America's Best Hope: Donald Trump Becomes Rick Scott

The following sentence represents the lowest threshold for political "success" in U.S. history: Americans should be actively hoping that Donald Trump turns out just like Florida Gov. Rick Scott.

For many Floridians, that idea goes down as easily as a milkshake made from cigarettes and cat litter. Many consider Scott to be the worst governor in the state's history, and it's almost impossible to name anything he's done to help Florida's middle and lower classes.

But hear us out. It's what Scott hasn't done that should give Americans a small glimmer of hope as the Trump administration slowly takes shape.

The parallels between Scott and Trump are painfully obvious. Scott ran as a political "outsider" who spent his 2010 campaign stoking hatred toward and fear of undocumented immigrants. But six years later, none of Scott's more severe campaign promises — such as pledging to enact laws letting cops profile Hispanic people — have come to pass.

He's no longer an immigration extremist. Instead, he's just a run-of-the-mill crony capitalist who's used the governorship to enrich his friends.

Given the frightening support Trump has gotten from the Ku Klux Klan, the American Nazi Party, white nationalists, and proto-fascists across the nation, "lame crony capitalist" sounds pretty enticing at this point. This is how far we've fallen.

Despite being visual opposites — Trump resembles a rotting bag of leaves that was forgotten in a garage all winter, while Scott's hairless body appears to be made of rusted sprockets and butter knives — the two have lived exceedingly similar lives.

Both are businessmen of ill repute: Trump's bankruptcies, lawsuits, racketeering accusations, and repeated lies are now the stuff of legend, but many forget that as a hospital CEO, Scott oversaw what was at the time the largest Medicare fraud scheme in U.S. history. How either candidate convinced the public that he was an upstanding member of society is a feat historians will spend decades dissecting.

Like Trump, Scott used his time in the private sector to claim he was somehow a political "outsider." But that claim also turned out to be a joke: Yes, Scott had never run a state or city, but he came directly from the political class that controls Tallahassee — and Washington — in backrooms through lobbying and campaign contributions. People like Scott aren't so much outsiders as they are so deeply entrenched in the state's political ecosystem that the average person has no idea they exist.

Despite a mountain of resumé red flags, Scott persuaded Floridians to vote for him. Like a seasoned pro, he used the one tactic guaranteed to distract the public from his failings: He fed into Floridians' racial fears and hatred.

Because Scott himself conveniently doesn't mention this point anymore, many have forgotten that his 2010 campaign was centered heavily on the claim that undocumented immigrants were destroying the Florida economy and bringing crime into the Sunshine State. (They weren't.) Scott pledged to bring an "Arizona-style" law to Florida that would have allowed state police officers to stop anyone they thought might be an undocumented immigrant.

"If someone gets stopped for speeding or arrested for robbery, the police should be allowed to determine if they are here legally," Scott said in a campaign ad, ignoring the fact that the law virtually allowed Arizona cops to pull over anyone who looked remotely Mexican.

The U.S. Supreme Court struck down huge portions of that law in 2012. (Earlier this year, former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio was later found criminally in contempt of court for continuing to profile Latino people. After reigning over the Phoenix area since the 1990s, Arpaio lost his job this year over his bullheaded support for that law. Depressingly, Arpaio has been floated as a possible Homeland Security director in Trump's administration.)

Scott also opposed giving in-state tuition to college students brought to the U.S. illegally as children, before lying about his stance when he later changed his mind.

But after five years of Scott, his campaigning against Latino immigrants has not amounted to much. He now supports giving kids brought here illegally benefits such as college tuition. The state hasn't empowered its cops to profile Latino immigrants (any more than the cops already do).

Instead, Scott has mostly just used his post as governor to enrich his wealthy friends. Massive polluters, including Big Sugar firms, have been given carte blanche to dump all kinds of garbage into Florida's water supply. Oil-drilling companies have edged closer and closer to digging up what's left of the Everglades. Scott's status as an "outsider" has mostly led to his using taxpayer money like a slush fund: After Scott violated Florida's public-records laws in 2015, he wasted $1 million in public money settling lawsuits filed due to his administration's incompetence.

Otherwise, Scott has simply acted like any other red-state Republican: Immediately after taking office, he slashed funding for the disabled and unemployed and cut public-school money. He privatized huge portions of the state's Medicare law, privatized nearly all the Southeast's prisons, enacted intensely strict voter-registration laws, and pretended climate change is a myth.

Rather than being a champion for the working class, he has mostly made decisions that have benefited Florida's wealthy. He has been accused of downplaying the Zika virus crisis, a legitimate public-health nightmare, to protect the state's tourism industry. He's also shown GOP-approved contempt for voting rights. After Hurricane Matthew struck Florida this year, he refused to extend the state's voter-registration deadline. A judge overturned him.

Trump's critics aren't wrong to be worried that the president-elect could morph into a despot given free reign over the country. His appointment of Stephen Bannon, an accused anti-Semite and wife-beater with a clear hatred for dissenters, is certainly an awful sign. If men like Bannon are allowed to run the government, there could be dark days ahead.

But much like Scott's rise to power, Trump has also walked back most of his basic campaign promises already. If his "wall" gets built at all, it will now have "some fencing." He'll keep parts of the "disaster" Obamacare, which he threatened to repeal. After saying lobbyists and political insiders were destroying the government, his transition team is made up almost entirely of those same people.

If that trend continues, we can just expect four years of Rick Scott in a cheap wig.


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