taking place in Stalin’s Soviet Union. Presidential historian Robert Dallek called the purge “a serious failure.” FDR failed to remove a single senator, and 60 percent of the voters disapproved of the purge/.

If one of the most popular presidents in history could not succeed in purging opponents, how will Trump and Bannon succeed? Trump barely won the election and his approval ratings are at an all-time low for a president in his first year in office.

As Roosevelt discovered, purges not only fail, but they can backfire. Purge targets became more embolden after beating back Roosevelt’s challenge.

More recently, the Tea Party challenged incumbent Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. The Tea Party candidate won the primary, but Murkowski won the general election as a “write-in” candidate. Trump was powerless to try and win her support in Republican efforts to “repeal and replace” Obamacare.

Even if the purgers fail, they often claim a moral victory. When progressive Democrats opposed the nomination of former long-term Republican Senator Arlen Specter as the Democratic nominee, they challenged Specter in the primary. Specter won, but was so weakened that he lost to conservative Republican Pat Toomey. Purgers ousted the liberal Specter who was replaced by the conservative Toomey, but they claimed victory for ousting a political opportunist who had grilled Anita Hill during the Clarence Thomas hearings.

The ideological parties that Roosevelt desired came to pass due to natural events and not due to FDR’s attempts to cleanse the party. Roosevelt would likely be pleased that ideological parties have come to pass in America.

The unanswered question is: Are we better off with our ideological parties, or were we better served by our former party system where both parties had a mix of liberals, conservatives and moderates?

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Darryl Paulson is Emeritus Professor of Government at USF St. Petersburg specializing in Florida politics and elections.

Darryl Paulson: So much for presidential gravitas

Once again, President Donald Trump has taken what should be a solemn occasion and turned it into political theater. Unfortunately for Trump, he won’t win any Academy Awards for his performance.

On October 4, Sgt. La David Johnson and three other Green Berets were ambushed and killed in Niger. Only a dozen years ago, my daughter Rebecca served 27 months as a Peace Corp volunteer in Niger. Shortly after she left, the Peace Corps shut down its operations in Niger due to increased terrorist activity.

For almost a week after the deaths, President Trump made no mention of the tragedy in Niger. When asked about the incident at a press conference, Trump said that, unlike prior presidents, he calls the families of all fallen soldiers.

In fact, Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, were upset by Trump’s statement. In addition, it turned out that Trump had not yet called the families of the four Green Berets.

Sgt. Johnson, from Miami, had previously participated in the 5000 Role Models program for at-risk boys established by Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, who represents the 24th congressional district in Miami. That was the start of a long-term relationship between Sgt. Johnson, his wife and Wilson.

That was why Wilson was riding in the car with Mrs. Myeshia Johnson on the way to pick up her husband’s body when Trump finally called Mrs. Johnson.

Mrs. Johnson asked the military escort to put the call on speakerphone so other relatives could here what the president had to say. Wilson was not eavesdropping on the call as General John Kelly, chief of staff, alleged.

According to Mrs Johnson and Wilson, the president did not seem to know Sgt. Johnson’s first name and he told Mrs. Johnson that he “knew what he signed up for. . . “

President Trump accused, via Twitter, Wilson of totally fabricating “what I said to the wife of a soldier who died in action (and I have proof). Sad!” Trump later tweeted that Wilson was “wacky” and contended that she is “killing her party.”

Kelly compounded the problem when he alleged that Wilson claimed she was instrumental in getting funding for a new FBI building in Miami instead of focusing on the two slain agents for whom it was named. A videotape of her speech showed that Kelly’s comments were inaccurate.

Wilson has represented Florida’s 23rd Congressional District since 2010. She previously served in the Florida House (1998-2002) and Senate (2002-2010).

Wilson is best known for having a large collection of colorful hats which she wears every day. Press secretary Sarah Sanders alluded to Wilson’s hats when she accused Wilson of being “all hat and no cattle.”

Further complicating the issue was a statement made Sanders, who criticized reporters for attacking Kelly. “If you want to get into a debate with a four-star general, I think that’s highly inappropriate.” Since when did generals get immunity for what they say?

I see three apologies that need to be made. Trump needs to apologize to Mrs. Johnson, even if it is merely to say his statements were misconstrued and he honors the sacrifice of her husband.

Kelly should apologize to Wilson because his accusations cannot be substantiated by the evidence.

Finally, Sanders should apologize to the media for telling them to not be critical of a four-star general.

