By Diane Roberts
Florida can congratulate itself on yet another dubious distinction: political parties, corporate patrons, gazillionaires, dark money groups, and the candidates themselves spent $345 million on the 2014 elections — the most expensive in the nation.
With that kind of money, India could send four missions to Mars and have enough left over to throw a king-hell after-party with Krug and caviar and Beyoncé.
So what did Florida get for all that cash? Half the voters didn’t bother to show up. The densely populated counties of South Florida turned out at a rate of 41 percent. The counties that clocked over 55 percent were largely in North Florida. Since South Floridians are always bitching about North Florida’s disproportionate influence in state government, you’d think they’d get up off their fannies and cast a ballot out of self-interest if nothing else.
Here in Tallahassee, often reviled as somehow part of the Republican axis that runs Florida, the voters ditched two-term incumbent and Tea Party Useful Idiot Steve Southerland for political newcomer Gwen Graham, a Democrat. A female, even.
Rick Scott got re-elected; never mind that more people voted against him than for him, by about 200,000 votes, three times his margin of victory. Scott should thank Libertarian Party candidate Adrian Wyllie, who wanted to cut the state budget by a third (because who needs schools and roads?) and the NPA candidates who assured us of four more years of science denial, tormenting the poor and choking education.
Florida’s all-Republican Cabinet was returned intact as well, paving the way for at least two of them, CFO Jeff Atwater and Agriculture Commissioner and Opie Taylor look-alike Adam Putnam, to run for governor in 2018.
We get Pam Bondi as Attorney General again, too, at least until she’s investigated and possibly indicted for dropping cases unfriendly to clients of fat feline lobbyists who flew her to Hawaii and put her up in the Ritz-Carlton in D.C.
The biggest vote-getters were not, however, any of these unsavory hacks. The most popular lines on the ballot belonged to medical marijuana and the environment. Weed drew nearly the 60 percent needed to pass (it’ll get there in two years), while earmarking 33 percent of the documentary stamp tax for buying critical habitat, wetlands and other environmentally sensitive properties, got 1.4 million more voters than Scott.
That’s 75 percent of votes cast. You can’t get 75 percent of Floridians to agree on whether the sun rises in the east, whether water is wet, or whether Elvis is dead.
Sorry, Republicans: Amendment 1 is the only mandate to come out of this shabby election. And it’s almost certainly headed for litigation. Florida’s legislators, who remain just as stupid and sociopathic as ever, have to appropriate the money. Will they spend it on water recharge areas or on springs restoration or on addressing climate change? Or will they subsidize Big Ag and Big Tourism?
Just because it’s in the state constitution, and just because our elected representatives have sworn to uphold that constitution, doesn’t mean they won’t ignore it, try to undermine it or simply flout it.
Scott has violated the law on open government a number of times. Perhaps he learned that from Jeb Bush, who started his term with secret meetings and trashed the state’s separation of church and state with taxpayer money for religious schools.
People who care about the environment — and that’s most of us, as the election showed — must be vigilant. We must insist that our legislators, who love to pontificate about “the will of the people,” actually accede to the will of the people. Not US Sugar. Not the Fertilizer Institute. Not the developers or the Chamber of Commerce. Not the Fanjuls or the Koch Brothers or the Libertarians or Associated Industries. Us. Our state.
Diane Roberts is a professor at Florida State University in Tallahassee.