All elections have consequences, but some trigger an even more powerful backlash.
That’s what is happening in Florida today in response to the state legislature and governor’s office bulldozing their way over so many basic rights while ignoring the essential needs of everyday Floridians.
These hyper-partisan Tallahassee politicians waged distracting culture and “woke” wars endangering many of our families, communities and citizens. Their attack on women’s healthcare and reproductive rights was especially egregious, and we’re quickly seeing a more potent counterpunch from Floridians dedicated to protecting health and preserving our necessary freedoms.
For example, our 1199SEIU union of nurses, caregivers and other healthcare workers, a vast majority of whom are women, have enthusiastically joined the Floridians Protecting Freedom coalition to put a reproductive rights amendment on the ballot in 2024.
Our organization soon will make a $250,000 contribution to this ballot initiative, and more importantly, our membership in coming months will be making calls and texts, organizing rallies, knocking on doors and other efforts to build support, signatures and votes.
As women and caregivers we have undeniable expertise and insight into what should be an inalienable right: to make our own healthcare decisions with our families and doctors, without heavy-handed interference of uninformed politicians or the government. The radical near-total abortion ban passed by the legislature and signed by the governor, injects the state into this very personal decision, and puts women’s lives at risk.
Our union alone is a powerful force, representing more than 35,000 active and retired healthcare workers in the state. Along with our families, friends and so many other partner unions and organizations of working Floridians, we are a formidable coalition that has been galvanized by the attacks, politics and extreme policies forced down on us from Tallahassee.
Signs of this counterwave and success already have begun to emerge. Not only in organizing, fundraising or polling, but in the ballot booth. The recent election of Democrat Donna Deegan as Jacksonville’s mayor over the governor’s endorsed Republican candidate validates her strength as a community leader, but also is a proof point that voters, even within Duval County, are opposed to radical government overreach, dangerous bills and political nonsense.
Floridians want good jobs, affordable housing, healthcare and insurance, safe communities, good schools and other necessities to support their families. They don’t need to be paying for and suffering through petty fights with theme parks, illegal flights of asylum seekers in other states or the national 2024 primary campaign of an absentee governor.
We find ourselves having to counterpunch and fight so hard to win back our rights today because of unfortunate national political strategy and an immense imbalance of resources in the 2022 elections. National Democratic and progressive funders largely wrote off Florida, sending almost all funding to other states they believed to be more competitive. That was a critical self-fulfilling error up and down the ballot, helping create a Republican super majority in the Florida Legislature.
Republicans and their mega-donors calculated, successfully, that it takes a massive investment in electoral politics to successfully disinform and distract from their policies that actually hurt people.
GOP operatives and entities outspent Democrats 25 to 1 in those elections, not including vast quantities of virtually untraceable “dark money” funneled to Republican candidates by private prison companies, electric utilities, NRA and many other proven bad actors sadly bankrolling this subversion of democracy.
National Democratic funders must not again sit on the sidelines. They need to realize that Florida is winnable, especially as the electorate begins to recoil from bad bills such as the governor’s extreme abortion ban.
In the meantime, Floridians should come together to restore our essential rights and rebound against politicians who have failed our trust.
That is a consequence we all can count on.
Image Credits: Roxey C. Nelson, executive vice president of 1199SEIU, speaking at a news conference in Largo on May 9, 2023. (Credit: Mitch Perry)