Oh, Florida. If there’s one gif that I’m sure to see every year come election cycle, it’s the gif of Bugs Bunny cutting Florida off from the United States. You know the one!
The gif popped up again all over the timeline during Tuesday’s midterm elections because leftist Democrat, and rising star, Andrew Gillum failed to nab a victory in the race for governor. Add to that, incumbent Democratic Senator Bill Nelson is behind Rick Scott in the race for his Senate seat — though the future of both races is currently up in the air. Cue us all rejoicing as the home of the “Florida man” drifts off into the Atlantic, right?
But, hey, wait a minute. Let’s not throw the Sunshine State out with the bathwater!
It’s easy to focus on Florida’s failure to elect progressive, pro-LGBTQ (or generally decent human beings) because we read the elections through how much they affect us. The governor’s office and the senator’s seat are two of the most visible offices in a state. One is a federal-level office that feels like a training ground for the presidency while the other feels like the lord in charge of a tract of fiefdom. But, mostly, they mean a lot to us because most of us are not Floridians and they’re the people with whom our elected officials have to interact.
Another reason this meme pops up every year is due to tradition. It’s easy to beat up on Florida and, almost thoughtlessly, we continue to pummel it for its mistakes when there is a lot to applaud.
So, I ask formally for you to recognize everything Florida voters did do that was great this year.
Florida voters passed Amendment 4, restoring voting rights to 1.4 million formerly incarcerated people whose prior felony convictions barred them from voting. About 418,000 of those were Black Floridians — it equals 17.9 percent of Florida’s black electorate.
Florida elected four LGBTQ people out of the six running for local, state and federal positions. People in Florida re-elected Carlos Guillermo Smith, the first openly gay Latino to serve in the legislature, and brought in Jennifer Webb, the first LGBTQ woman to serve as a state lawmaker in Florida, to join him. Florida representative Shevrin Jones, who came out after he was already elected, also reclaimed his seat.
There were also several smaller local victories. Key West elected Florida’s first lesbian mayor. And the town of Wilton Manors elected an all-LGBTQ city council, the first in Florida and second in the nation after Palm Springs, California. (The council will work with Wilton Manors’ mayor, who is also gay.)
Polk County also elected Sarah Fortney, who makes history as the first lesbian to join a school board in the state.
So, yes, big picture: Florida had two very very tight races. Looked at another way, more than 4 million people voted for a very progressive Black man for the state’s highest office.
But there were a lot of smaller victories to celebrate and dammit, we should. Even if it means putting away the hacksaw and letting Florida stay attached to the mainland.
Image via Facebook