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Progressivism Vs. Trumpism; The Florida Gubernatorial Election

             8/31/2018

Andrew Gillum and Ron DeSantis

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

The progressive wing of the Democratic party won another victory this week with Andrew Gillum’s victory in the Florida Democratic primary for governor. Gillum, who was endorsed by Senator Bernie Sanders, won a surprise victory over a crowded field of more mainstream competitors. Left identitarians are championing Gillum over the possibility that he will become Florida’s first black governor. However, the true significance of Gillum’s victory lies in the contrast between him and his general election opponent, Trump endorsed Republican Ron DeSantis. While the media is casting the midterm elections as a whole as a referendum on Trumpism, this race, in particular, is shaping up in that manner.

The 39-year-old Gillum has a long history in politics, first being elected to the Tallahassee City Commission in 2003 while still a student at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University. After serving ten years on the Tallahassee City Commission, Gillum was elected Mayor of Tallahassee in 2014. As Mayor, Gillum has spearheaded numerous initiatives to address poverty, crime, and education in the city. The FBI has been investigating the Tallahassee city government for corruption since 2015, although Gillum himself is not a subject of investigation.

Gillum ran on a progressive platform including universal health care, legalizing marijuana and abolishing the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. He has also advocated impeaching President Trump. Gillum’s campaign was far outspent by his rivals in the race, stating during a Saturday rally, “My opponents have spent, together, over $90 million in this race. We have spent four . . . Money doesn’t vote. People do.” While cultivating the appearance of a grassroots movement, much of Gillum’s financial support came from billionaire progressive activists George Soros and Tom Steyer. The apparent long odds against Gillum led his primary opponents to concentrate on attacking each other, allowing him to remain relatively unscathed. This factor, along with support from Bernie Sanders which energized progressives, allowed Gillum to gain a narrow victory with 34 percent of the vote.

In November Gillum will face Congressman Ron DeSantis, a Navy veteran who has embraced much of the rhetoric and style of Donald Trump. In June the President gave DeSantis his full endorsement and by July he was leading in the polls, eventually winning a 57 percent to 37 percent victory. DeSantis also touted a Washington record including tax cuts, the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, and moving the United States Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

Mainstream media and Democratic operatives wasted no time after the election in manufacturing a racialized controversy surrounding the candidates. During a Wednesday interview with Fox News DeSantis stated, “The last thing we need to do is to monkey this up by trying to embrace a socialist agenda with huge tax increases and bankrupting the state.” Terrie Rizzo, the chairwoman of the Florida Democratic Party quickly accused DeSantis of using “racist dog whistles,” which was followed by a flurry of media attacks. This incident demonstrates the desperation of the Left to portray their opponents as racists and to create racialized controversies to sow division.

The Florida governor’s election is shaping up to be one of the most intense, hard-fought campaigns of an already charged election year. The media has set the tone for their coverage of the race, ensuring more manufactured controversies are in store. Additionally, both candidates represent a rejection of centrist politicians by the electorate, ensuring a brutal gubernatorial campaign. DeSantis heads into the general election significantly more popular among his base than does Gillum who only won the primary with a third of the vote. However, the hyper-partisan nature of contemporary politics means that this may be of little advantage in the nation’s largest swing state as most Democrats are likely to rally behind their party’s candidate. Meanwhile, by running as close to Trump as possible, DeSantis’s campaign provides a genuine test of the President’s approval. The outcome of the Florida gubernatorial election seems likely to serve as one of the truest indicators of the political direction of the country during the 2018 midterms.

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