Since Trump is on record as saying he has never asked for forgiveness in prayer, one cannot expect him to ever apologize. Kelly and Sanders still have a chance to correct the record and make amends. I hope they do.

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Darryl Paulson is Emeritus Professor of Government at USF St. Petersburg specializing in Florida politics and elections.

Darryl Paulson: The end of gerrymandering?

The term gerrymandering was coined over 200 years ago. On March 26, 1812, the Boston Gazette first used the term in describing the redrawing of a Massachusetts state senate district. Gov. Elbridge Gerry, a member of the Democratic-Republican Party, said the district resembled a salamander. Gerry’s name was linked to the last part of salamander, and the term gerrymandering was born.

Gerry and his party lost the House and governorship to the Federalists, but the Democratic-Republicans won the gerrymandered state senate district. Gerrymanders have been part of the political process ever since then.

The federal courts have refused to interfere with the drawing of political districts lines, arguing this was a “political question” best left to the legislature and not the courts.

The only exception made by the courts relates to “racial gerrymandering,” which the courts have found to violate the “equal protection” clause of the constitution. Partisan gerrymanders have essentially remained outside of the court’s jurisdiction.

Increasingly, it is getting difficult to tell what may be a racial as opposed to partisan gerrymander. When better than 90 percent of black voters vote Democrat, how do you determine if the gerrymander was done for racial or partisan reasons? Also, at one point, the courts were requiring the states to create as many majority-minority districts as possible in order to increase minority representation. Now, the courts are urging states to reduce the percentage of minority voters in a district. Few areas have had as much inconsistency from the courts as reapportionment and gerrymandering.

Although the U.S. Supreme Court has not intervened in partisan gerrymanders, the court came close in 2004 when they split 4-4 in a Pennsylvania partisan gerrymandering case. Justice Anthony Kennedy, who voted to uphold the gerrymander, said he “would not foreclose” the possibility of relief “if some limited and precise rationale were found to correct an established violation of the Constitution in some redistricting cases.”

A partisan gerrymandering case in Wisconsin is now under review by the U.S. Supreme Court. At issue is the “efficiency gap,” a tool developed by a law professor and political scientist which purports to measure excessive partisan gerrymanders.

In 2010, after 40 years of Democratic dominance, Republicans gained control of the legislature and governor’s office. They redrew the legislative district lines so that 49 percent of the voters elected Republicans to 60 of the 99 Assembly seats.

On the national level, even though Republicans won less than half the House votes, they won 241 of the 435 House seats. The Brennan Center for Justice found that Republicans have a “durable majority” of 16-17 seats in the House, mostly in seven states where Republicans drew the district lines.

Courts have already struck down lines in North Carolina, Virginia, Florida and Texas due to illegal gerrymandering. The Wisconsin gerrymander has been described as “the largest partisan asymmetry on record.”

With digital technology, it is easier to carve out partisan districts with surgical precision. As Sam Wang and Brian Remlinger of the Princeton Gerrymandering Project note, “Thanks to technology and political polarization, the effects of partisan gerrymandering since 2012 have been more pronounced than at any point in the previous 50 years.”

Does the Court now have the tools to ascertain a party gerrymander that Justice Kennedy said was needed to outlaw partisan gerrymandering? They better have found a precise tool since, if the court rules against the Wisconsin gerrymander, they will also strike down similar gerrymanders in one-third of the 50 states.

As Chief Justice John Roberts noted in his remarks on the Wisconsin case Oct. 3, the courts “authority and legitimacy” would be hurt if it struck down legislative districts in so many states. “That is going to cause very serious harm to the status and integrity of this court in the eyes of the country.”

Republicans argue that the Wisconsin map reflects the fact that Democrats have packed themselves into cities, while Republicans are better distributed across the state.

Judge Kenneth Ripple, one of the two district court judges who struck down the Wisconsin gerrymander, agrees that “the high concentration of Democratic voters in urban centers like Milwaukee and Madison, affords the Republican Party a natural, but modest advantage in the districting process.”

But, noted Ripple, partisan gerrymandering amplified that advantage.

Will that be enough for the court to throw out legislative boundaries in one-third of the states? We will know when the court hands down its decision in a few months.

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Darryl Paulson is Emeritus Professor of Government at USF St. Petersburg specializing in Florida politics and elections.

Darryl Paulson: Taking a knee, the controversy over the national anthem and the NFL

The controversy over NFL players taking a knee or linking arms during the national anthem is splitting the nation in two. Is it Trump or the players who have created the political divide?

