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Is Polk a 51-49 county? part 4: the decency coalition delivers for Polk County schools, big-time
Book-banning, criminality, and harassing vulnerable kids/staff were on the ballot in Polk School Board races. GOP voters, in large numbers, crossed the abstraction gap to defeat them in DeSantisland.
Ron DeSantis won just shy of 65 percent of the vote in Polk County on Tuesday, slightly outperforming Florida as a whole.
By contrast, in the August primary, four GOP School Board candidates — including one endorsed by Ron DeSantis — collectively took only 46.7 percent of the vote against four Democrats and an NPA the GOP branded as a “lib.”
That was despite DeSantis making School Board races the most partisan they have ever been in Florida and Polk County. That was despite a 52 percent GOP electorate, that was +13 on Democrats. I did a deep dive in part 1 here.
The general election went worse for the GOP — and their CCDF, a Moms for Liberty-style group. The Polk School Board runoff had GOP+20 (at least) electorate. But Lisa Miller, the “lib”-labeled NPA, and my dear friend, thumped a book-banning crank named Jill Sessions, 56-44.
Sessions was aggressively and openly backed by the Florida GOP’s asshole-industrial PAC complex. We’ll come back to some names in a later article. It will be fun.
This what the CCDF and Jill Sessions and the asshole industrial PAC complex ran on, among other gross things:
Moreover, if you followed state and Polk politics and civic life at all, you know that book-banning and stigmatizing vulnerable kids and staff and teaching fake history was all very much on the ballot here in Polk.
Lias took all of that on her broad shoulders for us with grace and strength. I’m so proud of her.
And the advocates of those gross things — including showboating Sheriff Grady Judd (who is a spent political force, more later) — got their asses kicked by common decency and the idea that public education should be a public good that values every child.
Here’s a precinct map of that ass-kicking, delivered by the same people who gave Ron DeSantis’ 65 percent of the Polk vote:
So when I ask, “Is Polk a 51-49 county,” it turns out, no, it’s more like “45-55” in the other direction when basic decency and public education-as-public good are on the ballot, even in an R+20 electorate. I underestimated with the assumptions of my question on School Board matters.
And let me tell you something: the ultimate “winning” in civic and political life is when your “opponents” take your side and adopt your point-of-view and suggestions. I don’t care about electing Democrats or NPAs (I’m an NPA) for its own sake. I care about what happens in reality in civic life.
That’s why I never stop talking — directly, honestly, without apology or deference or condescension or quarter (unless called for) — to the people who think of themselves as my opponents. Sometimes that makes them very mad. Sometimes they’re too inflexible or corrupt for me to do anything but define them in a public way. Sometimes they listen and come around. Sometimes they convince me.
But just like it meant more for Polk School Board Member Kay Fields to forcefully speak up for the humanity of Polk’s LGBT kids than it did for me to do it, it means more for GOP/DeSantis voters to reject book-banning and gross harassment and behavior at home.
Important caveats: DeSantis may decide to double down on all of that from the state level. He might remove Lisa Miller and Kay Fields just for the crime of winning. He’s a bad, gross, corrupt person with a messiah complex. He’s actively covering up a giant charter school corruption scandal in Jefferson County that touches basically every Florida Republican education “leader.”
Moreover, it’s impossible to run a “good” local school district in Florida because the state system is so dominant and unspeakably bad at the same time. See here.
Until that changes, the best local school people are just doing year-to-year damage control.
But the national election results, which are a massive blow against the fake Christian dictatorship DeSantis seems to want to lead, may well affect his very utilitarian thinking.
So might this repudiation of fake Christian dictatorship and a clear vote for humane and better public education in Polk County from DeSantis’ own voters.
So why did Polk’s local school cranks not affect DeSantis negatively? The abstraction gap.
To be direct, as I’ve said before, Ron DeSantis is the gross, hateful cranks that Polk voters rejected. They are one.
DeSantis openly endorsed one of them, the very gross Rick “T.I.T.S.” Nolte, who has openly declared that he committed 10 misdemeanors and a felony with cash campaign contributions — among other campaign shenanigans that the sheriff and state attorney have thus far refused to acknowledge. Here’s the T.I.T.S. reference from a dude soon to have power over school children, in theory at least. We’ll see if he ever takes office.
