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25Jul/190

LOVING AMERICA, WORRYING ABOUT AMERICA

Michael Dobson newspaper

By Michael Dobson

 

Will the desire for power, the art of politics and strategically created division, supercede what it means to be the best of America?

What I heard on July 24, 2019 in the Mueller hearings is that there is  evidence which culminates  into all of the essential elements of obstruction of justice,  and that there was obvious complicity with a foreign government to put its thumb on our elections (and lying about it). With that, and because no one contested them,  I came away  knowing that those facts are real. Yes, remarkably, no one disputed the unthinkable by  an inhabitant of our highest office.

The things that the Mueller report points to really happened... even if we don't want to admit it. And, we should be concerned about them regardless of political parties or teams. The facts are simply the facts.

Furthermore,  it was said more than once by Mueller that a regular citizen would have been jailed had he/she engaged in the same activity. What is even more disappointing is that the GOP knew those facts were there, and are real... but to combat what is the plain truth as laid bare during the Mueller testimony...chose a strategy to divert their acolytes and the nation's attention rather than even try to defend the indefensible. It chose to talk about the Steel Dossier, which they knew Mueller could not get into, as a distraction... a loud one at that.

It is time for our political leaders to stop putting power and politics ahead of American values and America itself. We've not always been a country that would sit back and tacitly approve of  what this president has clearly done... which the GOP suggest when it did not even deny fact, as bad as they are ...acknowledge them, nor rightfully condemn them for their global and moral implications  as reflected upon a nation and its highest leader. I honestly don't know what is happening to our values. We have  so called evangelicals,supposed Christians... who props up a man that is in no way a Christian by his actions, his language, one with lacking demonstrable ethics and morals throughout his public and business life,  who does not go to church regularly and never have, his treatment of others and etc... nothing about his behavior reminds me of Jesus or what Jesus says on the Sermon on the Mount... a man who has shown no respect for women,  to see them only as sex objects all of his life... to grade them based on physical appearance, to be what can best be described as simply a transactional opportunist. Despite propagandized photos of him hanging out with black athletes entertainers and etc back in the day, the truth is, he was doing so because it was beneficial to HIS business as a casino owner, who was also in the fight business at the time. Did you know that he was also a Democrat? This is not a man who really cares about either party. As a transactional opportunist, he engages in things and makes allegiances that he needs at the time to benefit himself.

To know him, you only need to read a few things... read anything you can get your hands on by Ayan Rand, and know who Roy Cohen is. I've been there... had my being an Ayan Rand acolyte days, but mine was short lived and not life long. This is just who he is and in some regards, its not his fault. He was born an elitist, into a family that practiced open bigotry, that cut corners using their wealth... again, not his fault. From birth he was taught that the rules did not apply to him.... that the world only employed two categories... winners and losers. He knows... and you will get it in Ayan Rands writings, that no one cares about 2nd place... that it only matters who is winning, and who is the loser. He seeks winning at all cost, and in the present that includes dividing our country .. dangerously... on issues of race and culture to exploit the division that is always under the surface. Does he care that there are unhinged folks out there stock piling weapons because they believe a race war is imminent? No. He's not concerned about that danger and how some will react to what he stirs up. Again, all he cares about is the winning...as he is a transactional opportunist, concerned only with winning... to end up with the advantage. This is who he is, and we need to be honest about it.

In the past few months, I have had people tell me that this is the end of times (the end of the world) according to signs they speak to in the bible. Some have mentioned needing to get a gun to prepare for what they believe will be an impending race war, and some simply voiced fear.

Don't kid yourself, we are indeed in a dangerous time. Because of the science of social media platforms, algorithms, the message targeting and etc, one can easily identify and target the unhinged or those that prescribe to a certain racial view or set of beliefs based on their identified interest, websites visited and etc to send them whatever propaganda that can be created to deepen their hatred or their fears and further divide a nation; and use that same supersized division to win elections, to saturate their inboxes and social media portals  with pointed propaganda and a radical political agenda, to ultimately keep those engaged in such information so focused on their hatred.... that they fail to realize  that their pockets are being picked by the most wealthy among them. At the Mueller hearing, we learned that Russian operatives understood our vulnerabilities and exacerbated them using various tools  ( including mostly social media)  to influence an election with the goal of electing the current president, and our president welcomed it... and even asked for more.

Dr. Martin Luther King tried to do an end around how our divisions make us vulnerable to such by creating the Poor Peoples Campaign, with the idea that putting poor or marginalized people together across racial, culture and gender lines on the issue of poverty and lack of opportunity to address the real disparities that exist in America. It's an idea that was first brought to his attention by a young NAACP lawyer in Mississippi by the name of Marian Wright, who is now Marian Wright Elderman, the founder of  the Children's Defense Fund.  Dr. King was killed shortly after starting that campaign. He understood that if all people of modest means ever got together and rose up together knowing that they are in the same boat.. to not be separated by demagoguery that pit race against race, that we would have a real economic movement in America,  and substantive discussions to level the playing field for all Americans. But today, while those in power have never been keen on this idea, technology has given them diabolical tools to even better and more deeply divide Americans in a way that is not only perhaps permanent, but also dangerous. I wish there was a way to have perhaps a week whereby we divest ourselves of our smartphones, our divisive and manipulative cable news shows, and simply be communal and contemplative. A dream for sure.

Attending high school in the 1970's in my little central Florida town of Bartow , there was one class which everyone had to take and pass before graduating. This class at Bartow Senior High in 1977 was called "Orientation". Orientation was a class where we studied the Soviet Union (Russia) and to be more frank, we studied communism mostly... and  Joseph Stalin's totalitarianism that oversaw mass repressions, ethnic cleansing, deportations and executions. Back then, we understood the slippery slope of censorship, of divisions based on ethnicity as we were then bringing our country together after school integration and the civil rights act. We understood who America is and was uniquely and painfully focused on being that America, as our  striving for diversity then was a national goal as we formed our identification as a diverse nation seeking equality in all sectors of American life. This was the 70's. It included us accepting ... finally... this beautiful mixture of ethnicities, shades, languages; native Americans, immigrants and descendants of slaves. We promoted strong families, christian values, hard work , passion and compassion for the least of those by developing fair housing models, affirmative action to level the playing field, multiculturalism... all the things a strong, talented and diverse nation needed to be the powerhouse it would become. In a bad war, the vietnam war, flags were burned,  and even some of  those who served ....came back home to protest the wrongness of that war. We knew that loving America included criticizing it... that the freedom to do so is what made American great and is Americana itself. Criticizing America is loving America in its oldest tradition... as it is the charge given us by our founding fathers so that we indeed have a free society, where we constantly strove to make our union stronger... to have redress of government and to challenge power, so that we would not have a king or be ruled by a tyrannical leader. I always understood that America is where people came to escape religious persecution, to be this place where there is no state sponsored religion.... that we have religious freedoms to worship or not worship as we please. But, who are we now?

Who are we when we suggest that someone  of Muslim faith is less than me because i am of Methodist faith... that somehow by simply the designation of religious faith,  a Muslim must love America less. Are we so ignorant to actually believe that because a radical bastardized version of Islam created the suicide bombers of 9/11, that such was a true representation of its faith; what about when christian men kill outside of abortion clinics, or shoot up churches or synagogues ? Does the latter mean that all Christians like myself are bloodthirsty  murderers who hate America and the people in it, and  that they are not Americans  who are exercising our freedoms provided by our constitution as the promises of our founding fathers? We were not that way under any president in my lifetime until now. We have always been principled and careful about power, but not anymore. It's drunken and blazen displays of it in the most crass ways unimaginable.

