by Joe Courter
We can look back on Election 2022, see how things went and where we are. We are done here in Florida but vote counting continues elsewhere, and happily the Nevada Senate just came in for the Democrats. Now Georgia remains on Dec. 6 to hopefully add an insurance vote. The hyped and feared “Red Wave’ did not happen, and it appears the Democrats will hold the Senate. There seems to be a rebuke of election-denying Trumpers in many states. The strong Republican showing in Florida was actually an outlier nationwide. Our Blue Dot here held firm for the most part. It’s a shame James Ingle lost, and then there’s that “Single-Member District” vote … ugh.
Poisonous dark money was prominent in our county this time. Tallahassee (and who knows from where) money attacked the more progressive candidates for City and County Commission, who mostly won anyway. But most egregious was the Republican drive for single-member districts (looking at you Keith Perry and Chuck Clements) which deceitfully targeted the Black community using out-of-context, old quotes and images of iconic local leaders like Rodney Long, Chuck Chestnut and the NAACP itself on mailers, signs, banners, and handed-out cards. Over $250,000 was spent to promote this inflicted-from-Tallahassee referendum, and worst of all, people bought it, and it narrowly passed. It was a coldly calculated scheme, and is a case study in a ridiculously well-funded, unethical propaganda campaign convincing people to vote against their own interests.
Statewide the results were predictably horrible, with the entrenched power of the Republican party and the profoundly lame Florida Democratic party (see cover story page 1). And I must say, the DeSantis campaign made the most of what they had, slick pervasive messaging capitalizing on his risky Covid strategies regarding openings and masking, championing “freedom.”
But look around the country: big statewide wins in Pennsylvania and Michigan. The states that did well had a commonality that we in Florida are not part of: progressive leaders to vote for, like Fetterman and Whitmer really driving idealism and the youth vote, and ballot initiatives that people wanted to come out and support. One example on this was abortion on the ballot in a number of states, which drove up both voter registration and turn out. Other states had referendums on minimum wage, marijuana decriminalization, and other topics that affect people’s lives directly. People felt engaged and inspired; it wasn’t just “vote for us because otherwise you get them.”
If leaders want people to follow, they need to be going for what the people really want. But it takes more than candidates saying they are for it; they need grassroots work on the ground pushing them to do it. It takes committed civic engagement. There needs to be organized efforts on bringing issues into view: meetings, outreach, and communications to both voters and representatives, and thus changing the conversation as to what’s important. Unions used to and still play a major that role, but now advocacy organizations must engage in the process as well. Donors big and small must engage, because while we can’t match Republican dollars, we have the issues and the numbers. People must understand what they stand to gain and that education needs financial support, too. Getting abortion rights on the ballot in 2024 would be huge, and the infrastructure needed to get it on the ballot is the heart of the democratic process.
This election nationally gives us hope that the system still works, that those who wished a coup will become increasingly marginalized as we move forward. But we are not out of the woods, far from it. I offer huge thanks to all who worked on local campaigns, from seasoned organizers to young interns heading up teams and learning the ropes knocking on doors, sealing envelopes, making calls, and going out of their comfort zones to do the work that a real participatory democracy requires.
In the 60s, “America: Love It or Leave It” was a slogan that was countered by “America: Change It or Lose It.” We actually saw how close to losing it we came January 6. That’s where we are. Onward to 2023.