Oct. 19, 2020 by David Silverberg
Early in-person voting begins today in Southwest Florida’s Lee and Collier counties.
Voting by mail has already been massive, according to both counties’ election supervisor offices. In Lee County, 135,997 votes had been cast, a turnout of 27.80 percent, as of yesterday, Sunday, Oct. 18, at 11 am. In Collier County, 61,940 votes had been cast, 26.73 percent of the electorate, as of the same date and hour.
The in-person voting comes after an extraordinarily eventful weekend that began with a presidential visit to Fort Myers on Friday, Oct. 16—and the remarkable snub of what many had considered a rising Republican star.
Donald disses Donalds
Friday should have been a big day for Republican state Rep. Byron Donalds (R-80-Immokalee), who is running for Congress in Florida’s 19th Congressional District.
Instead, it was a day that saw him forced to declare that he had come down with COVID-19. And to add insult to injury he was ignored and overlooked by his hero and idol, President Donald Trump.
During the Republican congressional primary this summer, few candidates touted their loyalty and subservience to President Donald Trump more than Donalds, who amidst his many accolades said he was “incredibly proud to stand with President Trump.” In the traditional mafia-like mindset in which Trump operates, such loyalty by a soldier should be repaid in kind by the mafia chieftain.
When the Godfather came to Fort Myers, it was an opportunity for a laying on of hands, for a blessing from the Boss himself in front of lots of local media and adoring Trumpers. It might have been the moment when Donalds decisively clinched the election 18 days before the votes were counted.
Instead, Donalds was tested for COVID-19 before meeting with Trump and turned up positive, which he announced on his Facebook page around 5 pm. He couldn’t come in contact with the president and instead of a public anointing it was his very public infection that was the headline about him dominating local news.
But beyond the embarrassment of a vociferously anti-mask Donalds catching COVID, there was the added disrespect (dissing) from his idol and hero.
In his speech at the Caloosa Sound Convention Center, Trump went through a series of shout-outs to local politicians and worthies, acknowledging and praising them.
One should not underestimate the importance of these shout-outs during political speeches and events. They’re something every politician does and while they may seem boring and formulaic to those in the audience, they’re critical to those named. In the case of a politician who has a blindly loyal following like Trump, they are an essential blessing and benediction—especially to candidates running for election.
In the middle of his speech Trump took the time to do a round of shout-outs. He named Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), whose popularity he compared to Elvis; he lauded as “warriors” Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-12-Fla.)—“great job, Gus”—and Rep. Greg Steube (R-17-Fla.)—“another friend of mine.” Mayor Randy Henderson (R) was praised—“good job, Randy”—as was Cape Coral Mayor Joe Coviello (R)—“great job, great job.” He said he was honored by the presence of World War II and Korean War veteran Wally Cortese—“You look good, Wally, I’ll tell you. Two wars and you’re looking—you’re looking good,” (interestingly, not “thank you for your service.”). He also thanked members of the Golden Gate Veterans of Foreign Wars honor guard.
And even if Donalds wasn’t present in the audience, any experienced observer of political rituals would have expected a shout-out to a faithful follower, especially one running for Congress from the president’s party, an ally whom the president would theoretically need in a second term. So the next name to trip from the president’s tongue should have been…Byron Donalds.
But there was no naming of Byron Donalds. Instead the president moved on to tell the audience how he was fighting to protect them from “the China virus” and the “radical-left movement.”
Make no mistake: Byron Donalds has been endorsed by Trump, who issued a tweet in his favor on Sept. 10—well after the Aug. 18 Republican primary. An endorsement during the primary race could have made all the difference in the world to Donalds. However, Trump has only been endorsing Republican candidates after they’ve won their primaries in what he regards as safe districts—to preserve his record of seeming infallibility in picking winners.
Nor was there a subsequent word of sympathy or a get-well wish from the notoriously unempathetic president. Indeed, Donalds got more compassion from his Democratic opponent Cindy Banyai who tweeted: “I wish him and his family well as he recovers.”
Apparently, when you’re COVID-infected you’re already dead to Donald Trump.
Democrats, women, rise up and ride
While the president’s visit brought out his supporters, it also mobilized Democrats and other Biden/Harris supporters.
On Friday, activists conducted a Ridin’ for Biden, “Dump Trump” caravan to counter Trump’s appearance in Fort Myers.
Inspired by an editorial in The Paradise Progressive, activist Wally Hedman, who has organized Biden/Harris rides in the past, served as organizer and lead driver for the caravan.
Consisting of 20-plus cars festooned with flags, signs and bunting, the caravan traveled up Route 41, through downtown Fort Myers and onto Martin Luther King Blvd., prior to Trump’s arrival.
It demonstrated a Democratic presence amid the raucous Trump gathering.
Democratic demonstrators were also on the sidewalks outside the Caloosa Center to show their opposition to Trump. While there were some arguments with Trumpers, there were no physical altercations or arrests.
The following day the local chapter of the national Women’s March took to the streets of Fort Myers when approximately 300 supporters lined the sidewalks to “affirm our shared humanity and declare our bold message of advocacy and self-determination,” according to the local Women’s March website. “We march against sexism, racism, homophobia, religious discrimination, misuse or abuse of power, sexual abuse, discrimination against immigrants, gun violence, denial of environmental injustice, and lack of respect for human dignity,” it stated.
Trump’s appearance at the Caloosa Center was invitation-only and limited to 400 people, although some random people on the street were allowed in just prior to the start of the event. Inside, attendees were distanced from each other and masks were worn. People coming into contact with Trump were tested for coronavirus prior to the event, which is how Byron Donalds’ infection was discovered.
However, on the street outside numerous Trumpers were largely unmasked and crowded together, creating conditions for a COVID superspreader event.
As of Sunday, Oct. 18, the Florida Department of Health was reporting 755,020 cases in the state and a total of 15,967 deaths among state residents. In Lee County that came to 21,625 cases and 492 deaths. However, the Florida COVID Action Site created by dissident data scientist Rebekah Jones, who has charged that the state is suppressing coronavirus data, reports 824,724 cases and 16,118 deaths statewide. In Lee County, it reports 23,005 cases and 502 deaths since March 1.
With an incubation period of 10 to 14 days, Lee County medical facilities should start seeing an influx of coronavirus victims from the Trump visit around Halloween.
Liberty lives in light
© 2020 by David Silverberg