U.S.A. — Florida’s U.S. senators do little for state in the culture war – By Mohamed Hamaludin

Florida’s 2 U.S. senators do little for state as they embrace the culture war

By MOHAMED HAMALUDIN

Florida’s two U.S. senators, both Republicans, are not known for doing anything in Washington to advance the interests of the state but a lot to push their careers. That became even more evident after last weekend’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Orlando.

Marco Rubio invoked the specter of Cuba and Marxism and the attendant “tyranny” which he claimed hangs over the nation courtesy of the Democratic Party. He said that Fidel Castro did not broadcast the fact that he was a Marxist in his early rise to power, adding, according to The Miami Herald, “That’s why the people I live among in the neighborhood I’ve lived in my entire life, you see the fury and desperation in their voice, because imagine you once lived in a country you had to flee because schools were telling your kids God didn’t exist, turn your parents in if they say something against the revolution … and some of the same things seem to be happening again.”     

To be charitable to him, Rubio probably does not know that the current “conservative” demonizing of “communism” has nothing to do with Democratic policies and everything to do with the fact that those who fought against racism in the early 20th century included Communists, as Glenda Elizabeth Gilmore details in her 2008 book “Defying Dixie.” The attack on “communism” is just another way of trying to get at the ongoing struggle for racial equality whose achievements so far have included the fact that people like Rubio, a Cuban American, were able to come to this country.

Also, some of the fears which Rubio talked about are already being realized, in Florida, courtesy not of Democrats but of fellow Republicans who control the governorship and the Legislature. They have passed laws banning teaching of slavery and using the word “gay” in schools and restricting the right to vote, to have an abortion and to protest in the street and empowered Floridians to snitch against fellow Floridians and make money doing it. They are now taking away political power from local governments and concentrating it in Tallahassee, just as Castro centralized power in Havana.

And “the fury and desperation” which Rubio claimed was evident in the people in his neighborhood may be due not to fears of “cancel culture” or “coronavirus regulations” but to their appalling economic conditions and the fact that the voter registration of at least 100 of them were changed to Republican without their consent for the last election, as The Miami Herald has reported.

Indeed, Miami is among the poorest cities in the nation, with more than one in every four residents living in poverty, according to 24/7 Wall Street, cited by Jacksonville.com in 2016. “According to recently released research from the nonprofit think tank the Economic Policy Institute, the top one percent of earners in the Miami metro area make about $2 million annually, 45 times greater than the average income of the other 99 percent of earners. This earnings gap makes the metro area nearly the most unequal of any U.S. city,” the report said. And that was long before the coronavirus created economic havoc.

Rick Scott, the junior senator who barely won in 2018, also seems to be living in a different reality than the Floridians who face a poverty rate of about 12 percent. He released an 11-point plan on Feb. 21, which he discussed at the CPAC gathering and which, HuffPost said, “would radically downgrade the federal government, drastically cutting spending on social services, raising taxes on the poor and instituting ‘race-blind’ policies.” He declared “there are two genders” and called for eliminating “questions about race on government forms.” He wants to ban teachers “from portraying American history in a negative light … and the teaching of critical race theory,” HuffPost said.

Both Rubio and Scott voted against President Joe Biden’s $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill. Scott described it as “reckless spending” but later said he was “proud” to help secure “an unprecedented $1 billion for Everglades restoration, the largest single amount ever allocated by the federal government,” HuffPost reported. He neglected to say that allocation is part of the infrastructure bill.

Scott served as Florida’s governor, when he refused to accept hundreds of millions of federal dollars to help subsidize the health care costs of Floridians under the Affordable Care Act – Obamacare. He also had the final say on restoring the right to vote to ex-felons and, according to the Palm Beach Post, he and his cabinet did so for twice as many European Americans as for African Americans.

Also, while Republican senators Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott enthusiastically endorsed Michelle Childs of their home state South Carolina for the U.S. Supreme Court, Rick Scott voted against Ketanji Bown Jackson, a daughter of South Miami-Dade whom President Joe Biden eventually nominated, while she was up for confirmation to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Rubio did not even take part in that hearing.

And Rubio and Scott voted to acquit then President Donald Trump during his impeachment trial over the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, as they did in his earlier impeachment over his strong-arming of Ukraine.

There must be a more productive way for these two men to show they deserve their jobs and the $75,000 annual salary paid by taxpayers, along with perks worth millions of dollars, besides being culture warriors. They could have called for greater action to cope with global warming in their state. The Herald reported on Monday, citing a United Nations report that, “Unchecked climate change has already changed Florida permanently and irreversibly.” Now that is a genuine cause for concern.

***

Mohamed Hamaludin is a Guyana-born journalist who worked for several years at The Guyana Chronicle in the 1970s and on publications in the Cayman Islands and Turks and Caicos Islands before emigrating in 1984 to the United States, where he worked at The Miami Times, the Miami Herald and the South Florida Times.  Though now retired, he writes a column for The South Florida Times (sfltimes.com) in which the above column first appeared. He may be reached at hamal1942@gmail.com.

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