The controversy began in 2016 when San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the national anthem. Kaepernick justified his action by saying “America refuses to address the pervasive evil of white cops killing black men, and I will not stand during a national anthem that honors the flag of such a country.”

The end result for Kaepernick is that he was voted the “most disliked” player in the NFL. Fans burned his uniform and no NFL team offered him a contract.

Kaepernick was not the first NFL quarterback to “take a knee.” Former Heisman Trophy quarterback Tim Tebow of the University of Florida and several NFL teams, was known for taking a knee. Tebow would bow his head, put his arm on his knee and pray. Tebow’s pose became known as “Tebowing.”

Fans loved Tebow’s faith and piety; they despised Kaepernick’s perceived lack of patriotism.

The issue peaked this week when President Donald Trump spoke at a campaign rally in Huntsville, Alabama for GOP Senate candidate Luther Strange. Anyone not respecting the flag, said Trump, is a “son of a bitch who ought to be kicked off the field and fired by the team’s owners.” If not, fans should boycott the NFL.

This past Sunday, some 200 NFL players, owners and coaches knelt or linked arms during the national anthem. Trump tweeted: “Standing with linked arms is good, kneeling is not acceptable.”

The players, owners, media and pundit class uniformly panned Trump’s statements. Was the outcry justified?

Perhaps, but I did not see one fan in the stands taking a bent knee in solidarity with the players. And, if millions of American families who have buried a loved one in a flag-draped casket after their family member made the ultimate sacrifice, it is not hard to understand their displeasure at multimillionaire NFL players refusing to respect the flag or anthem.

Virtually every Democrat in the Florida congressional delegation criticized President Trump for his decisive comments. No one, especially the president of the United States, should refer to fellow citizens as “sons of a bitches.”

On the other hand, it is not difficult to see why Florida Congressman Brian Mast, a double-leg amputee from his service in Afghanistan, is upset by players who take a knee to protest the national anthem and feel that they “should already be gone.” Joining Mast in opposition to the kneelers was Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz tweeted, “#StandForOurAnthem.”

President Trump’s expletives have no place in our political dialogue. On the other hand, isn’t there a better way for protestors to make their point than by showing what many believe to be disrespect for the flag, the national anthem, and those who have paid a far greater price than any NFL player?

Darryl Paulson: Amnesty Don

Amnesty Don. That’s what Steve Bannon and Breitbart News called President Donald Trump after news came out that the president and the Democratic leadership of Congress brokered a deal concerning the Dreamers.

According to reports, Trump struck a deal with Democratic leader of the Senate Chuck Schumer and Democratic House leader Nancy Pelosi. The supposed deal was to grant work visas and a pathway to citizenship for the children of illegal immigrants. Democrats agreed to bolster the number of immigration agents, but refused to support building a wall on the Mexican border.

After conservative critics ranging from Laura Ingraham, Ann Coulter, Congressman Steven King and others attacked Trump for striking an amnesty deal with Democrats, Trump denied that any deal had been reached.

Immigration policy has always been one of the most divisive issues in America. Much of the early controversy centered around the Irish and German immigrants, both associated with the Catholic Church. The attack on the Irish and German Catholics led to the formation of the “Know-Nothing Party in the 1850s.

The party derived its name when members were asked about their beliefs, they were told to respond, “I know nothing.” Founded after the collapse of the Whig Party, the Know-Nothing Party swept Massachusetts elections in 1854. In the 1856 presidential election, their candidate was former Whig president Millard Fillmore, who won 21.5 percent of the vote. The party collapsed after the 1856 elections.

Many critics of current anti-immigrants attempt to link their views to the Know-Nothing Party. In a 2006 editorial in The Weekly Standard, editor William Kristol attacked populous Republicans for “turning the GOP into an anti-immigrant, Know-Nothing Party.”

In addition to the attacks on the Irish and Germans, later attacks focused on Southern Europeans, Africans and Asians. Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act in the 1880s, which completely stopped the flow of Chinese immigrants.

The Simpson-Mazzoli Act of 1986 granted amnesty to illegal workers who resided continuously in the United States since Jan. 1, 1982, and paid a fine and back taxes. It was passed by the Democrat controlled House, the Republican Senate and signed into law by Republican Ronald Reagan.

A flood of illegal immigrants since Simpson-Mazzoli has led to more recent efforts to grant permanent status to the most recent wave of illegals. In 2010, Congress considered the DREAM Act which would have granted work permits to the children of illegal immigrants and create a pathway to citizenship. Although it passed the Democratic controlled House, the Senate was not able to get the 60 votes needed to stop a Republican filibuster.

