As the 2009 Regular Session approaches, Florida’s Democrats continue to send out press releases lamenting budget cuts and wrong priorities by the Republican majority. But all too often in the past when the Democrats have been asked to stand and be counted they have taken a pass.
Giving speeches at local friendly Democratic groups and comments in the newspapers are all well and good, but all too often Democrats have been too chummy with Republicans as the majority party has gradually dismantled the safety net or programs and progressive structure of Florida Government over the past ten years.
The legacies of Rueben Askew, Bob Graham and the late Lawton Chiles have been squandered with the help of recent Democrats in favor of “me too” conservatism, and coddling of home builders, developers, Realtors, and for a time insurance companies. Term limited Democratic legislators were so terrified they wouldn’t go home with a passed bill they traded their happily traded their votes on key GOP priorities for a guarantee of favorable treatments.
While the Democrats have been led by some competent leaders, most notably Rep. Doug Wiles and Rep. Dan Gelber, the majority of Democrats in the Legislature have at critical times acted like mindless sheep being led to the slaughterhouse. The number of House and Senate Democrats who voted for a Redistricting plan that ensured a GOP super majority for this decade is staggering.
When forced to choose between helping progressive causes and ensuring their own re-election these Democrats, disproportionately from liberal southeast Florida, voted to protect themselves. But of course they could always claim they added to Florida’s almost endless stream of meaningless legislation with a take home bill or two.
Other incidents of mindless cow towing to conservative priorities includes the decision by several Democrats in 2002 not to support Senate President Jon McKay’s effort to reform Florida’s tax system, and the number of Democrats who voted for ridiculous budget cuts the very same year after the legislature decided to repeal the intangibles tax.
Examples of Democratic compromises on economic issues can take up this whole page. Liberal Democrats feel in many cases if they tow the progressive line on issues such as a woman’s right to choose, school prayer and gun control they are somehow great liberals. Yet continuing to give the state away to wealthy special interests while cutting social programs, health care and education isn’t liberal. It’s isn’t conservative either, but just plain wrong.
Hopefully 2009 will be different for Florida’s Democrats.