This is not the summer of our discontent. Yes, the heat is oppressive (as usual) and the FPL bills are high (crank that air), but we have been diverted, amused and astounded by an unending parade of unexpected political developments, court decisions, candidate blunders, embassy openings and news of a soccer stadium to be built on “spiritually tainted” ground. No summer doldrums here.
Where to begin? How about Donald Trump and his stream-of-unconsicousness comments about everything from Mexican immigrants to John McCain? Trump regularly puts his mouth in gear before his brain and the results are usually fascinating, if sometimes offensive. For example, saying that McCain, held prisoner for five years and tortured by the North Vietnamese, is no war hero, just a guy who was captured. This insulting and undeserved put-down of a bona fide war hero comes from a guy who avoided service in Vietnam on a student deferment and then says he flunked an induction physical due to an alleged foot injury. Entitlement, thy name is Donald.
And yet Trump just finished first in a Washington Post/ABC News poll with 24 percent, way ahead of his GOP rivals. This is less an endorsement of Trump than a message from voters that they're tired of equivocating, over-promising, mush-mouthed politicians who can't give you a straight answer. Trump’s answers are often politically incorrect, which is OK, but they can also be bigoted, which is not. He’s a blowhard who has gotten away with such shenanigans for years because he's rich, shameless and unapologetic. Often wrong, never in doubt, as the old saying goes. His chutzpah has sent him to the top of the polls, but he won't stay there for long. Trump is, politically speaking a shooting star. I'm sure the producers at Fox hope he doesn't flame out before their debate.
The Florida Legislature, meanwhile, was shocked, just shocked by the state Supreme Court’s decision upholding the Fair Districts amendment and chastising the GOP leadership for ignoring it. The court said Republican lawmakers flagrantly disregarded the will of the people, who in 2010 approved an amendment mandating lawmakers to draw unbiased congressional and legislative districts. They didn’t. Not only that, GOP leaders and their consultants left their fingerprints all over the maps drawn secretly in back rooms to benefit Republicans and incumbents.
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Gerrymandering is not new, of course, and Democrats did it gleefully when they were in control. The Republicans who were in control made a huge pretense of concern when they mounted a statewide “listening tour” to hear from citizens about how they wanted the districts drawn. I covered one of those hearings at Miami Dade College where a panel of lawmakers was positively oleaginous. They showed citizens who testified elaborate courtesies, nodded sympathetically, thanked them profusely and then went ahead and did exactly what they'd planned all along — gerrymander.
This redistricting brouhaha is one of those subjects that the late, great Times columnist William Safire called a “MEGO” — mine eyes glaze over. But attention must be paid because the gridlock in Washington is largely attributable to members of Congress whose districts are drawn to virtually guarantee their re-election. They're so safe they have no reason to compromise on tough issues like immigration, criminal justice reform and free trade.
Florida has 27 congressional districts, 17 of which are represented by Republicans and 10 by Democrats, even though Florida has roughly half a million more registered D’s than R’s. The imbalance may be corrected with new districts by the 2016 election.
Redrawing congressional districts is complicated by the Voting Rights Act and the legal and moral imperative to elect minorities, especially African-Americans. If, say, U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown of Jacksonville —whose district looks like a a Rorshach test as it snakes from Jacksonville down almost to Gainesville to pick up black voters — should sue to challenge any new redistricting map from the Legislature, then a federal court may wind up drawing the boundaries. Maybe that's what lawmakers secretly want. Maybe it's not a bad way to go.
Add to all this manic activity the opening of the Cuban embassy in Washington, the spectacle of protégé-vs-mentor in the Jeb vs. Marco match-up, and the prospect of MLS soccer in Miami. Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado walked out of city hall the other day and announced that Miami Beckham United had caved and would accept the “spiritually tainted” land next to Marlins Park for their stadium. And Miami Beckham United will pay $200 million of its own money to build it.
Lordy, we’re in overload. I think it's time to lie down on the couch for a nap with my dog, Talllulah. But wow, what an exciting summer. No doldrums.