Today, regular folks like you and I are pawns for what is an absolute power grab of the most wealthy. We used to have a FTC that realized the danger of monopolies and sought to break them up, but that no longer exist either. Our social media platforms and associated apps  are essentially just a few companies ( with some outliers waited to be bought by a larger one). In some respects that one  company ( or group of a few) is actually the government. While we march  at state capitols and march on Washington for various reasons, why are we not matching to stop our government from spying on us? Yes, that little device in you pocket is what the government, through private social media companies, use to spy on you.. to know your every interest, your exact location at all times, who your friends are, what you've taken a picture of..... to know every  aspect of your life from minute to minute because it knows where you are at all times. Why are we not picketing or marching about  that? When did we become so passive? Why do we sit back and  do nothing when we have a president whose mode of operations is to divide rather  than bring us together.. to speak to our higher angels, that does the bidding of a foreign dictatorship, that shows open preference to strong men who are often enemies of the state. Is it because we are distracted... that there is two much noise, or that there is information overload which makes it even easier for us to be manipulated... because that information overload itself forces us to get our information from those places we are predisposed to agree with.... to not challenge anything said there. Are we free thinkers anymore, or do we only think we are ... while being essentially programmed by clever algorithms and media self-targeting that we unwittingly let control our lives? When will we take our country back... take ourselves back... all of us, every hue, ethnicity, religion and all that is America?  I worry.

TALKING FLORIDA POLITICS

Michael Dobson is a longtime Tallahassee lobbyist, President/CEO of the Dream Foundation,Inc.,  founder of Florida Renewable Energy Producers Association (FREPA), Publisher of Talking Florida Politics,   and founder as President and CEO  of Dobson, Craig and Associates... one of Florida's oldest minority owned lobbying and political consulting firms in its state capital. Reach him at Michael@dobsonandcraig.com

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26Apr/190

Governor Ron Desantis Can Have His Lincoln Moment With Amendment 4

Michael Dobson newspaper

Michael Dobson, Columnist

"The Florida House has passed a bill to implement Amendment 4 which will require citizens to pay money in order to gain the right to vote, after they have paid their debts to society, which ended with their finishing their sentences and the government releasing them to society demonstrating their debt is paid"

Desantis gov

Governor Ron Desantis

It was April 15, 1865 when an assassin’s bullet killed Abraham Lincoln. On that day of each year, we file our taxes… a day we can never forget.  We will also never forget that it was Lincoln, largely considered a father of the Republican Party, who shrewdly ended slavery through the Emancipation Proclamation of January 1, 1863 and later codified it in the 13th Amendment on January 31, 1865. Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis now face his own Lincoln moment. Will he flinch? Will he allow power to not only supersede politics, but also the will of the voters? Make no mistake, determining the makeup of the electorate is more about power than it is politics.

This issue of race, equality, and who gets the voting franchise is indeed something thousands of Americans of all races have fought and died for. It has a long storyline in the annuals of American history.  If we consider it in the context of history, one can’t help but accept the rightness of Florida’s Amendment 4 and the voter’s intent for automatic restoration of rights. That history makes us confront the  brutality of slavery, the carnage of the civil war, the fact that in American… our jails and prisons are disproportionality populated by descendants  of former slaves, the historical genesis of state laws denying the franchise to convicted felons;  and what has been a long fight, that at times, have been a bloody one that was all a part of the  civil rights movement, which continues today.  Lincoln had a Thaddeus Stephens and other men of principles in the Republican Party who saw the rightness of freedom for all. The ideals of these men are what spurred the  Emancipation Proclamation and the  13th Amendment, which abolished slavery, however  (oddly) the 13th amendment  allows for a narrow form of slavery to persist,  when it says” neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction”.lincoln

We are left  with a  tension  in the American psyche,  which is enshrined in what the 13th amendment does… what it allows and what President Lincoln could not politically go far enough to do. Surely we would be in a different place had Lincolns assassination not  occurred at the Ford Theater.   I believe Lincoln thought he would live to fight another day to address those things he compromised on.  The issue of voting and who got the franchise (in a permanent scheme) vexed Lincoln even while winning on the emancipation.

Who gets to vote in America seems to be the last and most difficult vestige of slavery. Eliminating that last vestige has been like trying to clean an old blood stain. Lincolns Republican Party believed in the republic, in a democratic government and most importantly,  in freedom for all. He believed in the  theory (  Euclid’s mathematical rule) that if two things are the same and or made of the same thing, then they are also equal; therefore intellectually he couldn’t bring himself to accept the idea that we are not  all equal. But still, it seems that very question and its tension has been our nations Achilles heel way before i was born, and sadly,  a place we can’t seem to move away from in my 60 years on this great earth. The Republican Party of 1865 is not the same one it is today.

This writer has always believed that government should not interfere with freedom, that it should create an environment that we can all succeed and that we should have competitive markets and industries that are open to competition with level playing fields. I believe that men are equal and that the right to vote is the greatest evidence of that equality. Lincoln believed that. This idea of equality is what we have tried to deny as a human race in a variety of ways, as strong men have seen the benefit of sowing division.. to make one man suspicious, envious or even afraid of the other. Denying the automatic restoration of voting rights as amendment  4 does in plain language is just a continuation of this age old human sin… the sin of denying equal rights to equal men and women, who have an equal stake in our democracy.  The ability to vote is supposed to be that thing that for one day, election day, that our equality is laid bare…. that no matter education or station in life, each man or women has only one. It is on that day all have equal weight, each only just one vote.. to make a statement  and have a stake in America.

I am not sure when the Republican Party moved so far away from its founding principles. Was it when the largess of political power went out of the stratosphere… making good men corruptible?  Is it a truth that says it’s unnatural for anyone to give up power or even risk it? Even our philosophers such as Descartes, Plato and Aristotle have told us of man’s primal motivation of self-interest .  Governor DeSantis has an opportunity that rivals Lincoln, to be on the right side of history. He has an opportunity to askew impulses or suggestions from those who see this as only an issue of power and politics rather than the promise of America as a free a place where all men are equal. What say you to this moment Governor Desantis?

Michael Dobson is a longtime Tallahassee lobbyist, President/CEO of the Dream Foundation,Inc. and founder of Dobson, Craig and Associates. Reach him at Michael@dobsonandcraig.com

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23Jan/190

2019 MLK Holiday Celebration shows shortcomings of today’s leaders

By Michael Dobson

King 3Trump 3ghandi

The juxtaposition of the 2019 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr Holiday, which celebrates a civil rights leader killed while supporting striking sanitation workers, against the back drop of a government shutdown… is glaring.

Government work… albeit local, state or federal, is what many Americans have used as a stepping stone to climb the economic ladder in America for generations. It is those jobs where families have been able to live with dignity, perhaps put a child through college and improve the lot of their family for generations to come. In 1968, Reverend James T. Lawson asked Dr. King to come to Memphis Tennessee and support sanitation workers who began a strike when city officials would not pay a fair wage.  Dr. King was to lead a non-violent demonstration on their behalves.  It was a time when many of the earlier preeminent civil rights battles had been fought and won, and therefore there was a shift in focus to other issues.  Dr King started putting more focus on not only civil rights;  but also issues of human rights, issues of fair pay, real opportunity, and tackling poverty. He went to where the need was. Often you hear of people (some celebrities and others) say they marched with king… to rightly remind our nation and our youth of the struggle; but what you rarely hear is that… Dr. King marched with them. YES, HE MARCHED WITH THEM.  He marched and rubbed elbows with the common man, broke bread with the common man… often times at that man’s home. He also went to jail with the common man, along side him… fighting on the behalf of the many. So, he knew the plight of those without  bootstraps in America… and could not pull themselves up alone, and wanted to improve their lots so that America would indeed live up to its own creed. The son of a Baptist minister, a learned man… he was them. It is no surprise that the plight of the common man and that of government workers is what led him to his death. It was there in Memphis Tennessee  where Dr. King will killed with an assassins bullet at the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis Tennessee on April 4, 1968. I was approaching my 10th birthday .

