On January 24, 2017, President Trump asserted  that  he would have won the popular vote had it not been for 3-5 million fraudulent votes. It is  an  assertion debunked by all, but Mr. Trump  does  touch on a subject of importance. Which is, that votes and voting matter.

America’s problem is not fraudulent voting, It is systemic voter suppression and the denying of voting rights for productive and contributing citizens.

Florida remains one of less than a handful of states that does not have automatic restoration of rights for those citizens returning to their communities from incarceration. It serves society, families and communities no good purpose when citizens  who have paid their dues for a life mistake to be perpetually  marginalized  by such draconian  disenfranchisement,  when their hard work and taxes pay for the roads, the schools and contribute to those things our government is responsible for. Contrary to making our communities and families whole after that family (yes the family) has served a prison sentence, the continued disenfranchisement of that husband, father, mother or grandparent,  does nothing to allow that family to assume a place of value and inclusion into their  community.

The disenfranchising of over 1.6 million tax paying citizens has no residual benefits. Florida's policy of denying the right to vote to 1.6 million of our neighbors  lacks the basic tenants of Christianity and has no moral standing. Further, this base disenfranchisement belies certain facts of our broken  criminal justice system. In plain talk, to begin with,  the system favors the wealthy;  which is a fact that no one would deny. Therefore, those who find themselves caught into its throws are not necessarily the most guilty, or in many cases, not  guilty at all. They are simply poor, and could not buy their way out of a bad situation by obtaining  the best legal representation available. For instance, would Stanford student Brock Turner and University of Colorado’s Austin James Wilkerson ( both proven to be rapist),  escaped prison sentences,  had they been black and poor? I think we all know the answer. Moreover,  Ryan LeVin , from a wealthy Chicago family, admitted to a hit and run that killed two British Businessmen in South Florida and was not sentenced to even one day in prison. Currently, there is an impoverished black man from  Tallahassee named Daryl Myles doing a 15 year sentence in a Florida prison for taking $7.00 from another man in what is a street level crack cocaine deal gone bad. One could write adnauseam   about the disproportionate sentencing in the courts and the role race and wealth plays, but in Florida,  what is additionally egregious is the unnecessarily overly punitive societal barriers  our state erects for citizens returning  to our communities.

The mere act of voter disenfranchisement is a blatant disregard for what makes our nation remarkable. Our founders said that “we hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal”, but what happens in our courtrooms and later in states like ours is contrary to those founding ideals. Yes, it is true that in their debates about who could vote, the founders leaned toward property owners and white men. But in time,  the framework and  philosophical foundation of our founding documents would not let that stand. We looked into the mirror and at the meaning of those documents, and  ultimately relented to the truth that not only should all men and women be treated equally, but equitably as well. Equity is every citizen’s ability to cast a vote to determine whom would decide the fate of their families, our nation and their tax dollars.  This  is not  a partisan issue.  The right to embrace the franchise is actually a very Republican idea rooted in freedom and liberty.

Today, in congress and in state legislatures there exist a “Freedom Caucus”.  The Freedom Caucus is where  Republican lawmakers make a  commitment to "freedom" as their guiding principles in all policy decisions. Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation because he read our bill of rights and our constitution as documents that placed "freedom" as the cornerstone of our democracy. Until recently, the GOP had sought to live up to that creed.

Freedom  is the right to cast a ballot, and is an  extension of liberty…. as in “Liberty For All”,  or   “Liberty University”,  which gives homage to that creed.  This idea  that when one has been jailed and/or is convicted of a crime that the right to vote has been  forfeited is misguided and  un-American.  We are a nation of redemption, of civil rights, of second chances, full participation  and of inclusion.. not alienation. Disenfranchisement is actually alienation. The emasculating disproportionate disenfranchisement  that systemically deny full citizenship to  heads of  families in one community, not only affect that individual family member, but  have essentially alienated and marginalized entire  communities. It has weakened the voice of the meek.   Such does not promote family values, build strong families, harness strong cities  or strengthen communities, and is certainly not  conservative.

This writing may never reach our governor’s desk. But, the hope is that somehow this writing will  remind us of  who we are as a nation. And, remind us of  the core ideals, values and  the Christian principles our nation was founded on.  Automatic restoration of voting rights for citizens returning to our community is a principled stand for our constitution; and the rights imbued by our founding fathers ideals for this democracy, Restorative justice that includes access to the franchise at reentry   better reflect our humanity, and Christianity.


