Richard K. Scher: The biggest losers
Published: Sunday, November 11, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, November 7, 2012 at 11:35 p.m.
It is tempting to say that the 2012 election produced a number of major losers in Florida, including Mitt Romney, Connie Mack and Allan West.
But they pale in comparison to the really big four losers in the Florida election: Rick Scott, Jeb Bush, the Florida Republican Party and the Koch brothers.
Of these, Gov. Scott is the biggest loser, and deservedly so. His behavior and attitude throughout the campaign season were so egregiously unconscionable and unconstitutional that in any other state besides Florida there would be talk of impeachment.
While Scott committed any number of political sins, let us just mention two. First was his Herculean effort to suppress voters and deny them their right to vote. Readers will recall that in the late summer, Scott worked assiduously to purge voter lists of what he called “unqualified” voters, many of whom, he claimed, were not citizens. He and his minions were so assiduous in their search for these people — it was interesting how many seemed to be Hispanic immigrants — that the U.S. Department of Justice was forced to step in and put a halt to Scott's campaign against potential voters he did not like. It was nothing more than a naked, unbridled assault on the voting rights of Floridians.
And then of course there was the intransigent position he took to block an extension of early voting hours. He seemed unaware, or not to care, that federal courts had slapped down similar efforts in Ohio.
It is of further interest that a number of Florida supervisors of elections, including in Miami-Dade County, some of whom are Republicans, chose to ignore Scott and kept their offices open to accommodate voters. Politics, they clearly recognized, was one thing; hindering voters' access to the ballot is quite something else.
The second of Scott's political misdeeds was his flagrant assault on the Florida judiciary. Not only did he help lead the campaign to oppose the retention of three justices of the state Supreme Court, he was one of the architects of the plan to revise the way Florida's judges are identified and chosen.
Under Amendment 5, which Florida voters wisely rejected by 60 percent, the governor would have had virtually a free hand to appoint whomever he wanted to the bench. Not only was it a naked partisan power grab, it clearly violated the separation of powers between the executive and judiciary as laid out in the Florida Constitution. Fortunately, the Florida Bar and a number of good government watchdog groups saw Scott's ploy for what it was, and led a vigorous campaign to slap it down.
Impeachable behavior? Very possibly. Scott, when he was inaugurated, swore an oath to uphold the Constitution and laws of the United States and Florida. Trampling on voting rights and undermining an independent judiciary violate all of these. But don't expect any action by the Legislature to call the governor to account. Most of its members — the vast majority of whom are knee-jerk right-wingers — are very likely sympathetic to Scott.
What about the others? Bush merely tried to undermine the strong wall — arguably the strongest in the nation — separating church and state established by the Florida Constitution. He was a leader of Amendment 8, which tried to hoodwink Floridians into thinking their religious freedom was at stake if the public treasury did not pay for religious schools, something Bush has wanted for years. Fortunately, Floridians saw his ploy for what it was, and Amendment 8 went down by 56 percent.
And the Florida GOP and Koch brothers were also involved in several of the notorious proposed amendments, most noticeably the efforts to politicize the judiciary. All of their purposes were thwarted by Florida voters.
So, yes! Florida had four bad losers on Election Day. But Gov. Scott stands out for his complete disregard for the rights of voters and the integrity of the judiciary. It will be interesting to see how he defends himself when it is his turn to face Florida voters again.
Richard K. Scher is a political science professor at the University of Florida.