Florida, What Have You Done?
Gage Skidmore via Flickr Creative Commons
In 1837, white men in Florida first floated the idea of draining a swamp. Men, who'd traveled from the north and had no real business being there, saw a wide, slow-moving sheet of shallow water barbed with sawgrass as a threat, a scourge, and a waste of valuable real estate. So over the next hundred years, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dug canals through the dirt, penned in Lake Okeechobee, and began pumping the water inch by inch out into the ocean. The ground dried, and a few cities sprung up where the water had been.
But as the 20th Century drew to a close, Floridians realized they'd made a grave error: They'd drained the Everglades, perhaps the most unique and biodiverse area in North America. And there was no getting it back.
So the metaphor for President-Elect Donald Trump's candidacy writes itself. Trump has pledged to "drain the swamp" in Washington and remake American politics in his own image. We will likely never get the old Washington back again.
At Trump's final Miami rally, at Bayfront Park Amphitheatre last Wednesday, Floridians screamed and chanted the phrase "Drain the swamp" with sheer glee, with no apparent recollection of the very real harm draining our own swamp had caused once before.
Last night, Floridians doubled down on their desire to shoot themselves in the foot: Trump won 49 percent of the state's popular vote, besting Hillary Clinton by 134,000 votes.
Down the ballot, Republicans cleaned up in Florida: The do-nothing Sen. Marco Rubio, whom even Republicans describe as a craven opportunist obsessed with nothing but the presidency, won his reelection bid comfortably despite having been outed as a gutless dishrag during the Republican presidential primary. Rather than bringing Republicans down, the GOP rode a wave of blood-red Trumpist populism to victory in the Sunshine State: Every single incumbent Florida Republican won reelection last night, minus U.S. Reps. David Jolly and John Mica.
But rather than "draining" any sort of corruption from Washington, Trump has normalized practices that will ensure corruption reigns supreme in D.C. for decades. He was the first candidate since Richard Nixon to refuse to release his tax returns during his campaign. He is embroiled in a fraud trial stemming from his failed, allegedly criminal Trump University venture and will stand trial later this month. He has insulted women, war heroes, Muslims, Mexicans, Syrian refugees, and the media. He has pandered to racists, misogynists, conspiracy theorists, and neo-Nazis. He was accused repeatedly of sexual assault. Many of his advisers — such as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie — have shown themselves to be incapable of running government effectively. And the American public has rewarded him for all of it.
Florida is complicit in Trump's success and will be on the hook for whatever ills come from four years of a Trump administration. Importantly, Trump did not perform well in South Florida, losing overwhelmingly in Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach Counties.
But rural Floridians came out for Trump in huge numbers despite the fact that it's unclear how most of Trump's policies would help them. Independent analysts agree Trump's tax plan would overwhelmingly benefit the rich, and left-leaning economists suspect Trump could plunge the nation into a recession. He has pledged to "repeal and replace" Obamacare but has not proposed any serious alternative to fix America's health-care woes.
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Trump was also caught lying directly to Floridians: When Newsweek reported that Trump broke the Cuban embargo and spent money illegally in the communist nation in 1997, the magazine criticized him for flying to Miami and telling Cuban immigrants that he opposed the Castro regime. In reality, he'd illegally done business with the regime already.
Though Miami did its best to reject Trump, many of its highest-ranking officials must be called to the carpet for enabling Trump's rise. Rubio, in a particular act of cowardice, claimed to have "denounced" Trump's conduct but voted for him anyway. The same goes for Rubio's noted friend Lt. Gov. Carlos López-Cantera.
Florida's upsetting governor, Rick Scott, chaired Trump's political-action committee and might be rewarded with a cabinet position. That prospect should stun and frighten the rest of the country. Scott, a first-time politician himself, has done virtually nothing to help average Floridians during his tenure as governor. He has instead repeatedly sold out the state capitol to lobbyists, denied that climate change exists, and oversaw a Department of Environmental Protection that let companies dump more cancer-causing chemicals into Florida's water supply.
And so it goes: Despite what virtually every poll predicted, Floridians have chosen to drain yet another swamp. If our first go-round is any indication, we might not like the results when we're through.
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