Today, social media and news outlets have been abuzz during the King Holiday Celebration around the fact that it seems the current occupant in the White House chose not to engage in a large public celebration of Dr Kings Birthday , nor did he encourage others to celebrate  with any noteworthy rhetoric.  Perhaps he understood the optics, the irony and the juxtaposition of what he alone…  has owned, and  has done to countless families around America today, and how those actions are reaching into various parts of our national economy.  There can be nothing more contrary to the King legacy than the current government shutdown. First, it starts with an entrenched demand that a   “wall” between us and our neighbors be built. It’s a  Presidential  promised made to a few …shortly after ascending an escalator in Trump Plaza  to deliver what was the most racist and hate filled  statement ever made to the American people as a reason for a political campaign. He said that Mexicans ( a whole region of fellow humans)  where thieves, murderers and rapist…. then famously said  “some of them”  are good people. Shortly after that, it became one of his most frequently used campaign mantras in addition to “lock her up”. It was that if you elect me, we will “ build the wall”… meaning building a “wall” between the U. S. and Mexico, and then stated that Mexico would pay for it. Even a majority of the members of his own party does not support the idea. Moreover, Mexico in no uncertain terms (in their former Presidents language) has said that "they will not pay for the F------ wall".

Neither did Dr.  King or President Ronald Reagan build walls, they tore them down. For Dr. King, we are all brothers.... regardless of where we live on the globe, to never equate an entire ethnicity or inhabitants of any region to be  sole  purveyors of  the  most deplorable acts of all of humanity. One man sows peace, while the other plays to our most basic fears, our hatred … and particularly whatever fears that  dwell in the hearts of some about those who are different…. who speak a different language, have a different sexual orientation, a different hew of the skin… or more pigmentation.   Today’s contradictions of who we are and our place in the world  is glaring when held side by side with the life and legacy of Dr. King, Ronald Reagan and others . Some suggest the  current administration decided  not to engage in an elaborate celebration or acknowledgement the holiday because it knew that  the backdrop of the shutdown against the King legacy would produce shocking criticism from various corners. But more fundamentally, it shows us where we are as a nation. It shows that even if we are not going backward, we certainly are not going forward. Its showing us that an appreciation for regular working people has become a thing of the past and we no longer consider what we know from history with regard to the workers movement in America… the movement that allowed many to enter the middle class. But this is happening while we also say we are putting America  and its people first.

On January 21, 2019 we celebrated a civil rights icon as we do each year on the third Monday of January. The Federal government was closed due to that national holiday. They did not have to work. But the next day they had to work They did so without pay. More like, forced to do so without pay.  It was our government doing this, not a plantation owner in the deep  south in the 1700’s or 1800’s… but our government as directed by our President  in 2021. History shedded a tear on Monday. On Monday, it was as if the lessons learned from Ghandi,  Dr. Martin Luther King, Cesar Chavez, Abraham Lincoln, Harriet Tubman, John Wesley , Martin Luther  and the son of God as learned about in our bibles…. have all been ignored.   I believe in America. We are a resilient nation. So, I don’t believe the work of Dr. King and others were in vain. But I am concerned.

Michael Dobson is a longtime Tallahassee lobbyist, founder of Dobson, Craig and Associates, publisher of Talking Florida Politics, President/CEO of the Dream Foundation,Inc and founder of the Florida Renewable Energy Producers Association. Reach him at Michael@dobsonandcraig.com

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7Nov/180

Florida Voters have seen this movie before, but are they ready for a change.. appears they are

By Michael Dobson:
 

Oh yes, finally  the “Lock Him Up” chants.

The Florida governor’s race is now unabashedly a  Clinton vs Trump redux. More proof of that? Well, what was once a  whisper, is  becoming a roar that if Andrew Gillum is elected (like it was for Hilary),  that somehow he will go to jail shortly thereafter? So, like it was for Hilary (now Gillum), the message to the undecided voters is… don’t waste your vote,he will go to jail after winning. But wait, those same loud and constant beatings of the drum  are being done with no factual basis for any of the claims. And, as we know, that doesn’t matter right? Not if you win.

To win this race (like 2016), there  also has been a proliferation of "fake news" sites and accompanying articles that germinate into a constant slew of devastating headlines  that are usually a rehash of old news with added buzz words like “ bribe”, ”crooked”, “ will raise you taxes” , a “liberal”,  “hustler”, and pledge to “bring prosecution” and etc. All ripped out of the pages of the 2016 National GOP playbook… which ultimately worked. But, given the rate at which registered  Democrats are going to the polls in unprecedented numbers, none of it appears to be working

There has been columns suggesting Mr Gillum needs to come clean and not continue to aptly avoid more direct responses regarding the New York and Costa Rico trip, which he has now followed up that urging with an open and far ranging interview with the Tallahassee Democrat. Now, because the Democrats have not been disarmed, after 2016 and the online campaign ran against Hilary using the exact same tactics, are the Democrats not prepared to fight this fight on the internet and on social media platforms? Not as aggressively as some would wish, so redux it is… or isn’t. But perhaps the voters are smarter this time.. the fool me once shame on me and….., to not be fooled this time. Moreover, the  avalanche of scurrilous headlines from newly created “news” sites alone is dizzying… along with the rapidity of which  they are shared, often by the same individuals who  are quick to  label what they disagree with  “fake  news”, to   now themselves  prolifically  disseminate what is truly  “fake”. The execution of such strategies is to be applauded. It is unrelenting, using a deep bench of acolytes who are readily disseminating such information.. and expertly using social media algorithms. But the question is, has the voter matured since 2016. Will today’s voter know the trick for what it is? Only time will tell.

Considering 2016, voters must also remember this: In the end the polls do not matter, no one is going to jail… no bribes and etc in the end, calling or labeling someone “crooked” does not make it so,  no governor has the ability to raise the state of Florida’s taxes ( three branches of government for a reason), only 3 percent of corporations in Florida pay any corporate taxes and they are the largest ( that will never change and is not what is being proposed anyway); but those facts does not stop purveyors of gross mischaracterizations, and ( if political candidates where not public figures) the peddling of what would ordinarily be called slander. But, who said politics was playing bean bag anyway?

And now we have the words “ crooked Mayor Gillum” oozing from the lips of Ron DeSantis. and chants of "lock him up" at recent GOP rallies as mentioned at the top.

So, what say you Mr and Mrs Voter? What say you? Will you recognize a strategy that has been honed to near perfection and not take the bait? Will voters seek the balance that comes  when it is not one party that rules every branch of government, knowing that such balance  allows for  real and serious discussion on issues that impact our lives…. when the  best solutions are implemented regardless of whose party’s idea it was. That’s the real fight.   Do we change how decisions are made in Tallahassee and  do we have a government where all elected officials chosen by voters get their voices heard? Or is it iron clad one party rule. Yes,  the real fight.

