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Doris writes a weekly column for LaGaceta, the nation's only trilingual newspaper, which has pages in English, Spanish, and Italian.  Begun in 1922 for Tampa's immigrant community, it continues to thrive more than a century later.  Her column is titled "In Context," as it aims to put contemporary issues in the context of the past.

Meathead Won

I had an e-mail from Norman Lear a few days before the Florida primary and was surprised to realize that he still is alive. At 96, the creator of “All in the Family” justly deserves the reward of seeing this year’s amazing elections that, at least on the Democratic side of the ledger, are being won by through-going liberals. You know that Archie Bunker would be horrified by the nomination of Andrew Gillum, while Gloria and Mike would be dancing across the living room.

It was my students who first told me about “All in the Family.” They were juniors taking American history in a regional high school on Massachusetts’ South Shore, and most of them described Archie as “just like my dad.” This was during the civil rights movement, the women’s liberation movement, the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, and especially the war in Vietnam. As seventeen and eighteen year olds, most students – especially the boys-- had an interest in politics which might demand, a year or two later, that they lay down their lives in the mud of Southeast Asia. Even now – perhaps especially now that we have a president who wants to put shiny weapons on parade – I have to ask what that was all about.

So much stupidity, so much sadness, and it’s still painful to write about. Hubby had done his military service, but we went from Boston to Washington more than once to plead with congressmen and to march with Vietnam Veterans Against the War. Some of his Harvard friends went to Canada or allowed themselves to be arrested. If there were no peacemaking Edith in a family, loved ones were torn apart. Never again, nation, never again. And please recognize that Meathead always will win in the long term of history. My generation may not be the greatest, but we have turned the world to the direction of peace, equality, and personal freedom. Thank you, Norman Lear.

All ‘y alls

Andrew Gillum is indeed articulate and straightforward in his speech. He also is akin to Barack Obama and Bill Clinton in being able to think on his feet and to arrange those thoughts into clear sentences. It truly is worthy of notice that these men from unprivileged families and public schools so exceed the oratorical skills of the Bushes and the Donald, products of expensive private schools. But my point here is that all three Democratic men also can speak Southern. Gillum is the most Southern in terms of background, having lived all of his life in North Florida, which really is South Georgia.

That speech pattern came out on primary day. Of course, his words were spoken, not written, and the reporter who wrote them might be considered politically incorrect by some – but not by me. The quote was: “Four, five weeks ago, all ‘y alls polls had us fifth. Then we were fourth, then we were third, now we’re second. Today, I think we’re going to close in first.”

I loved it! “All ‘y all” was a natural expression to me growing up in Arkansas, but so many of my Yankee friends and family questioned it that I gave up the phrase. I still think it makes sense. “Y’all” is singular in Southern speak, while “All y’all” includes everyone. It’s more precise language, and I was glad to hear it – especially from the mouth of a 39-year-old. The boy’s bus-drivin’ mama taught him something.

Money Matters, But Not that Much

The truly refreshing aspect of the election was that it showed there’s not enough money in the world to buy faithful Democrats. Andrew Gillum spent by far the least of the five candidates, yet won. Billionaire Jeff Greene announced when he entered the race that he would spend up to $100 million of his own money; fellow billionaire Philip Levine wasn’t far behind. Businessman Chris King, the fifth candidate, spent less than the billionaires, but nonetheless more than the top two, Gwen Graham and Gillum. He won with grassroots work, by getting voters to the polls on a one-to-one basis, much in the way that Barack Obama’s troops pulled off that historic victory.

In the Republican primary, not so much. Adam Putnam has a long and successful political history and never was short of money. From the beginning, I saw yard signs for him, and he certainly tried to run a grassroots campaign with barbeques and fish fries and small-town gatherings. Ron DeSantis probably couldn’t find many of those towns on a map, and he ran a highly nationalized campaign straight from the playbook of Washington consultants. He had almost nothing to say about Florida issues and simply trumpeted his Trump endorsement. He won big. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions about what that means for November. And about the differences between parties, which are more real than in any era since the Civil War.

