Dec. 11, 2020 by David Silverberg
It’s almost official: tonight the Supreme Court turned down a Texas lawsuit to overthrow the results of the presidential election in four swing states. On Monday the electors of the Electoral College will—barring an act of God or outright sedition—certify Joe Biden as the next president of the United States and Kamala Harris as vice president.
But facts go down hard in Southwest Florida.
According to a recent poll by the firm Victory Insights of Naples, Fla., 53 percent of Southwest Florida Republicans are open to the idea of Florida seceding from the United States and forming its own country. Why? Because they think the results of the presidential election were fraudulent.
“Figuring out how many Republicans are open to secession is really saying how many Republicans will stick with President Trump until the end through thick and thin no matter what,” Ben Galbraith, the firm’s senior pollster, told Dave Elias, political reporter for NBC-2 News in Fort Myers, in a report that aired on Dec. 10.
First, let it be said that Florida secession is a really stupid idea. This is the only state where a sitting governor committed suicide when secession didn’t succeed the first time in 1865. There have been all sorts of secession ideas since the Civil War and none of them have come to fruition. There’s no reason to expect that a second Florida secession would have any better success.
Moreover, as glad as the rest of the United States would be to get rid of Florida, independence is improbable, to say the least.
However, if Southwest Florida Republicans really want a Trumpist government, they have no need to secede at all. While President Donald Trump seems firmly on his way out of the presidency—unless he incites an armed rebellion to overturn the 2020 election results—the kind of autocratic, self-centered government he dreamed of creating nationally is being premiered in the great state of Florida even while it’s still part of the Union.
It’s a government that indulges Trump’s delusions, overlooks uncomfortable realities, ignores science and the health of its people, twists the facts and crushes dissent. It has the hallmarks of a dictatorship.
It’s something new. Let’s call it “Florumpia.”
And speaking seriously, unless opponents effectively mobilize, Trumpism may dominate the state government for a long time to come.
Florumpia is possible because Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and his handpicked administration has chosen to entirely follow the Trump playbook and adopt the Trump mindset on all things related to Florida. DeSantis is governing in true Trumpist fashion.
The signs are everywhere. When it comes to COVID, DeSantis is ignoring the pandemic, playing down its threat and not only refusing a statewide mask mandate to protect Floridians but making it impossible for localities to establish their own mandates.
As for respecting facts, reality and truth: dissident data scientist Rebekah Jones charged that the state Department of Health was fudging infection numbers to fit DeSantis’ policy goals. Her house has now been raided and searched in an act clearly intended not just to find the perpetrator of an internal e-mail urging state employees to speak out but to intimidate her into silence as well as anyone else who might challenge the DeSantis doctrine.
When it comes to Trump’s delusional denial of the results of the election, Florida joined the absurd Texas effort to completely overturn the vote of the American people. To this day, only two of the state’s Republican officeholders (Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Francis Rooney) have publicly accepted the election results.
When it comes to free and independent coverage of these developments DeSantis has adopted the Trump tactic of trying to discredit the media, blaming bad press on politicized, “agenda-driven” “corporate media.”
All of this might seem like temporary insanity that will pass when President-Elect Joe Biden is sworn in on Jan. 20, but there are structural factors that point to Trumpanoia going deeper and lasting longer in this state than anywhere else in the country.
1. Trump will be in the house: Florida is now the official residence of Donald Trump and where he is likely to come to live after leaving the White House. The baleful influence of his physical presence in the state is not to be underestimated. As comedian Woody Allen once said, “Eighty percent of life is showing up.” Just by showing up in Florida, Trump will be able to have meetings, hold rallies and stay in the local media spotlight, if not the national one. He will be able to call on Trumpers in the state to hold protests, demonstrations and issue threats if there’s something he doesn’t like. Instead of having to pick up the phone to call DeSantis, he’ll be able to stroll into his office. And who’s going to keep him out?
2. A Republican state government: The 2020 election resulted in 78 Republican seats to 42 Democratic ones in the Florida state House and 24 Republican to 16 Democratic seats in the state Senate. With the one exception of Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, all state executive offices are held by Republicans. The state’s judges have been appointed by Republican governors since Jeb Bush took office in 1999. What is more, in Florida this is not Abraham Lincoln’s Republicanism, it’s Trump’s.