Michael Dobson, is a long time Tallahassee based governmental relations professional and columnist; President/CEO of Dobson, Craig and Associates (aka Dobson and Associates), and renewable energy policy leader as founder of Florida Renewable Energy Producers Association. Can be reached at michael@michaeldobson.org or Michael@dobsonandcraig.com







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By Michael Dobson

It appears that the Florida Democratic Party(FDP) has one rising star in its ranks that can break the curse that has kept the entire Florida cabinet in the hands of the Republican Party, making the Governor’s office illusive.  Alex Sink is the last Democrat to hold a cabinet seat in Florida as  CFO, and was the only Democrat to win statewide in nearly 20 years other than former U.S. Senator Bob Graham and current U.S. Senator Bill Nelson. At  the urging of Karen Thurman, Mrs. Sink  resigned the office of CFO to run a losing gubernatorial race against Rick Scott, and in recent years the Florida Democratic Party has run candidates with little to zero statewide name recognition, and without enough resources to mount a campaign to overcome that name ID challenge.

Moving forward, after a factious FDP Election for Chair  and its need to regroup for 2018,  accept for the potential gubernatorial candidacies of John Morgan or another  Charlie Crist campaign, it has no one with immediate statewide name identification, like before. Other potential candidates included Mayor Bob Buckhorn of Tampa, Mayor Jack Seiler of Ft. Lauderdale, Mayor Buddy Dyer of Orlando or  former  Congresswomen  Gwen Graham, daughter of our beloved  Bob Graham; or even perhaps a former legislator in Senator  Jeremy Ring. Clearly, to the party’s credit, it is beginning  to acknowledge that its bench is best defined in its slew of Mayors, which also include  Tallahassee’s  Andrew Gillum. Another such mayor,  and one with all the right stuff is former Gainesville Mayor  Pegeen Hanrahan, a very popular Mayor. She is being overlooked.  A quick perusal of Mayor Hanrahan’s accomplishments as reported by the media and in her various in-depth interviews via YouTube, you will find a passionate  smart and dedicated Floridian with a deep knowledge of local, state and federal government, a love for our environment, a person who is approachable, a loving mother, wife and proud Gator.  Florida has had many of Governors whom are University of Florida Alum, which Commissioner Adam Putnam hopes to become one. With regard to the key policy areas that are of concern to most Floridian, Mrs. Hanrahan is no slouch. Her deep relationship with University of Florida and its IFAS has instilled into her a real understanding of Florida’s agriculture, agriculture science, the needs and opportunities for Florida once booming agriculture industry, and as a conservationist .. well versed in our water issues. As an environmental engineer and passionate environmentalists, she made Gainesville the states leader in renewable energy production leveraging Gainesville business community to engage in the nation’s first feed in tariff, a policy that allowed Gainesville to lead the tate in solar energy production. She is telegenic, unflappable and can articulate Florida’s challenges as well as its opportunities in a manner and with the bonafides  that seems second hand. In every way, Mrs. Hanrahan would be a real challenge to the equally skillful Adam Putnam.

Once contacted about the possibility of a run for Governor, Mrs. Harahan suggested that it was a daunting endeavor, which it is, and that there are other qualified candidates that she could support. To the latter, she may be wrong. There are no other candidates with her combination of qualifications or political skill sets. She and Adam Putnam are UF grads and are both members of Blue Key. He hails from Bartow, this writers hometown, she from Gainesville. There is always an argument about from what city or part of the state is it best to launch a statewide campaign from, but after some analysis, you will find that there is no good answer. Is Lakeland a good place to launch a gubernatorial campaign? You would think so since  Governor Chiles was a native of Lakeland and served two terms as Governor. Is St. Petersburg a good place, Charlie Crist hometown? What about Ft. Myers, the adopted home of Governor Rick Scott. A transplant from Texas, Governor Jeb Bush lived in Coral Gables; while Bob Graham hailed from Miami Lakes, with  Governor Bob Martinez hailing from Tampa,  and Lt Governor as well as Governor  Buddy McKay was from Ocala. Florida’s history will tell us that there is no special place or certain demographic makeup that best suits a run for Governor as its launching pad. The candidate success relied heavily on  the resources and organization they can muster, in addition to that candidates  tenacity and work ethic to fan out relentlessly day to day and make their case to voters in every nook and cranny of this  large and diverse state. So, that candidate has to relish campaigning and is energized by the citizens in Florida he/she meets in rural and urban areas equally.  It requires  a practiced politician with innate personal traits which lend to a personal connection with voters, something   Pegeen Hanrahan has.  These traits  translate an authenticity that voters and Democratic donors hunger for, and are the same positive traits that take candidates across party lines.  If the Democratic donors really want a winner this time, perhaps letting Mrs. Hanrahan know that she has their support or (at least) there consideration will make this climb appear less daunting and more possible.  However, If she was to decide this route, there are other political entanglements she will need to maneuver as well, given her various involvements with Universities and organizations. As these thoughts marinate,  Mrs. Hanrahan continues to fan out around the state as she has for some  years, speaking to different groups about those areas of policy for which she has an expertise. She can also begin speaking on more diverse policy subjects, which will send the donors a message.  Her love for the state of Florida is itself legendary, whose eyes sparkle when the subject of Gainesville comes up.  But, when taking on the task of a statewide campaign, no matter one’s personal confidence, there has to be a level of  trust in a party and its donor base that has been nothing but fickle and at times self-defeating in the past. For those reasons, many good leaders often forgo the temptation of making a quest to lead our great state. There are only two camps for the Democratic Party to rest its head. In one camp, they keep doing what they have always done and get the same results. In the other camp, they can embrace their future, which lies in the  hands of strong  Mayors like Pegeen Hanrahan who have served multiple terms and changed the trajectory of their cities, making it more robust and dynamic. Mrs. Hanrahan has done that with Gainesville, and there are bets that she can do that for Florida as well.  There is no way of knowing if Mrs. Hanrahan could be moved to take on a run for Governor, even if she gets a sense that  she could amass the resources and support. But,  in whatever shape  the Democratic party takes in the future, Pegeen Hanrahan should be a lead player in its development. She leads the bench.