Speaking of DeSantis, I have to add to the discussion of “monkeying this up” – not so much on his words, but those of a PR woman employed by his campaign. She said: “I think that if Ron DeSantis really wanted to go with an obviously racist hit right after the primary, he should have said on live TV, ‘I don’t think Floridians want to elect a dude who looks like Barack Obama and is aping Bernie Sanders.’” Then, apparently realizing that “aping” didn’t work much better than “monkeying,” she clarified: “I am not convinced that he was actively trying to get all racist immediately post-primary. I think he might just be pretty inarticulate and not very sensitive.” I trust that the kid has lost her job.

OK Teachers! And Other Tidbits

You may remember that Oklahoma teachers went on strike last year, protesting the state’s cuts to education. I’m sorry to say that the governor responsible for this mess was Mary Fallin – but not all women are terrific, and she is a rabid Republican. Actually, it’s worse than I thought: I just did some googling, and according to the Tulsa World, she headed a July list of the nation’s ten most unpopular governors. She will leave office in November approved by fewer than one in five of her constituents. I met her once, and I’m not too surprised that voters finally saw through her snobbish, shallow, and self-interested self. I regret that we both are blonde.

Anyway, Oklahoma teachers could give a lesson to their colleagues elsewhere on how to implement an agenda, as they had truly impressive primary victories on the same day as ours. Of the 19 legislators they targeted for defeat, only four will make it to the November general election: The others either resigned or lost their primaries. One of the losing Republicans, by the way, once excused rape and incest as “the will of God.”

Another semi-astonishing thing about this year is the number of new political action committees, or PACs. Given that the Supreme Court ruled in Citizens United that unlimited spending equates to free speech, some ordinary folks have caught on and are collecting little donations that add up to amounts capable of competing with the big boys. Indeed, Act Blue, one of the PACs associated with the national Democratic Party, raised more than $100 million last month, most of it in small online donations. This unprecedented high, I believe, is not only because donors think they can win in November, but also because fundraisers are no longer embarrassed to ask for a $5 contribution. I get them every day, and I trust you do, too. Little bits from lots -- that is the way to make democracy work.

New Kids on the Block

I’m very impressed by several of these new PACs, but perhaps the most unusual is 314. It took me a while to figure it out, but that number (with a decimal point) is the pi of your old algebra days, and the PAC is made up of scientists who are moving out of their labs and into politics. This is historic: As the former president of United Faculty of Florida, Hubby will tell you that getting scientists involved in anything except their work is very difficult. Yet the amazing Donald Trump has done it. Scientists are so offended by his denial of science, especially climate change, that they are banding together, writing checks, and endorsing candidates.

One of those candidates is right here: Adam Hattersley is the Democratic nominee for Florida House District 59, which is primarily Brandon. A former nuclear submarine officer, he has taught at the Naval Academy and served in Iraq. Although I live near that district, I wouldn’t have known these details but for the endorsement of Scientists 314. Hattersley will face Joe Wicker in November, but Wicker’s website is uninformative about his qualifications; it’s just slogans about standing up for conservative values. But the fact that he won the Republican primary says something about the changing nature of that party, as he defeated the colorful maverick Ronda Storms. It was just a decade ago that Republicans were very proud of her. If you don’t remember, Ronda was the local version of Sarah Palin.

Along with the scientists, I’m impressed with Vote Vets. It is led by retired military officers, including high-ranking generals and admirals. They know from what goes down in the world. They understand the military/industrial complex and are adamant in their opposition to the corruption in the current administration. They also understand the reality of dictatorships and regularly issue warnings about the danger of playing games with Putin. Vote Vets has recruited and endorsed dozens of progressive veterans who are running for Congress, including many women. And of course, they are supporting our Senator Bill Nelson, who was an Army captain at the same time Hubby was. Check out Vote Vets; there’s lots of good info there.

Finally, “drain the swamp.” Conservatives love that phrase. They seem to think everyone agrees that the swamp not only is real, but also must be drained. It’s rare for anyone to question that premise. Some swamps, however, are fine and even necessary, as we discovered in the Everglades after decades of destruction and the expenditure of billions. And as they will discover if they succeed in “draining the swamp” of Social Security and other valuable institutions. Please question whether or not “the swamp” is factual -- and all other unproven assumptions. Don’t let rhetoric replace reason.


Doris Weatherford writes a weekly column for La Gaceta, the nation's only trilingual newspaper. With pages in Spanish, Italian, and English, it has been published in Tampa since 1922.
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