With only the feeblest checks and virtually no balances, Florumpia is a one-party state just as surely as North Korea—but with beaches and palm trees.
3. Gerrymandering: As if existing political forces didn’t weigh on the state enough, the fact of a totally Republican state government means that all legislative districts will be gerrymandered to favor Republicans based on the 2020 Census—ensuring Republican control for the next decade at least.
4. Florida Men: As Benito Mussolini could call on his Black Shirts and Adolf Hitler could call on his Brown Shirts, Trump can call on his MAGA red hats to sway the state to his will with the pliant complicity of the DeSantis administration. Around the country Trumpers have issued death threats against officials that Trump doesn’t like, most notably against election officials in Georgia and Michigan. As the Southwest Florida polls have demonstrated, he retains a mesmerized horde in the Sunshine State, which can be deployed now and in the future to obey his whims and orders. All it takes is a tweet—or, after Jan. 20, a Parler.
5. Dark money—and lots of it: In the month after Election Day, Nov. 3, Trump raised $207.5 million—on top of $288 million he’d raised since Oct. 15, according to The Washington Post. The total has likely gone up in the days since; between Oct. 15 and Nov. 23 he was bringing in $13 million per day thanks to relentless fundraising appeals, which have not slackened.
Some of the money is going to his lawsuits and efforts to overturn the election. Other sums are going to the Trump Make America Great Again Committee, the Republican Party and his political action committee, Save America. This being Trump, vast amounts are likely pouring into his own pocket.
But a proportion of that money and other dark money will probably be turned into buying political power in Florida. Dark money from Trumpist contributors already affected local races in 2020, including one state senate race where a $1 million dark money contribution helped the Republican candidate win by only 32 votes. After Trump is out of office there is a very high likelihood that a good chunk of those dollars are going to be spent making sure that Florida and its officials don’t stray too far from Trumpist orthodoxy.
6. The launch pad: Just as Florida’s Cape Canaveral is the launch pad for American space missions, Florumpia will probably serve as the launch pad for Trump’s 2024 presidential bid. Assuming he stays alive and doesn’t have another bout of COVID or some other unforeseen obstacle, he will no doubt be bending all Republican thought, resources and personnel in the state to his election. It will not make for a lively or diverse political dialogue and Trump is unlikely to tolerate any dissent, disagreement or anyone else’s political ambitions.
The one-party record
Florida’s Democrats already have a hard row to hoe to simply stay viable and in the next two years that row is going to get rockier and steeper. The kind of political atmosphere that once applied largely in Southwest Florida is now going to be seen statewide. As Rick Wilson, the wise Lincoln Project Republican and consultant has said, “Florida, north of I-4, is basically Alabama with more guns” and Democrats “don’t understand this is not a blue state, it is a red state with a blue tip on the south end.”
But one-party polities have their own weaknesses. They tend to be personality-driven, riven by factions and end up with purges and internal battles like Hitler’s “Night of the Long Knives” or Stalin’s show trials. The state’s Grand Old Party could fracture from its own internal stresses.
On top of this are Trump’s own pathologies, his impulsiveness and his tendency to turn on former allies and supporters. DeSantis would do well to study the experience of his neighbor to the north, Georgia’s Gov. Brian Kemp (R), once a Trump darling and now the focus of his wrath for daring to carry out the dictates of the law. Some day when Trump awakens in Mar-a-Lago with indigestion he may decide that DeSantis was the cause and DeSantis will pay the price.
Additionally, the devoted followers of the Great God Trump may find that their aversion to science, masking and anti-COVID precautions causes a significant thinning of their ranks before the next round of elections in 2022. They may hope for herd immunity but get herd culling instead.
So those who don’t believe Donald Trump lost the 2020 election, who are so fervent in their belief that not even the Electoral College can shake their faith and who are ready to bend a knee to a mad king have no need to secede from the United States. They have Florumpia, the land of sunshine and delusion.
It is, however, worth remembering the words of Fisher Ames, a congressman in the early years of the American republic. He once observed that “Monarchy is like a sleek craft, it sails along well until some bumbling captain runs it into the rocks. Democracy, on the other hand, is like a raft. It never goes down but, dammit, your feet are always wet.”
And remember this: when your ship sinks, it’s a raft that saves your life.
Liberty lives in light
© 2020 by David Silverberg