Because of the failure of Congress to pass the Dream Act, President Obama signed an executive order in 2012 to protect the Dreamers. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), was praised by the Democrats, but attacked by Republicans who argued the president lacked the authority to unilaterally change immigration policy.

DACA became a focal point of the 2016 presidential campaign when candidate Donald Trump promised to end DACA on “Day One.” He also promised to build a wall on the Mexican border. Instead of “Day One,” it took Trump eight months to rescind DACA.

There are currently four major legislative proposals before Congress to reform immigration. The Dream Act, sponsored by Democrat Dick Simpson of Illinois and Republican Lindsay Graham of South Carolina, would codify DACA, impose educational, work and military requirements and create a path to citizenship after 13 years.

Florida Republican Congressman Carlos Curbelo has introduced the Recognizing America’s Children Act. This bill codifies DACA, imposes work and educational requirements, and creates a path to citizenship after 10 years.

The American Hope Act sponsored by Democratic Representative Luis Gutierrez of Illinois, has 112 Democratic co-sponsors. There are no work or military requirements and Dreamers may apply for citizenship after five years.

Finally, Republican House member Mike Coffman of Colorado has introduced the Bar Removal of Individuals [who] Dream and Grow our Economy (Bridge Act). Coffman is seeking to obtain 218 signatures and force DACA to the floor for a vote.

Will President Trump’s negotiations with the Democratic leadership force Republicans to act, or will it alienate them from their president by shutting out Republicans from the negotiations?

Will Republican leaders Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan schedule a floor vote on DACA, especially if most Democrats support the bill and most Republicans oppose the bill?

Will Democrats offer concessions to the president and Republicans in exchange for supporting DACA? Will Democrats agree to build a border wall? Will Democrats support E-Verify to enforce immigration law? Will Democrats agree to hire more immigration agents?

At this point, there are a lot more questions than there are answers.

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Darryl Paulson is Emeritus Professor of Government at the University of South Florida in St. Petersburg specializing in Florida politics and elections.

Darryl Paulson: Why I left the Republican Party

I have been a Republican all my life. I remember watching the Republican National Convention in 1956, when I was 8 years old, and seeing President Dwight Eisenhower nominated for a second term.

When I turned 21, I registered as a Republican and have voted for all but two of the Republican presidential candidates since 1972.

Growing up in the 1960s, the era of civil rights, the Vietnam War, the emerging environmental movement and the sexual revolution, most of my youthful colleagues were Democrats or something to the left of Democrats.

Why did I become a Republican?

First, the Republican Party was the anti-slavery and pro-union political party. Abraham Lincoln, the first Republican president, remains as the greatest Republican president.

I was attracted to the Republican Party because it supported a strong military, but opposed big government. Big government, like big business, is something to be feared and controlled.

Finally, I became a Republican because my parents were Republicans. Like church affiliation, most individuals adopt the party identification of their parents. Although my parents were Republican, they were never activist nor straight-ticket Republicans.

My father was a policeman for over 30 years, and that influenced my partisan choice. During the 1960s, the police were perceived as the enemy by many political activists. They were the pigs.

In some cases, the police deserved their negative reputation. There is no doubt that many law enforcement officials in the south used violence against peaceful civil rights protestors.

In spite of these shortcomings, the police were often subjected to unfair criticism. They were expected to be lawyers, psychologists and social workers, in addition to enforcing the laws. They were always criticized and seldom supported.

I not only considered myself a Republican, but I was also a conservative. Whittaker Chambers, Barry Goldwater, William F. Buckley and Ronald Reagan were my heroes. At this point, most readers are probably saying, “Whittaker who?” Chambers book, “Witness,” remains as the greatest but, most overlooked conservative book ever written.

I opposed the campaign of Donald Trump from the beginning. I believed he was neither a Republican nor a conservative. A look at his voter registration record shows he spent more time as a Democrat than a Republican. He was also registered as an independent and a member of the Reform Party. The last time he left the Republican Party, he called them “crazy right,” and he only rejoined the party about 18 months before seeking the Republican nomination.

His actions as president have reaffirmed my view that he is unfit to be president. As he did during the campaign, Trump frequently changes his positions or simply lies. Here is a short list of the lies and exaggerations of Donald Trump:

— Trump has not been able to pass one piece of significant legislation, but he argues that no president “has accomplished as much as the president in the first six or seven months.

