Not to be overconfident, but based on the current situation, the electoral future for Democrats nationwide looks pretty rosy right now. On the national front, we're looking at picking up 3-6 Senate seats, and in the House, we're likely to gain even more seats.
In Florida, there isn't a state-wide election this fall, except on ballot initiatives--the Marriage Amendment is one of them--so except for the Presidential race, most of the emphasis will be on local races. And frankly, I don't hold out much hope that the Presidential race will be close.
But Gov. Crist is sweating the local stuff.
Legislation allowing Floridians with concealed weapons permits to bring their guns to work has already sharply divided the Republican base.I don't want to get overly excited here--there's next to no chance of the Democrats taking back the state house, as the Republicans hold a 77-43 majority, and there's maybe 10 seats in play. But anything that could serve as a slap in the face to the ruling party would be good.
And a looming vote to overhaul Florida's abortion law threatens to splinter Republican senators as the Legislature enters its final scheduled two weeks.
Though he has kept his distance so far, Crist is clearly trying to defuse a potential effect at the polls by urging Republican leaders to draw more deeply on state reserves to avoid cutting programs serving the poor, elderly and disabled.
I think the reason that Florida is lagging behind the rest of the country in repudiating Republican economics is because until a couple of years ago, it seemed to anyone riding the bubble that they were working. Property values were going sky-high and consumer spending was crazy and lots of people were living the good life, all under a Republican legislature and governor. And much of the economic pain that the rest of the country started feeling back in 2004-5 didn't start to hit us until just recently, so we've been lagging on that front.
But now it is, thanks to the Republicans single-minded focus on cutting taxes and slashing popular programs. Crist is trying to save them from themselves, but they're not listening. This is one example of a small thing that's going to get bigger as the Republicans continue their slash-and-burn tactics. It's just a park closing, you might say, but it's a sign that local governments are having to make cutbacks, and quality-of-life spending is going to be the first to go. Essential city services will stick around as long as the cities can fund them, but parks will be shut down, and afterschool programs will shutter, and police will stop getting overtime, and fire stations will close, and roads won't get repaired, because these things require tax dollars to run.
I wrote about this a couple of weeks ago, about how it might be a good idea to return to a time when we thought of paying taxes as a patriotic act, because it would remind us that tax dollars are supposed to be used for the common good, not to benefit private corporations and make the rich even richer. And maybe Florida residents will remember that. Maybe it will take slashing programs dedicated to serving transplant patients, nursing homes and the disabled, or maybe it will come from locals who are upset with a park closure or a lack of streetlights or slow response times from an overstretched police department. I don't know which. But I'm fairly sure it's going to cost the Republicans in Tallahassee. The question is how much.