All the CCDF cranks ran on DeSantis’ gross, lying attacks on public education, and shameless dominance-based aggression.
So I see no difference at all between DeSantis and the CCDF’s criminal and/or criminal adjacent candidates.
But thousands of Polk voters did perceive a difference — or did not perceive a sameness. (It’s probably more the latter.) These voters and citizens dwell in what I’m calling “the abstraction gap.” It doesn’t make them cranks or bad people; it means they haven’t done an equation that many of us have done: T.I.T.S. = DeSantis.
These voters reject DeSantis-ism (and Trump-ism) when it’s put in their faces the way Saga Stevin (2021 Lakeland mayor’s race) and the CCDFers did this year. When they perceive it mostly elsewhere, it’s less immediately gross and threatening. In fact, some folks find it shamefully fun as abstract entertainment.
So I try to destroy abstraction in my approach to advocacy.
I never talked about or wrote about any of these people in the last six months without the words “criminal,” “gross,” and “crank” attached to them mercilessly. From Saga forward, I have hunted them morally. And we relentlessly de-abstracted them in a way we could not for DeSantis, in a way that’s very rare for a low information school board race.
We relentlessly and accurately defined these cranks in much the way John Fetterman did Dr. Oz. And hopefully, we have chased them from public and civic life, depending on whether Judd and Haas ever decide to do their jobs.
Indeed, if I had found Rick Nolte’s self-declared felonies and T.I.T.S. manifesto in June at the same time the CCDF candidates (except for Nolte, maybe) openly hired arch-criminal James Dunn, Sarah Fortney would not have narrowly lost because of low-information partisanship.
I blame myself for Sarah’s one-point loss.
Seminoles, Gators, and cranks
I’m going to leave you with this in thinking about how the terrible Dem/Lib state turnout and performance Tuesday co-exists with what we saw in Polk schools.
In my observation, in a two-party system, political behavior largely mimics football fan behavior. In a two-party system, the dynamics become very Seminoles v. Gators, but with different levels of intensity. Here’s fanhood equated a bit to voter patterns:
Rabid fans, whose identities are bound up in beating the Gators or Seminoles. When they lose, they get angry. The most extreme of them are likely to get really drunk and fight the other team’s fans. Super voters and J6ers.
Loyal fans, who watch all the games and root for their team and against their rivals during the games but who can keep human perspective. They banter with and mostly like the opposing team’s fans while maintaining mostly unshakeable loyalty to their own team and antipathy to their rival. Super voters.
Casual fans, who will watch the game if it’s on or go to a game with friends. They root for the home team because everybody else does and it’s more fun; but their fandom is mostly a social/background entertainment exercise. Regular general election voters, but not definite. Sporadic primary/local voters.
Indifferent people, who have little to no interest in football and pay no attention unless something really dramatic happens to impose football on them. Rare to unregistered voters.
Fans of the game itself, concerned for the health of the players, the fan experience, the quality of play, etc.
In football, for most of my life, I was a #2 fan of FSU football, who veered into #1 (not the fighting) occasionally as a silly young man. These days I’ve drifted closer to #3, with some #5 mixed in.
In politics/distribution of power, however, I am entirely #5.
That’s because there is one giant difference between football games and politics: the human stakes of power distribution are life and death and wealth; the human stakes of a football game are nothing more but smack talk rights.
How Lisa did it
There just aren’t very many #1s among Democrats and NPAs, which is why libs haven’t ever done a Capitol Lynch Mob and the GOP has.
Lisa Miller lost all the #1s among the GOP; but she won all the Democratic #2s and a ton of the GOP #2s, who voted against their own team because she is a good School Board member and better person and local schools are much less abstract than the color of the other team’s shirt.
And she won the #3s across the board because cranks got in their faces and their space and they heard from their more attentive and passionate home team friends that this vote was important enough to turn on the home team. The #4s stayed home; and Lisa won all the #5s. That’s a winning coalition.
Moreover, if this (Saga Stevin there on the right) is what DeSantisland means, it’s not going to scale beyond Florida. And there are ways to attack and defeat it here.
More to come as we try to demolish abstraction, in the service of decency, together.
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