There remains faith in our democracy in the idea of a working  three legged stool of checks and balances in our institutions and branches.   If the momentum and energy seen at the polls reflected in early votes  are indicative of anything, the voters may be expressing that faith and clamoring for real dialogue on solving our problems. They have seen this movie before from the 2016 playbook and just may be seeking real change.. and to do something historic. Again, we will see.

Michael Dobson is a longtime Tallahassee lobbyist, founder of Dobson, Craig and Associates, publisher of Talking Florida Politics and founder of the Florida Renewable Energy Producers Association. Reach him at Michael@dobsonandcraig.com

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24Oct/180

IT IS WHAT IT IS- RACIAL POLITICS IN FLORIDA, BUT WE CAN DO BETTER

By Michael Dobson
Fl governors debate 1

When writing an opinion or sharing a thought in any manner, I often ask to what benefit  is this thought or observation being shared. Then I do ask how it may impact me if not clearly understood. I then always answer that if it’s true and in any way moves humanity forward to a better place, then it must be said

So, I start with this … did you notice? Did you notice that “Mayor Gillum” is not an “opponent”  of Congressman Ron DeSantis for the office of Governor of Florida? According to Congressman DeSantis,  he is running against a boy named Andrew or Andy.

Let’s be clear and speak as adults here. Mr. DeSantis continually addressing Mayor Gillum as “Andrew” and even “Andy” during a televised debate on October 21, 2018 was both knowingly (or unknowingly) considered by some as racist and by many as disrespectful. It is the oldest of tools from the tool box of the southern slave owner to demean a black male in the eyes of the world, to himself , to his wife and to his children. It is to never acknowledge his position, person-hood  or his manhood, but to instead refer to him as a “boy” … by first name only.. never a “Mister”, “Sir” or any titled at all.. preferring to simply call him boy.

In 2018, considering the strides we thought we have made with regard to race, we read headlines and see instances on our social media feeds almost daily to remind us that we uncorked the Champagne a bit too soon. But the governor’s debate in Florida displayed where we are in both a loud and subtle way,  all together. It was done by Mr. DeSantis articulately demeaning the person-hood and manhood of his opponent, making sure he “knew his place”… by never referring to him as a man of accomplishment, of equal stature, or  of having any professional title whatsoever... nor simply referring to him as "my opponent". It was more than a dog whistle. When asked about the “monkey  it up” comment, Mr. DeSantis deflected by pleading ignorance to how in the world the statement could be deemed offensive as it was no way near his intent or conscious understanding.  I believe Mr. DeSantis to be a man of above average intelligence, and as such believe he knew full well what he was doing and was doing it with a purpose when he continuously referred to Mayor Gillum as Andrew or Andy.  He may as well have called him “boy”.

And, If anyone believes Mr. DeSantis  is not running a bombastic and racially decisive campaign similar to what one would expect from his most ardent supporter in chief, then you are mistaking his better grasp of the English language (than his muse) for something more  loftier. Perhaps he knows that in 1972 the state of Florida voted overwhelmingly for George Wallace, who ran for President  on a segregationist platform. Being a smart guy, he knows that for some, the racist “Jim Crow” Florida of my childhood seemed like just yesterday, and for many , it would be a cold day in hell before someone of Mr. Gillum's pigment inhabit the governor’s mansion. His win strategy includes and depends upon that vote, and therefore likely,  that’s the crowd he’s playing to.. to follow the Trump play book, as discussed in "The Lowest White Man" .. an op ed by Charles Blow. After all,  a win is a win…. and its all about winning. But, at some point we have to ask the question, at what cost? At what cost do we continue to divide our nation by playing to and hardening divides that exist from ill-conceived and knowingly false  ideas of superiority and entitlement based on skin color or places of  origin. At what cost is it in the balance of humanity for us to continue these divisive tactics to perpetuate hate, when we have more in common than differences?  It is my hope that Mr DeSantis can begin to run a more respectful campaign and not play to what is the worst in humanity. That’s the kind of leadership we need.

Michael Dobson is a longtime Tallahassee lobbyist, founder of Dobson, Craig and Associates, publisher of Talking Florida Politics and founder of the Florida Renewable Energy Producers Association. Reach him at Michael@dobsonandcraig.com or Michael@michaeldobson.org.

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7Oct/180

History Shows Gillum Not In FBI Cross-hairs

A view

In America, when it comes to a black man, its usually hunt him down, hang him and ask questions later or never. It's been that way since Africans were bounded and dragged to this country for free labor; and despite decades of work to make justice work equally, we are still nowhere near that because of biases that flourish in the system itself.

Anyone will tell you that blacks are 10 times more likely to be prosecuted for the same crime than a white person.

Nowhere in the history of America, has a black man, named as a suspect in an FBI investigation that last nearly two years ....who the FBI deem to be guilty of a crime, was not arrested by now... accept for when that's not true i.e. Gillum is not a named suspect.  Actually, there is rarely any instances where a black man with only a small degree  of guilt based on just a smidgen of evidence was not charged and arrested. And in the case of Andrew Gillum,  if named as a part of an investigation ( which he is not)  and with evidence gathered in investigation that has lasted nearly two years, coupled with the fact that he  was not charged and arrested a long time ago, is the sunshine and bright light of the truth, a truth that is not politically convenient.

That truth? Whether you agree with his policy proposals or not, one thing is clear, Andrew Gillum IS NOT under FBI investigation, and he is not guilty, because if those two things were true, his black ass would have been in jail a long time ago. That's the way America rolls broh.

 

 

 

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7Aug/180

Is Bob Graham the most influential Democrat in Florida?

by Michael Dobson:

 

Coming of age in Florida during the 1970’s, my earliest memories of Florida politics were of the names Bob Graham and Lawton Chiles. Then came Tom Gallagher, Bob Butterworth and Bill Nelson.  Back then, Florida politicians were mostly homegrown, and usually affiliated with the University of Florida, which was known as the boy college back then, before FSU and UF became co-ed.

So, when Gwen Graham announced her candidacy for Governor, atlas… a familiar name from the old Florida. Distractors  immediately said  she was simply running on her father Bob Graham’s name, and that it  wouldn’t work (if she was)  because  her father had not been on a Florida ballot since 1998, had not been in public office for more than a decade, and it has been over 30 years since he was the Governor of Florida. For them, it meant little that Bob Graham left the Florida Governor’s office with an approval rating of 83% and it never got below 73%, while Scott has at times struggled to be above 40%. They also said many of today’s Floridians have no idea who Bob Graham is. Well, this writer begs to differ.

First, the most reliable native voting demographic in Florida (ages 50-64) knows full well who Bob Graham is. Additionally, for the last few years, Bob Graham's focus has taken him to environmental conservation rally’s around the state, speaking in front of environmental groups, at Rotary clubs.. you name it,  to talk about civic engagement , environment, and education to name a few. Bob Graham has not been quiet. Consequently, many have fallen under the spell of the Graham magic. It’s easy. Here’s a guy who is a native Floridian from a pioneering family, is unassuming,  a former Governor who everyone calls one of Florida’s best, a known policy wonk, a Governor who did work days.. whereby he did ordinary jobs working side by side with ordinary citizens at their  jobs  (which his daughter emulates). Something his daughter does... even up to election day.

