View from ‘The Duh’: Why The Sunshine State Is So Flor-I-Duh
Of all the election results this week perhaps none is more stupefying than Rick Scott being reelected as Governor in Florida. His criminal behavior before taking office and anti Florida policies while at the Capital should have been enough to disqualify him for consideration for a second term. But voters in “Flor-i-duh” did just that. Let me try to explain.
I spent most of my pre-college days in a very conservative part of Florida. While my family came from far and wide and never shared the ideology, my classmates and friends mostly did. I spent many high school nights “mudding” in a pick up truck, drinking Miller long necks and singing along to Leonard Skynyrd and Hank Williams Jr. It’s what we did for fun and man, it was great fun!
After spending a great deal of time over the past year back deep in the heart of Red America I am reminded of some things easily forgotten in the many years since then. Living in progressive college towns, Europe, Las Vegas and New York City I’d become removed in many ways from whence I came. It’s been an opportunity to reconnect with my roots and find out what makes typical Republican voters tick.
First of all, conservatives are wonderful people. They are caring, compassionate, open-minded and love a good time. Sure, there may have been some use of kid gloves since my presence there was due to sad and unfortunate circumstances, but they love thy neighbor and are always quick with a smile and a wave from their front porch. You will always get food from your neighbors, perhaps extra fruit from their trees or leftover bar-b-que that is just “too good not to share”. Everyone has a song in their heart and a drink in their hand. It’s a slower and simpler rhythm there, one which it would be easy to become accustomed. I’ve found folks in this Conservative bastion to be as sincere and as good-hearted as they come.
So what explains the politics in Red America? Why do they vote for politicians that blatantly go against these admirable traits?
First of all, there is no desire for complexities. Life is simple in Florida and individual political analysis is too. That “big government is bad” is about all that needs to be known. Any complex discussion with people there is fruitless. I didn’t find that much hostility to those who disagree or hold different opinions with them, it’s just that these good folks are not interested in detail or nuance. They hate politics so avoid thinking about it that much. They’ve form their opinions, end of discussion, end of analysis. Opinions here are not flexible based on changing circumstances, once they are set they tend to be set for life. One life, one opinion, let’s have a beer.
Perhaps the most discouraging, if unsurprising thing I found is that the political opinions they do hold are based almost universally on misinformation. The “facts” they present in discussion are not facts at all. The news sources they consume, much more casually than political junkies like me, fill their heads with the falsehoods political observers know too well. I am more convinced than ever that rhetoric from Conservative media steers opinions of Republican voters and not the other way around.
Conservatives may be bad at governing but they know how to get into the minds of these people. It’s sinister. Folks repeat the dishonest talking points not from a position of anger, but of defensiveness. Politics is complicated and challenging themselves to think anew is uncomfortable. It not a lack of intelligence, it’s a lack of desire to expend the energy required to dig deeper into the issues.
There is no happy ending to this story. I have not grown more optimistic about changing the mind of Conservative voters. I don’t know how that will happen. But I am somewhat comforted by the fact that these are just good people caught up in a bad political movement. We may not be able to persuade them to help themselves but it would be wrong to look at them as the enemy. They are friends. Good people steamrolled by a political system that’s difficult to understand and too complicated and confusing to even try.[su_csky_ad]