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Friday, November 30, 2012

This comment says so much about outgoing Rep. Allen "Wild Wild" West: --- “Why would anyone want to get rid of a person that is born and raised in the inner city, third of four generations in the military—just an American success story?” asks West, from the living room of his Palm Beach Gardens home overlooking a pool and golf course. “I’m not some guy that came from a rich political family or anything like that,” he says. “I’m just an everyday guy, but I have a passion for my country.” --- The rest of the Bloomberg BusinessWeek article is great, but that comment truly speaks for itself. I can't imagine anything else that would offer any more insight into this crazy man's outlook on the world and the way it revolves around him.

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Problem With Term Limits

A funny thing happened to a state representative in line for the Speakership. Voters in his own district appear to have fired him this week. From the Ocala Star-Banner: --- In a farewell email to his Republican colleagues on Friday, would-be Florida House Speaker Chris Dorworth says he expects to lose his close race for re-election after a recount. The Lake Mary lawmaker trailed Democrat Mike Clelland, a political newcomer, in central Florida's District 29 by 123 votes pending an automatic recount tentatively set for Sunday. --- This of course shows that the night Tuesday was better for Democrats than we ever dare dream, but it also highlights a little-discussed but very real problem with term limits in the state House. I know, there are so many, but the fact leadership gets decided years in advance is true folly. See, Dorworth was not set to become Speaker this month. He was expected to take House reins in 2014, after a whole 'nother election where all 120 members of the House were to stand for vote. If memory served, this is the first time someone is succession to be speaker has been voted out since term limits truly kicked in after the 2000 election. Since that time, the party caucuses in Tallahassee have early on decided not only the upcoming leader of the party for the next two years, as happens in the U.S. House, but pick leaders the next couple sessions as well. There are often leadership fights along the way to try and change course, and efforts have been made to change the makeup of both the House and Senate through primary challenges by people unhappy with succession plans. But that never works. It takes something like what happened with Dorworth to truly shake up the process. The voters have to do it. Many problems were predicted with term limits such as an outsourced influence of legislative staffs. Other problems have made themselves readily evident, like the too-easily-accepted influence of lobbyists. But this problem is one that comes from the legislators themselves. It makes no sense to plot out future sessions, but it has happened. This means anyone dreaming of leadership is fighting for it the minute they take get sworn in to their freshman term in the House or Senate. That places personal ambition over the higher good of serving your district. My guess, though I certainly haven't followed this one closely, is that voters in Dorworth's Lake Mary district had a problem with that. This problem is systemic. But voters have to realize the consequences of enforcing eight year term limits. Nobody likes politicians, and everyone wants them put in their place, but realize term limits enforce bad behavior and an obsession on Tallahassee politics ahead of what's happening at home.

Don't Let West Make Us Forget Recount Nightmares

One of the sweetest victories for Democrats in Florida this week was the ouster of Allen "Wild Wild" West from the U.S. House of Representatives. After watching West beat Ron Klein last year in the midst of a tea party wave, it felt good to know voters in South Florida wouldn't tolerate this man's insane antics. But the margin of defeat was narrow, and if anyone should be sympathetic to the agony that comes along with losing a close election, it is Florida Democrats.

That's why I think we should resist the temptation to belittle West's recent attempts at getting a hand recount. Now, I can appreciate the irony that after Republicans responded to the 200 election they made  it harder to justify a recount, not easier, West is finding himself a bit outside the margin for having a recount done automatically.

But I also feel strongly that recounts are a good thing. They strengthen democracy and erase hurt feelings, which often come coupled with denial.

Here's the facts: Patrick Murphy won this race by less than 3,000 votes. That's just a 0.66 percent victory, and against a wingnut opponent running in South Florida, Democrats should think twice about gloating with that type of total. In truth, Murphy had plenty of material to bury this guy. Instead, it was a squeaker.

West knows what its like to be on the opposite side of a squeaker too. When he got elected, it wasn't known until morning. But he did end up with a bigger margin than this.

So now he wants a hand count. Honestly, we shouldn't be afraid of that. The odds are statistically very low that a hand count would overturn the results of the election. More importantly, they would only do that if West had in fact won the race.

In the 12 years since Bush v. Gore, voting rights has become too partisan an issue. Democrats have been fighting for ballot access, for transparency in election management, against unaccountable electronic voting machines and against a Legislature that felt the only thing that went wrong with 2000 is that we spent so much time checking the math.

But the reason Democrats left 2000 so bitter is that they felt nobody ever did a full account of the election. Had that happened and Bush was still ahead, even it was by a margin even smaller than 537 votes, we would have licked out wounds and gone home, however unhappy.

The positive when we defeat someone like West by this close a margin is that it will show folks on the right the importance of maintaining integrity in the democratic process. Let West sit there and watch the manual count of more than 318,000 votes. Let Republicans take a close look. Let them wrestle with what to do when someone cast a write-in for Allen West just to have it thrown out because they should have bubbled in his name. Let them see the number of South Florida voters who learned from the Butterfly Ballot to never fill out a ballot incorrectly again.

Let West see more than 160,000 people who came to polls expressly for the purpose of firing him. Let that sink in.

This will be better for democracy. It will be better for disposing of poor feelings among Tea Party Republicans who just can't imagine how Allen West could lose. It will be better for Patrick Murphy to go to Washington with as few people questioning his credibility as possible.

Let Allen West win this one. We already won the round that mattered.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A Great Night in the Sunshine State

After suffering through the demoralizing 2010 cycle, I found myself walking into these elections more pessimistic than in the past, but the voters of Florida surprised me in a pleasant way. I'd love to congratulate such great Democrats as Bill Nelson, Joe Garcia, Patrick Murphy, Lois Frankel and—of course—President Barack Obama.

But Florida Democrats also need to understand a world exists tomorrow where Obama will never be on a ballot again and where liberals must find a way to incite minority voting during years when such an inspirational figure is no on the ballot. We can beat the economic inanity of Mitt Romney, the bigotry of Allen West and the pure corruption of Joe Garcia in a year like this, but we need to find out ways to do it in off years as well.

I know this blog has been largely dead this cycle, but I will try to get some port-mortem stuff up here in the next few days. The takeaway from this election, I hope, is a reminder that Democrats can do anything in Florida when mobilized, but we need to be prepared to defend our spoils in 2014 and beyond. That means prepping for battle now.