Then there’s the always present notepad in his shirt pocket.. which he uses when you talk with him (I wonder what he was writing when he and I met some years ago), and  the neckties with “Florida” imprinted all over them. Also, who can forget his role as the Chair of the Senate Intelligence Commission ….whereby he led the Joint Congressional Investigation into   9/11 .... and whom the world listened to as he gave a comprehensive oral report on the investigations findings. Then there is The Bob Graham Center for Public Service at the University of Florida. It is there where   Floridians young and old learn more about Bob Graham, and pine for a Florida of yesterday when his type of leadership was the standard… to deal with contemporary realities.  

In her recent interview with the Tallahassee Democrat Editorial Board, Gwen Graham answered questions using examples of real life she experienced on her work days, about what she learned from others. In those answers you saw her wonkiness regarding arcane policy detail at work.. especially regarding the environment.  I saw her father in her. Then there is Adel Graham wearing her now famous green and white dress with the word Graham imprinted on the fabric in various places forming what could easily be tacky, but instead, an eye catching design. Adel Graham also makes Facebook post in support of her daughter. Then to top it all, get this…. Gwen Graham’s ex-husband is her Campaign Treasurer. 

In early interviewers, she disarmed those who said she’s running on her father’s name. She said  yes I am…  that she loves him, is proud to be his daughter,  proud of his service, that he’s been  a great example for her, and that she also seeks his advice. She reiterates that in this recent article by the Huffington Post here.  Her approach to public policy is deliberate, and studied… a lot like her dad.   

Watching this Democratic field and hearing their echoes and concerns for the common man, I am reminded of the loftier explanation of why the Democrats symbol is a Donkey. That explanation considers the symbol to be Biblical, contrary to the story of Andrew Jackson taking up the Donkey in 1828 when his opponents called him a jackass.  For some, the Democratic Donkey symbolizes the New Testaments telling of Jesus riding of a Donkey into Jerusalem, instead of a regal horse.... which would have been a symbol of power and wealth. Some scholars say Jesus chose the Donkey because it is an animal of the common man. Which is what ' opponent Chris King comes close to saying when he says his religious faith is a "curiosity" in the Democratic party. " 

Above may explain the big broad tent, the party for all, care for the little guy...the  common man or women, being a welcoming home to those of all sexual persuasions, nationality, race and religion..... its strength. That’s what’s at stake in this election for many, the needs of the common man. If not simply the common man, this election is also a grab for the old Florida,  where environmental stewardship is brought back to its proper place.  It's a place Mr. Graham helped foster, and is guiding his daughter to its rediscovery.   Perhaps this is Bob Graham’s swan song…. even endorsing candidates like Sean Shaw, a candidate for Attorney General. In the end, we may find that Bob Graham still has the Midas touch, as his daughter leads the pack…  he having  never lost a race, possibly making him the most influential Democrat in Florida.

 

Michael Dobson is a longtime Tallahassee lobbyist, founder of Dobson, Craig and Associates, publisher of Talking Florida Politics and founder of the Florida Renewable Energy Producers Association. Reach him at Michael@dobsonandcraig.com.

 

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29Jul/180

PENSACOLA’S NEW MAYOR SHOULD BE LAWRENCE POWELL

 

Lawrence powell

*photo from the Pensacola News Journal

It’s difficult for me to cross the bridge to enter Pensacola, and not think of a city i once lived in called San Diego. I often think of the San Diego my father move to back in the 70’s before San Diego got new  leaders, many of whom were from the outside,  who saw the potential… and slowly with a new set of eyes on the city, transformed San Diego into one of the most beautiful  and prosperous cities in America, with a booming economy which understood the value added by the military and what it brings to the city with regard to investments in technology and research to have attracted tech giants like Solar Turbines, Nokia,  Cubic, Qualcomm, Kyocera and many others. It too has a port, have beaches and universities. Accept for the picturesque mountains of Northern San Diego County, Pensacola has much of the same … but lacks leadership with a vision to see beyond what it has always been. Pensacola could be so much more.

Like many cities, it suffers from an echo chamber of ideas, with communities that still fight the battles of the 60s to remain oddly segregated still.  Perhaps the old fights are comfortable and too familiar to let go. Then, the citizens of Pensacola thought the answer would be to change its charter to now have a strong Mayor system of city government. Yes, it could be the answer. But the selection process made the idea a dud. The city selected a well-meaning young man whose only claim of fame was not anything having to do with government or policy, but of him being a male model. Yes, the kind of guy who looks pretty good in a television commercial or mail piece, but no articulation or vision about governing. Not that models are not deep thinkers deserving of roles in government, but the fact is, this one had a resume completely void of any hint of interest in government or policy.  That Mayor has decided to not seek re-election and the City once again has a great opportunity to claim its rightful future.

Any lessons learned? Well, sort of. Citizens were taught what they DO NOT want in a future Mayor.  The voters would be better off considering their first “Strong Mayor” nothing more than a trial balloon, because what it did was (as stated above) let them know what it is they truly do not want in a Strong Mayor.  So, truth be told, the role of Strong Mayor in the City of Pensacola has not been defined yet. The five candidates running for Mayor are sort of at a lost. Because there was never a vision or agenda from their predecessor, they are left with having no place to start from. So up until the debate hosted by the Pensacola News Journal, on the campaign trail they were left with tracing only the outlines, to not color in the picture, by promising the voters that they  will not be the other guy… that they will do something as novel as… wait, wait for it……. they will  talk to the City Council,  and attend City Council  meetings. No agenda, no vision… just that they will actually talk to the City Council and have a collaborative working relationship with them. Then they are left with what is the closest thing to a vision…the main one being a discussion of what to do with a Port that is bleeding money. The city has infrastructure issues, gentrification that is… pricing out historic residents, a limited and undertrained workforce, an employment base which fails to retain the best and brightest, leaders who are more interested in their own pocket books than that of other citizens, and a skeptical voting population who believes they are trapped by the greed and self-dealing… with them never having a voice.  Not much talk about technology, which is a ripe industry for Pensacola… an industry that connects them to the city’s military presence, and that fact is largely because its leaders interest are mainly real-estate development… their professions.  The PNJ debate has changed the trajectory of the race, because the voters  got to see the candidates address some pretty tough questions. Some of those issues otherwise never mentioned, as referenced above , were touched on

So alas, we see the picture more fully, Pensacola has a great opportunity before it. It can now pick the right Mayor. But first, since the role has never been defined, it may be of benefit to clear some things up. First, the skillset and temperament of a Mayor does not make any current elected official a logical or natural choice. Why? It’s a different skill set. Its leadership, integrity and a fidelity to citizens above oneself. Some cities, like Tallahassee,  has a weak Mayor system. It’s a system whereby the Mayor has a vote on the commission, but has other responsibilities the other commissioners do not have.. mostly as the   ambassador for the city. Other than that, the Mayor is another member of the commission or council. In Pensacola, the Mayor has no voting authority with the council and has an executive office that is completely separate from the council.. with the ability to make some decisions unilaterally without much input. The current cast of characters for the 5 person race in Pensacola is a sitting county commissioner who have served 12 years on the commission, a sitting City Councilman who is completing his second term to serve 8 years, a Christian radio personality, two very thoughtful and engaging millennial’s, and a 20 year retired military vet ( in a military town) who is   retired military veteran Lawrence Powell who returned home to Pensacola in 2006 and immediately got involved In his community to include managing a few local campaigns and creating an at risk program for youth. He is a leader on the ground in the community where it counts, and is involved In  his community in a multitude of ways… mainly serving the least of them .