— Trump has cozied up to Vladimir Putin and the Russians, although they remain one of the greatest threats to our nation. Trump continues to deny any Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential election, although every intelligence agency disputes that notion.

— When asked by Bill O’Reilly how he could defend a “killer” like Putin, Trump responded: “There are a lot of killers … You think our country is so innocent?”

— Another example of Trump’s moral equivalency was when Trump defended the Nazi, KKK and white supremacist protesters in Charlottesville by saying “there is blame on both sides,” and “some very fine people” participated in the rally. I have yet to find a “nice” Nazi, Klansman or white supremacist.

— Instead of attempting to unite the nation in times of crisis, as previous presidents have done, Trump is the Great Divider, pitting one side against another.

— Trump’s ego is so big that it is impossible for him to admit a mistake. It is always the fault of others. Evan though he sold himself as the “great dealmaker,” he was unable to make a deal to repeal and replace Obamacare. Instead, he blames Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Republican Senator John McCain.

— A major campaign promise of Trump was to build a wall on the United States-Mexican border and guaranteed Mexico would pay for the wall. Now Trump is demanding that Congress pay for the wall or else Trump will shut down the government.

— Trump told the American people he selected the best people to advise him as president. A Jan. 28, 2017 photo showed Trump sitting in the Oval Office while talking on the phone to Putin. Trump was surrounded by his handpicked advisers Reince Priebus, Sean Spicer, Michael Flynn and Steve Brannon. All of Trump’s personally selected advisors have since been fired.

Conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer called Trump’s statement on Charlottesville “a moral disgrace.” The conservative magazine, The Economist, said “Donald Trump is politically inept, morally barren and temperamentally unfit for office.”

Republican Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, a strong Trump supporter, now says that Trump “has not been able to demonstrate the stability nor the competence” needed to be president.

The most damning statement about the Trump presidency comes from former Republican Senator John Danforth of Missouri. Danforth, an ordained Presbyterian minister, wrote in The New York Times that Trump “stands in opposition to the founding principles of our party — that of a United country.” The first resolution passed at the first Republican National Convention was that “the union of the states must and shall be preserved.”

The motto of America is “E Pluribus Unum,” meaning “out of many, one.” Under Trump, we have way too much Pluribus, and not enough Unum.

I will not rejoin the Republican Party until Donald Trump is no longer the leader of the party of Lincoln. That does not mean that I have joined the Democrats. They have their own problems which could be the subject of another editorial.

Where are the Republican leaders willing to stand up and denounce Trump for what he is? He is the bully in the room who gets away with his divisive tactics until enough people are willing to take him on and say, “enough is enough.”

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Darryl Paulson is Emeritus of Government at USF St. Petersburg specializing in Florida politics and elections.

Paulson’s principles: Money, money, money!

It has been said that money is the lifeblood of politics. If so, many members of the Florida congressional delegation are very healthy, while others are on life support.

This is based on second quarter financial reports covering funds raised, funds spent and cash on hand. In contrast to the general assumption, money does not guarantee political success. Just ask Jeb Bush, who quickly raised over $100 million in his quest for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. The money produced no primary wins and only three delegates.

Candidates who raise large sums of money do so either to scare off political opponents, to prepare for a serious challenger, or to stockpile funds to run for higher office. The biggest war chests among the Florida congressional delegation are held by incumbent Republicans who are considered safe.

Small campaign accounts do not necessarily signal a political problem. In many cases, a small campaign account is a sign that the incumbent faces no serious opposition. Democrat Alcee Hastings, representing District 20 in Miami, only has $92,074 in his campaign account. That signals that Hastings has never faced a serious challenge since winning a congressional seat in 1992.

Those with the largest campaign accounts include Republican Vern Buchanan in District 16 ($1,982,876), Republican Ron DeSantis in District 6 ($1,674,185), Republican Carlos Curbelo in District 26 ($1,078,588) and Democrat Charlie Crist in District 13 ($1,121,494).

Crist, serving his first term in Congress, is perhaps Florida’s best-known member of Congress and a prodigious fundraiser. Curbelo represents one of two Florida congressional districts held by a Republican that has a large Democratic advantage. Curbelo is more threatened than most members of Congress. Both Buchanan and DeSantis represent districts with a marginal Republican electorate. DeSantis’ district has a +4 Republican advantage and Buchanan’s district has a +6 Republican advantage.

Only one challenger taking on an incumbent has raised over $50,000. Louis Sola made a personal loan of $99,000 to his campaign account.

