Wednesday, January 24, 2018
Opinion

What Scott doesn't get

This had to be the political equivalent of being led into battle by Catch-22's Major Major, who only schedules appointments at times when he is not in the office.

Gov. Rick Scott was in Orlando over the weekend rallying state Republicans to even higher levels of estrangement from the body politic. You know you're in trouble when the top of your 2014 ticket is polling somewhere between replacement NFL referees and Lance Armstrong.

The governor announced to the assembled Republicans that he was in a heightened state of flummoxocity — a common occurrence during his first two years in office.

"I don't understand why everybody's not a Republican," the governor said. "Anybody who believes they want to improve themselves should be a Republican."

No doubt the overwhelming white demographic makeup of the GOP top hats had to nod and harrumph in agreement.

Scott doesn't understand why everybody's not a Republican? Is that so?

Perhaps Scott was channeling his inner Mitt Romney, with the not too thinly veiled assertion that those who don't want to improve themselves tend to gravitate toward the Democratic Party.

Meanwhile, state Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam insisted the November election results, which included President Barack Obama's victory in Florida, came as something of a shock. "It's not just that we lost, but that nobody saw it coming," Putnam mused. "The fact that we were unsuccessful and oblivious is very disconcerting."

Obliviousness pretty much sums it up.

You would think as a former member of Congress, Putnam would have some affinity for counting noses. But even the normally politically savvy Putnam couldn't see his party was setting itself up for a electoral mugging?

A good place to start would have been the Republican National Convention in Tampa, where there were few faces of color.

It is somewhat problematic for a political party to extend its base when it accuses nearly half of the public of being freeloading moochers. It doesn't help to alienate the fast-growing Hispanic population by stubbornly adhering to draconian immigration policies.

Political parties often love to extol themselves as "big tent" organizations. But the Republicans, by virtue of a steadfast fealty to ideological purity, are quickly becoming a box down by the river.

Does Scott's definition of those who don't want to "improve" themselves extend to those the GOP might regard as apostates? People who believe in science? People who believe global warming is not merely a passing fad? People who don't believe women can fend off pregnancy caused by rape by virtue of a secret hormone? Gays and lesbians who believe they should be allowed to marry — and serve their country? People who don't buy into the addled paranoia that there is a United Nations conspiracy to take over the country?

There are probably some non-Republicans who might hold the view that lives are hardly improved by a governor who shortly upon taking office signed off on gutting the state's education budget by more than a billion dollars.

It would have improved countless lives around the state had not Scott rejected — based on grumpy tea party opposition — federal high-speed rail funding that could have added thousands of jobs and made travel more convenient.

Florida Republicans alighted on the notion that one way to turn their fortunes around was to disassociate themselves from national politics. Good luck with that, especially since Sen. Marco Rubio is already pondering new drapes for the Oval Office.

As Scott and other party leaders were busy trying to figure out ways to convince independent and moderate voters Republicans really aren't so intolerant, U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland of Panama City attacked Obama, railed against gun control and claimed he is part of the last line of defense protecting freedom against tyranny.

This softer, gentler, open-minded GOP makeover may take a while.

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