Powell Ad 1

 

The Mayor’s race is nonpartisan. But since we are grownups, let’s admit that the idea of non partisanism is a bunch of hooey. The two elected officials are Republican (Robinson and Spencer) , so is the Christian radio host( Mr. Mayo). The only registered Democrat is Lawrence Powell, while Johnathan Green and Drew Buchanan are NPA. Mr. Powell is also an Africa American minister. So you guessed it, the three Republicans are fighting for the same base while a few are trying to pilfer some African America votes by collecting on IOU’s from some. The latter exercise and those acquiescing to such overtures is reminiscent of the phenomena of the many former slaves who did not know slavery was over after the emancipation proclamation. Pensacola actually has a chance to elect an African American military veteran in a military town. Having lived other places before returning to Pensacola, Mr.  Powell has a vision of what Pensacola can be outside of the echo chamber, if only the voters would listen. Perhaps, just maybe the city will pick a leader this time… and not just a politician. Then it can know what it’s so called Strong Mayor is supposed to be. And in doing so, remove the entrenched remnants of the old south to bring Pensacola screaming into the 21st Century. Pensacola does not need a politician, it needs a leader. It does not need anyone whose business portfolio, and personal wealth is enhanced by the decisions that can come out of the Mayor’s office…. which is a recipe for graft.

Full disclosure, Lawrence Powell is my friend. That is how i’ve gotten a measure of the man, and know he’s earned and is deserving of the many medals that has adorned his chest in service to our great country. These opportunities do not come often for a city trying to find its way. Here’s your chance Pensacola.

Michael Dobson is a longtime Tallahassee lobbyist, founder of Dobson, Craig and Associates, publisher of Talking Florida Politics and founder of the Florida Renewable Energy Producers Association. Reach him at Michael@dobsonandcraig.com.

 

 

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3May/180

IN 2018:IS RICK SCOTT THE NEW GEORGE WALLACE AND IS THAT THE U.S. SENATOR HE WANTS TO BE?

George_Wallace_Press_Conference_Speech_SF_still_624x352

ScottScho

by Michael Dobson

 

Florida Governor Rick Scott and our cabinet stubbornly standing in the way of the right to vote for tax paying citizens who are disproportionately minorities here in the 21st century, makes for an eerily familiar feeling. It  feels a lot like that fateful day in Alabama, some five decades  ago when Alabama Governor  George Wallace stood at the entrance of the University of Alabama to deny African America students access to that historic university.... all  in the name of  keeping segregation alive and well.  Mr Wallace later denounced his stance. But, will Gov Scott? Will he do so  when there is no longer a need for political advantage born out of such policies.. like Wallace? Only time will tell.

Most states have come to realize that permanently disenfranchising tax paying Americans who have made a mistake, paid their debts to society and wanting to be a contributing member again, is contrary to the promise of America.  They've learned that most citizens agree that it is wrong.

In the most recent poll by North Star Opinion Research and EMC Research Voters overwhelmingly support felon voting rights amendment ..... considered a bipartisan poll, it says  that nearly 3 quarters of voters believe Gov Scott and the Cabinet is wrong.   While their talking point is usually a statement suggesting that ..."it"s for the victims", no victim has spoken up and suggested that once someone  has done their time for  a non violent offense, that he/she should not be able to vote. Is it the assumption that those who decide to register to vote would then vote for his opponent, or would be a Democrat.... or African American voting Democrat. Scholars tells us  its a naked disenfranchisement scheme for political advantage. They tell us that was the original intent of this disenfranchisement scheme in the first place, as pointed out by the Kentucky Advisory Committee to the United States Commission On Civil Rights, when  its findings gives us a bit of history by telling us " In the ensuring decades after the civil war, ex-felon statutes were adopted in a number of states for the expressed  purpose of limiting the right to vote  of African Americans". So, to the "it's for the victims" crowd, history tells us something else.

Then there is this assumption (as inferred above) that giving the right to vote will make Democratic voting rolls spike, well I beg to differ. The proof is in scanning the Florida Division of Elections Website. Doing so, you will  notice a Republican Candidate by the name of Fredrick Dee Buntin is running for governor. You may also notice that his address is Dade Correctional Institution ( aka DOC), where he is housed as an inmate in the Florida Department of Corrections(state prison), and is doing a life sentence there. Yes, you read right...he is an inmate in the Florida State Prison system and is registered on the State of Florida's Division of Elections website... running for governor as a Republican.  Is  Governor  suppressing the vote for upcoming elections because "he can do whatever he wants" ?  Does the governor's  office not read the same history books we all do and know that without a shadow of doubt this practice owe its roots to base racism, and a disenfranchisement that is aimed at denying African Americans the right to vote, with the southern governors who came up with this scheme explicitly saying that was the aim for this policy knowing that African Americans would be prosecuted (for the same crimes) at a  higher rate than others, and would be disproportionately sentenced to jail or prison. Much of this is covered in Janell Ross's"The race-infused history of why felons aren’t allowed to vote in a dozen states". Since the latter article, a few more states has eliminated the regressive barriers which prevented the  voting of non violent citizens who've been convicted of a felony in the past, and paid their debts.

Is it pandering to a  white vote that  Trump revealed, as interestingly discussed in Charles Blows The Lowest White Man, so as to blazingly  perpetuate Jim crow in the 21st century and still get elected to the United State Senate in one of the most racially diverse states in the country? George Wallace saw the damage done, and the winds of change sweep the nation.  He was an old and crippled man when he did so. What is it that an older man sees when there are no more mountains to climb? Did he remember his beginnings and the humanity learned... but it took awhile?

I often think of Governor Scott's story about his youth. You know, the one when he says during a difficult time his family lived in public housing. Given that, why is it that one of the first things Mr Scott  did  as governor was to pursue a measure (later ruled unconstitutional) to drug test welfare recipients....but not lawmakers, or himself.  Have'n been accused of overseeing  the largest Medicaid Fraud of its time, and escaping prosecution largely because he had the best representation money can by; how can he not know that more than half the folks he wont let vote,  would never have a record had they a smidgen of his wealth.That... "there by  the grace of God there go I".

I suspect that the governor knows what is morally right. And,  I suppose he knows that the history books are correct. So, Is this who this good man wants to be? Do our leaders want to be compared to George Wallace and as torch bearers for the ugliest period in  American history... embody  symbols of racial backwardness and oppression?

As a Floridian  who lived through the pain and turmoil of the 60s in Florida,  I know first hand what we went through as a state. I remember what we went through  to get us to a place where we could live in more harmony, where all citizens could have self respect, could have second chances.... where families knew that the state had its back, where families rich and poor got to enjoy the many things that make Florida special.  Sometimes I wonder if our governor, not a native Floridian like this writer, in his travels around the state,  truly understands it and its people. Does he understand  what we've gone through and what we don't want to go back to. Does he not have a sense of history and the compass to gauge the aspirations of common Floridians?  Everyone does not blame the next man for their lot. Floridians  believe in taking responsibility and paying their debts to society when they error-ed.  And when the payment is made in full, they believe their mistake should be thrown out into the lake where their is a sign that says, no fishing allowed... that they get a second chance. That's who we are as a nation.  That's who we are as a state.

Governor Scott, the people are speaking loud, and their voices will become their votes   on election day to right this wrong. If not for suggested pure political purposes, the right thing could be done  now. Instead,  those whose rights you could give, but will not give.... will have to wait for the passage of an amendment that will surely pass. Yes, the current legal skirmishes will  keep many from the voting rolls on November 6, 2018. Perhaps that's helpful to some in closely contested elections in Florida. But, Is  a democracy that is based on equality and rights of speech,and  the idea of freedom and liberty  suppose to be simply a suggestion ... to be used to fit certain personal or political motivations simply because you can ? Is there not a higher calling.. beyond politics, the contest or an exercise in raw power to suit individual whim? Will Florida be that sunny place, we peddle to others; or is it going to be that ugly  and mean place where we deal from the bottom of the Jim Crow card deck ... just to keep certain Floridians permanently locked out of society, contrary to our great nations promise and what our great lady of the statute of Liberty says to us. Florida leaders, please do not continue to make us look like some racist throw back to a time we can admit was not our shinning moment.