Michael Dobson, is a long time Tallahassee based governmental relations professional and columnist; President/CEO of Dobson, Craig and Associates (aka Dobson and Associates), and renewable energy policy leader as founder of Florida Renewable Energy Producers Association. Can be reached at michael@michaeldobson.org or Michael@dobsonandcraig.com







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With everything we know about the election of Donald Trump and what we are told, what  comes to mind are the sayings “Who are you going to believe me or  your lying eyes” or   ” pay no attention to that man behind the curtain”.

In this case,” that man behind the curtain” is not the flamboyant actor,  Frank Morgan, who uttered that famous line  in the role of the Grand Wizard in 1939’s Wizard of Oz, but its Vladimir Putin and (increasingly apparent) James Comey of our own FBI.  That becomes evident   when  on one hand,  we acknowledge that Russia put its heavy thumb unto the 2016 presidential election, and such is  revealed to be a multi-staged  attack on our democracy. And, on the other hand, our top cop, whom our Attorney General Loretta Lynch ceded power to, broke with protocol and inconsistently darkened the door of the Clinton campaign with what turned out to be innuendo in the form of faux official foreboding of wrongdoing. Not to be out done, Rudy Giuliani got in the game with his now infamous television interview a few days before the Comey announcement whereby he bragged that, remarkably, he knew before anyone else  what FBI Director Comey was about to do.   With all of this, pundits and our new president, not wanting to have the seeds of doubt with respect to the elections legitimacy gain root, has chosen to say, that even if the Russians did engage in activity to sway the election, or perhaps, even  though James Comey darken Mrs.  Clinton's door outside or protocol,   that it does not mean it made a difference in the election. To the latter, the remarkable conclusion for us should be.. according some ,   that therefore it didn't. Huh! Where is Tyler Perry's Madea when you need her?

Let's be clear, antics and tactics employed by the Russians did in fact seal the election for  Mr. Trump. And, what Comey did, moved last minute voters to the Trump column. You may ask, how so? Well here is the answer.

First, let's begin with what the Russians knew. They knew that a narrative had persisted for years that the Clintons where dishonest i.e "slick willie",  " it depends on what the meaning of IS is" , "whitewater" and the likes. And because Hillary herself was so scripted, never giving answers to hard questions  with the ease of what many would consider an honest genuine uncalculated answer, she played into that narrative. She looked like a liar. Hillarys’ well  deserved paranoia about the press made her parse her words to at times unintended consequences.    Secondly, Russian operatives or anyone knowing anything about Democratic politics, knew  that there is a split in the Democratic party. They knew that the split is easily exacerbated when the lead candidate is a Clinton. Why is that?  The perception exists because of Mr. Clintons  Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) and its role during his administration. The DLC’s mission was  to move the Democratic party away from its more liberal policy prescriptions, some say making it Republican lite. Therefore,  In the Clinton years and beyond, many party loyalist saw the Democratic Leadership Council  (DLC) and Bill Clinton as responsible for  moving the party away from its roots. The Russians also knew that the Sanders supporters were led by passion and had a distrust of the establishment, and that Hillary represented the establishment, as she and her husband has been stalwart’s of the Democratic party's establishment and its  high net worth donor class for which they were beholden. That perception put Hillary at odds with the average Democratic voter whom  self identify as lower to middle income working people.  The Russians also  understood that American voters got much of their news from the internet. They knew   that  exposing the unseemly, but not unusual coordination  between the Clinton team and the  DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Shultz in real time via email  correspondence, they would exacerbate the  existing split  within the party base due to  their innate mistrust of the Clintons. By design, this ultimately  tapped down any enthusiasm for a Clinton win. The Russians  (and the world),  additionally  knew that the race would be close as  political races often are. Political races are often won on the margins... close margins. The political mailings that overwhelm your mailboxes, the 30 second television spots, what you get in your email in boxes and the targeted ads that show up on your online newspapers, on Facebook and other social media platforms are all for the purpose of moving the needle just a little .. enough for a win in a closely divided nation.