Two former members of the Florida congressional delegation filed campaign reports, signaling their hopes to keep their options open to another congressional run.

Former Republican Congressman Cliff Stearns raised $51,704 and has $1,579,227 in his campaign account, more than all but two of the current members of the delegation.

Democrat Alan Grayson, who represented District 9, filed paperwork in District 11. Grayson raised $68,532 and has $455,584 in the bank.

It is still very early with 19 months to go before the 2018 congressional elections. Some candidates have not announced and still have plenty of time to do so. What we do know, based on past history, is that two-thirds of the delegation face no serious threat. The other third who are in marginal districts or who have angered their constituents are going to raise as much money as they can to retain their seat.

There is one truism in Congress: Every member of Congress thinks they are indispensable.

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Darryl Paulson is Emeritus Professor of Government at USF St. Petersburg specializing in Florida politics and elections.

Darryl Paulson: Googledygook

We are all familiar with gobbledygook: Words that have no real meaning. We are now seeing Googledygook:  speech which says one thing, but really means something different.

On June 29, 2017, Google employee James Damore posted a ten-page memo on a Google message board which was designed to solicit ideas and encourage debate. Damore’s post, titled “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber,” argued that neuroscience and psychologists have found numerous differences between men and women in brain structure that affect their behavior and preferences.

For over a month, the memo generated modest internal debate at Google. On Aug. 5, Gizmodo, a left-leaning website, released Damore’s memo with the following title: “Here’s the full 10-page anti-diversity screed circulating at Google.”

By labeling Damore’s memo an “anti-diversity screed,” Gizmodo poisoned the well. Damore went to great lengths to note that “I value diversity and inclusion, am not denying that sexism exists, and don’t endorse using stereotypes.” Damore later notes that “I strongly believe in gender and racial diversity, and I think we should strive for more.” This hardly seems like an “anti-diversity screed” to me.

Damore was doing what Google encouraged employees to do:  share their views and encourage a dialogue. That becomes exceedingly difficult when your views are automatically labeled as an “anti-diversity screed.” In other words, there is no need to read Damore’s memo. Why?  Because Damore is clearly a bigot.

It was not until Gizmodo posted Damore’s memo five weeks after its initial posting on a Google message board that Damore’s views went viral. Damore’s “anti-diversity screed” was immediately attacked by The Washington Post, CNN, Time, ABC News, NBC News, Fox News, the Huffington Post, Slate and numerous other sites. Many of these new attacks simply picked-up on Gizmodo’s attack, rather than actually reading Damore’s post.

Conor Friedersdorf of the Atlantic commented that “I cannot remember the last time so many outlets and observations mischaracterized so many aspects of a text that everyone possessed.” For many, ready Damore’s views was unnecessary. Why read an “anti-diversity screed” from a bigot and misogynist.

Deborah Soh, writing in the Toronto Globe and Mail, said the memo “was fair and accurate. Scientific studies have confirmed sex differences in the brain that lead to differences in interests and preferences.”

The left attacked Damore as a bigot whose memo created a hostile work environment. The right viewed Damore as a truth-teller and martyr. National Review compared Damore to Martin Luther nailing his 95 theses to the church door.

Damore noted gender differences between women and men, but did not see this as an evil, but a reflection of the different choices and perspectives of the two sexes. Women have long argued that they are different from men, so the lack of equal numbers of men and women in different job categories merely reflects the different preferences between the sexes.

Wendy Williams, Professor of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University, notes that woman make up 80 percent of the students in the veterinary program. Is this bias, or merely a reflection of different preferences between men and women.?

In med schools, there is now essentially a 50/50 split in male and female students. Yet, 75 percent of pediatric residents are women; 72 percent of radiology residents are men. Do we want to impose a policy where the ratio of men to women in different residency programs reflects the numbers in society?

Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google, responded to Damore’s memo over five weeks after its original posting. Pichai wrote that Google workers should be able to “safely express their views in the workplace, especially those with a minority viewpoint.” Then, he fired Damore.

Almost 75 years ago, George Orwell introduce “doublespeak” into our language. As Orwell noted in his book 1984, we support free speech except when we disagree with it. We support tolerance, but tolerance requires suppression.

Google’s doublespeak may introduce a new word in our political lexicon. Googledygook: Saying one thing for public consumption, but meaning something else in reality.

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Darryl Paulson is Emeritus Professor of Government at USF St. Petersburg specializing in Florida politics and elections.

 

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