Michael Dobson, is a long time Tallahassee based  lobbyist,Founder/ President of Dobson, Craig and Associates (aka Dobson and Associates), Publisher of Talking Florida Politics, Founder of the Florida Renewable Energy Producers Association (FREPA), President of The Dream Foundation,Inc and a writer/blogger on politics and public policy. Michael@dobsonandcraig.com, Michael@michaeldobson.org or Michael@talkingfloridapolitics.com

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20Feb/180

Andrew Gillum Secures A Permanent Place on Florida’s Statewide Stage, Nearly Cracking The Black Code Illusive To Others

By Michael Dobson

Gillum DEC

Andrew Gillum

 

With some  excerpts from “Seeing Our Difference” a memoir  by Michael Dobson to be published in August 2018

Gillum_1375_ccWatching Andrew Gillum campaign for governor has (for me) been akin to watching someone draw a map by artistically  stringing together the deep footprints of those who came before them. It's a map for a future trip in a future time, while the mapmaker adds his own footprints.  In America, only a handful of black political candidates (in recent memory) have been able to convince  voters in their respective states to elect them statewide. There was U.S. Sen. Edward W. Brooke ,a U.S. Sen Corey Booker of New Jersey, Deval Patrick Gov Massachusetts, Ken Blackwell of Ohio, U.S. Sen Tim Scott of South Carolina, there was also U.S. Sen Carol Mosely Braun  of Illinois, Gov Douglas Wilder of Virginia, U.S Senator Kamala Harris,   U.S. Senator and President Barack Obama; and while not as the lead candidate...most recently, Justin Fairfax on ticket as Lt Governor of Virginia (as did another former client,  Jennifer Carroll of Florida before him). Not mentioned, but lest not forget,  some statewide offices of lessor clout ( not Governor or U.S. Senate) which blacks have been elected to over the years.

In 2002,  I had a front row seat  to some of the reasons why, as a statewide manager (Campaign Coordinator)  for  Florida Gubernatorial Candidate Daryl Jones.  In that experience, I  saw first hand the challenges black  candidates face in Florida when campaigning  statewide. In that particular year (2002) Janet Reno, Bill McBride and Daryl Jones were the Democratic candidates for Governor. The perch from which I viewed that event was up close and personal. That experience also  led to my being contacted by the congressman Jim Davis in 2006, when he was  campaigning for governor. His campaign  needed  my input as they pondered who to add unto the ticket as his running mate. Ultimately,   Daryl Jones  was added to the ticket and  my advise became of some value to that  statewide campaign. Consequently,  Daryl Jones predated Jennifer Carroll as a black on a Florida statewide gubernatorial ticket ( as Lt. Governor).  Later, I observed from a distance  Kendrick Meeks 2012 statewide campaign. Doing the analysis, and in my experience talking to voters from coast to coast, I’ve learned that the reasons black candidates in Florida don’t win statewide are deep-seated  and painful to acknowledge. But at the same time, what I learned  underscores a clear-eyed reality about  the largest swing  state... mired in the history of its racial past.

Before we get into  the first person feedback I received  during the campaign of Daryl Jones in 2002, please remember who he was.  Daryl Jones was a  State Senator from Miami, a distinguished lawyer, fighter pilot, and  President Bill Clintons  nominee for  Secretary of the Air Force in 1998. Considered one of the smartest guys in the Florida Senate, Daryl was respected by both sides. Additionally, newspapers often described him as having movie star good looks.  But both the blessing and course was that Daryl Jones, as a candidate, was not neatly packaged into a stereotypical black box. He grew up in Jackson Mississippi  and is Catholic. Now, while that should not matter, the latter  did. For some, he did not seem in his element at a rollicking and soulful black church, a place a black man was expected to be at ease.   I guess we can say that the black community simply  did not “feel” him.. as one of theirs, along with some other black centric political baggage to be discussed.  Meaning, he found himself at odds with some members of the Black Caucus. The fatal error, which created  distrust among some key black legislators, resulted from a mistake he made while representing the Black Caucus as its chair in unilateral negotiations with Gov Bush over the governors  controversial "One Florida" initiative. As Chair of the Legislative Black Caucus, in unilateral discussions with Gov Bush, Daryl  entered into an agreement with the Governor, which essentially committed the caucus to  a position which portrayed it  as giving into the governor. He did so without  consulting the caucus. His acquiescing to chair an advisory committee ( created by the Governor) to assist with the Governors "One Florida" scheme, as Chair of the Black Caucus was found to have  misrepresented the caucus. While, he back peddled and admitted to the mistake, it did not prevent a  severe backlash from other black legislators, whose disdain led to the  infamous “One Florida” march and statewide  political event of the day. It was a protest of what was being reported as Governor Bush's proposal to eliminate minority contracting in state government,  under pressure from an outsider by the name of Ward Connelly who nationalized the  issue. Truthfully, “One Florida” was Governor Bush's attempt to temper what  Mr. Connelly was pushing with  Florida in his cross-hairs. When  I found myself entering the state capitol with Mr. Connelly making a beeline to the Governor’s office, it was clear to me that the earth was about to shake in Florida.  Gillum has better political instinct to have made that error, but he could benefit from some of Daryls prodding, maturity and understanding of the long game. Regarding the political instinct, consider this, by pure serendipity or coincidence, Andrew Gillum entered the statewide stage in Florida as the FAMU  student body president who led a student march to the State capitol and organized a sit in  to protest the 2000 elections  and protest  Jeb Bushes "One Florida"  .  He also protested the  Governor being the FAMU commencement speaker .  At the same time Daryl Jones was plotting a run for Governor.

Michael and Daryl Jones0001

Michael Dobson and Daryl Jones

On the campaign trail in 2002, I also witnessed the  depths of a   psychological oppression  inextricably in-bedded in the deep south post Jim Crow. The latter showed itself  when talking to black voters like myself, who often voiced  lament by saying  “ Florida is not  going to elect a black for governor”, and/or  “he does not have a chance in this racist state”.   These comments came about  as I made rounds throughout the state at countless DEC meetings, NAACP Banquets, churches, Urban League Dinners  and etc. Oddly,  whites  (at least to my face)  would say, “ he is so smart and would be a good governor”;  and would ask,why are blacks not supporting him. Then they would ask  if Kendrick Meek or Tony Hill was supporting him. Their support was important since both were considered heroes to the black cause after their sit in at the Governors Office, which led to the “One Florida” March of Tallahassee;  then led to the first “get your souls to the polls” GOTV program. But, given the mistake Daryl made earlier with respect to One Florida, there was no forgiving him from some.  The story has never been told before, but the Daryl Jones campaign faced a  conundrum that was all about race. When whites did not see blacks supporting Daryl, disregarding the fact that blacks only represented about 13 percent of the voting populace, it made whites also see it as a fools  errand to support him. For some of them, it made little sense to support a black candidate for whom his own people (and their key leaders) did not wholeheartedly support.