So, knowing all of this, why not employ as a weapon  fake news – hacked emails designed to impact voter enthusiasm for  a candidate with a propensity for not giving direct answers, of which  themselves feed the fire of fake news?  To that end, the  Russians employed a system of  subliminally manipulating the America public  via fake news which were used as dog whistles, that in turn, acted as  tools of voter suppression spurred by untruths. The right combination of the latter surely suppressed votes by subliminally coercing many to vote against their own best interest based on faux and loudly repeated fake information, which many were  lulled into believing  as true. Psychologist who understand how our brains work have helped marketers of product employ these same techniques throughout history.  Employed properly, as Russia did,  these techniques allow for the most bizarre story communicated loudly, continuously  and with a steady beat; while also being fake propaganda orchestrated by a foreign government,  be taken as the truth.  It works really well in today's social media, multimedia environment when a country like Russia can also find willing partners eager to help it deploy its weaponry..i.e. Breitbart, Drudge etc.

Coupled with that, we had a mainstream media that would not  leave the enclave of the beltway, and come down from their mountains in Washington and New York and from their ivory towers, to grasp the basic and crass means by which most communications and news was being  disseminated and consumed to better understand what has made them irrelevant. Because advertisers still place ads in major newspapers does not mean that is where most of the general population get their news. The trend and  the power of fake news is not new. This writer noticed it in dinner table conversations with  his wife as she taught a political science class at our local community college for 15 years. She noticed that her students were getting their political news from Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert, or Saturday Night Live (SNL). At one point, Jon Stewart himself described what he did as fake news, but also framed it as comedy, which it was.  The Russians paid attention. They noticed the phenomena of fake news consumption in America as a winning alternative to news delivered with "so called" journalistic integrity. The market for fake news is the same market for which educated and  rational people often purchase tabloid magazines at the checkout counter. But this fake news is more instantaneous, as its delivered to you electronically.  The headlines are bizarre, unbelievable, entertainment and for those same reasons appealing for a public seeking a jolt from the realities of their lives. Moreover, there is something about our psyches whereby we enjoy seeing a car wreck. Traveling down the highway, we are galvanized by the accident across the median...can't stop looking.  My wife calls it rubber necking.

Putin understood this about our psyches and fed us the car wreck version of Hillary Clinton on a daily basis not only to the general public, but to the party enthusiast as well... and it was all faux. And, it worked. It manipulated the general election by affecting the votes at the margins, that place where elections are won. Moving the needle just enough. On top of that, an otherwise respected FBI Director created his own source of fake news by keeping the  dog whistle alive regarding possible pending criminal charges that no serious person believe would  ever come to light, which ironically, the Director once said himself. With regard to Russia’s aim, what we political consultants often do is develop strategies to drive up the opponents negatives. We do that because, in doing so, we  either make some of the opponents voters stay home or  vote for someone else, thereby reducing the opponents vote totals. Essentially, the  Russian government acted as a political operative for the Trump campaign. It acted as a Super PAC for Trump. Todays campaigns often have third party organizations, PACs and etc do much of the same thing Russia did. The big no no for campaigns and PAC’s is  that their  cannot be any  coordination between  them. So, the question is not whether or not the Russian government moved the numbers enough to secure a Trump win. It did. The question is not whether or not James Comeys’ actions moved votes into Mr. Trumps columns. They did.  On the latter,  by his actions  Mr. Trump banked on the effect of Mr. Comeys’  involvement by traversing the nation during that last week of the election, and  repeatedly  and loudly  telling  voters (which the media carried constantly) that if Mrs. Clinton is elected, there will be nothing but investigations, and that she will  be jailed shortly after her inauguration.

What has been described are the facts. The real question remaining for our leaders  is whether or not Trumps team  coordinated or colluded  with Russia’s efforts, and to what degree could there have been coordination or collusion with Mr. Comey. We can no longer wonder whether or not the Trump presidency is an illegitimate one.  It is. We were given him by the Russians.  Do we have a cure? Perhaps not, as this is new territory. Mr Trump will accept the oath of office in a matter of days. But for many, even with the legitimacy of that transition of power, Mr. Trump would forever be an illegitimate president.  With all of that said,  this writer believes that the structure of our union, designed by thoughtful men ,  will sustain us. However,  we must continue to get at the truth as a matter of national security and to solidify our stature in the world.

Michael Dobson, is a long time Tallahassee based governmental relations professional and columnist; President/CEO of Dobson, Craig and Associates (aka Dobson and Associates), and renewable energy policy leader as founder of Florida Renewable Energy Producers Association. Can be reached at michael@michaeldobson.org or Michael@dobsonandcraig.com



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