The problem with Florida is not that its politicians are obsessed with whacked-out policies and brain-dead conspiracies. It's that they're obsessed with Texas politicians.
It's a subtle distinction, I know. Texas has a swagger, a history, an ingrained culture that celebrates anti-intellectualism in an almost endearing manner. On Florida, all of that homespun charm comes off as wanna-be posturing.
When you look at it that way, Texas is the role model we never needed. We're like the little kid who dreams of being a movie star and thinks emulating Adam Sandler is the way to go.
Think I'm joking?
Consider the current gun debates in Tallahassee. Texas will allow guns on university campuses later this year, so naturally, Florida politicians think it's a splendid idea to mix Magnums and kegs.
Ditto on open-carry laws. Texas is now the largest state in the nation to allow residents to brandish their guns in public and, of course, Florida is eager to follow along.
Never mind that there was little clamor for open carry from Florida residents. And never mind the image of everyone in a Waffle House packing heat is probably not the wisest way to appeal to tourists. If it's good 'nuff for Texas, it's good 'nuff for Florida.
Unfortunately, firearms are not the only example. A few years ago, Texas started coming up with covert ways to curtail legal abortions. The fact that those laws have reduced the number of women's clinics in Texas in half doesn't seem to faze Florida lawmakers.
Instead, they've decided it's better to ignore the Supreme Court, to pretend cancer screenings aren't important at all, and to act as if contraception isn't the better option. And so Florida proposes a bunch of Texas-style abortion bills and congratulates itself on being so forward-thinking. Meanwhile, the rest of the nation rolls its eyes.
Mind you, none of this is new. You can go back decades and see the bond between Texas and Florida. In 1995, the Texas Legislature authorized the creation of charter schools. A year later, Florida opened its first charter school.
Since then, both states have been at the forefront of accountability through standardized testing in education and have had strikingly similar results.
Among the 10 largest states that regularly use the SAT for college entrance exams, Florida's average score is ninth and Texas is 10th. Yeehaw!
Even Gov. Rick Scott has gotten into the act. For some reason, he thinks Texas is the epitome of an advanced society. Every time he wants to promote Florida's economy, he compares it with the job situation in Texas.
The two states have also produced a pair of junior senators vying for the presidency. One was born in Canada, the other has roots in Cuba, and both are immigration hawks. Marco Rubio has even taken to wearing boots on the campaign trail, although it's unclear whether Texans would approve of the senator's choice of his-or-hers-style footwear.
The point is there's really nothing wrong with Florida that a better role model couldn't fix. It doesn't have to be a liberal state. It doesn't even have to be moderate.
Just a little less good ol' boy, and a little more enlightened would be nice.
Does anyone know if Alabama could use a little brother?