Fast forward to today, clearly Andrew Gillum is no Daryl Jones.  For instance,  the current Chair of the legislative Black Caucus, Perry Thurston  as have most African American leaders endorsed Andrew Gillum. There was never such a public endorsement for Daryl from the Black Caucus, which was disappointing. To his credit, the one black lawmaker who enthusiastically supported Daryl was then State Senator, and now Congressman Al Lawson, a true friend and servant. It can be said that Mr Lawson  has never turned his back on a friend. The conventional wisdom then (and less so now)  is that a white electorate in Florida will not elect a black statewide.  We  saw this phenomena play out before Daryl Jones, when in 1994 an appointed Commissioner of Education, the late Doug Jameson  launched a statewide campaign to win the position outright. He was toppled by a popular  educator from Martin County Florida by the name of Frank Brogan, although he was new to the statewide stage.   Donald Trump has shown us why that seems to be the case, while on his watch, bigotry no longer hides . With clarity, today we better know that there are  good people who would never vote for a black for Governor or U.S. Senator, nor will they vote for a women for Governor, U.S. Senate or President. Yes, Barack Obama won two presidential elections. But,  there is a reason for that…mainly that once in a life time there can be an instance where a candidate comes along who transcends race. The latter is a fact that no one wants to blurt out, but its true. A good chunk of the electorate saw Obama as mix race and ivory league educated …. therefore acceptable.   That will never happen again.

In 2002,  blacks  did not believe it to be possible in Florida, and it therefore became  a foregone conclusion. No disrespect , but Daryl did not have the political skill of an Barack Obama.   The belief  that a black can't win will never be  explicitly communicated  to the candidates face. It will be communicated through surrogates and campaign consultants. The consultants  will rarely  share such base racist conversations  with the candidate, who is giving their all. It defeats the purpose.   Doubling as Daryls body man on occasion, after a day of legislative meetings,   Steve Bousquet of the Saint Pete Times contacted Daryl and wanted to accompany us on a trip to a little black church about 45 minutes from Tallahassee. He wanted to interview Daryl and write  about the campaign. I drove while Steve and Daryl talked. In the story,  Steve described  Daryl’s discomfort, stiffness and unease in  keeping up with the rhythm  of the gospel music at that church.… as a catholic boy trying to fit in at this black church. The article while skirting the "One Florida" controversy also lets the reader know that Daryl Jones was a very qualified and worthy candidate for governor.   Over many months, we   traversed the state, having our share of what I coined rubber chicken events (the menu of baked chicken) , which were usually banquets where Daryl would be allowed to speak.  Looking back at those days, I often think of a conversation I had with my dad some years ago, who had moved back to Florida after spending most of his adult life in San Diego. He talked about the relationship between blacks and white in the south, as he see it now, after being away for so long.  He said, the good thing about the south is that blacks and whites had an actual relationship.. a dysfunctional relationship, but a relationship nonetheless. A part of that relationship is that we can get along and be cordial, but we're to know that the white population  will not allow you (a black) to be governor of our state. The way the thinking goes is that, those who still have a firm grip on power, wont have that. Normally  and unfortunately some blacks  in  the south understand that to be fact, and dutifully accept it as such, as some also cow towed to Jim Crow.  And therefore, vote accordingly. But today is different. There is a new swagger amongst our youth, which is spreading,  and Gillum emulates it.

When blacks (in 2002) said to me that a black could never become governor of Florida, my rejoinder was often, “ well he could, if you would vote for him”, it meant nothing. Many black voters were so concerned with being on the wrong side of the winning vote, that they would not chance it. .. as if there would be some unknown punishment for supporting the black candidate. Again, that is no more.

On election day in 2002, I remember as if it was yesterday sitting in the campaign office in Miami(Doral) monitoring the outcome, and calling our supporters from around the state. A lady from North Florida was aghast at the returns she was seeing and lamented that she did not understand why Blacks did not support Daryl in large numbers in the large urban areas. She saw him as the best candidate ever, and one blacks should be proud of. She couldn’t understand the depths of a collective psychological trauma that remained from slavery to Jim crow and beyond, and the trauma coupled with racial infighting that allowed that to occur.

Be it the lack of the ability for black candidates to compete financially with their white counterparts or other issues of programmed assumed inferiority in  the electorate , whatever the reason, while today is different and better, most believe Florida is still not ready to elect a black statewide. But to his credit,  Mr.  Gillum   has indeed pieced together a formidable coalition, albeit a a very liberal one.... while Florida general election voters are far from liberal or progressive. To that end, if a swarm of locust take Gwen Graham and all others away, leaving Gillum standing, there is still no way he wins a general election. And, it will not be because of race. Deviating from race a bit... or emotions... but clinging unto pragmatism,  let's consider what a great campaign consultant and a treasure chest of money can do on television all day.… everyday with the FBI investigations into Tallahassee, coupled with a  Mayor who has not even completed his first term. The media campaign against him in a general election will be insurmountable. Moreover, Mr. Gillum does not have the superior experience his contemporaries like Edward Brooke and Doug Wilder suggest in interviews in a research writing by Judsen F. Jeffries. In it , they suggest that a black statewide candidate needs twice as much experience than a white candidate. On that score, unfortunately,  Mr Gillum experience starts and finishes here: He has been student body president at FAMU , and a city commissioner and Mayor of a mid-sized town, for  which he did not finish his first term. he also held positions as mostly an organizer for People for the American way and other more liberal leaning organizations

But to be sure, Mr. Gillum is a skillful politician, and is  still young. He entered the statewide stage as a charismatic college leader in 2000, has firmly planted himself in our political consciousnesses with his current juggernaut of a campaign, broadening his footprint on that stage, and his feet are firmly planted to never leave that stage which beckons and where he belongs. He is now learning what the bit map is for electoral victory for a black candidate in Florida, and will likely be the first to crack the code. Blessedly, he has the time to do so. More importantly, while Mr. Gillums fundraising has not kept pace with some of the other candidates, he has shown that as  a black candidate he can indeed generate respectable fundraising numbers; unlike Daryl Jones, Newell Daughtrey for CFO, Willie Logan in his independent statewide run for U. S. Senate, or for Perry Thurston; with an exception  of  Kendrick Meek in his run for U. S. Senate.. who ran a credible and admirable campaign .  It would be  hard to deny that Mr. Gillum has outpaced all other African American candidates for Governor in Florida.

With Gillum, blacks see a new possibility.. a possibility that was missing in 2002 with Mr. Jones… not out of personal deficit, but because of an evolution in how we engage, how we now see ourselves, and a new national swagger. There is an awoken giant in America today far greater than what existed in 2002.  The self-defeating post slavery nature that manifested itself in self defeating psychological oppression  has largely waned, perhaps as a result of Obama. As brave men like Daryl Jones, Kendrick Meek and  Andrew Gillum fan around the state.... further developing the bit map for the victory, which  will one day occur for an African-American candidate in Florida, our gift in the interim, is a closer look in the mirror of who we are as a collective electorate and how we understand each other. If Mr Gillums victory is not at the polls in 2018, it will  instead be his permanent place on the statewide stage.. as a place holder for a sure future victory.

 

Michael Dobson, is a long time Tallahassee based  lobbyist,Founder/ President of Dobson, Craig and Associates (aka Dobson and Associates), Publisher of Talking Florida Politics, Founder of the Florida Renewable Energy Producers Association (FREPA), President of The Dream Foundation,Inc and a writer/blogger on politics and public policy. Michael@dobsonandcraig.com, Michael@michaeldobson.org or Michael@talkingfloridapolitics.com

 

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