Like many (most?) people on this site, I followed the Zimmerman trial closely, and was deeply saddened and outraged by the verdict. As a long-time Florida resident (though not a native Floridian), I felt the need to respond to the well-meaning, but in my mind, misguided, calls for a boycott of Florida that have appeared on this site. I decided to call this diary "a purple state manifesto" because I think that much of what I have to say is relevant not just to Florida, but to other "purple states" like Virginia, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. So here goes:
Florida is a strange and confusing place. We are an odd hodgepodge of the entire USA, with a few local quirks thrown in. Greater Miami is as diverse and cosmopolitan as New York or Los Angeles. The panhandle, aka the "redneck riviera," is the deep South. The I-4 corridor, running from Tampa-St. Pete through Orlando to Daytona, is middle American suburbia, a traditional swing area that is now trending bluer. We have very progressive liberals (Alan Grayson and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz come to mind), as well as paleo-conservatives and kleptocrats (like our current governor Rick Scott), and everything in between. Florida has one of the largest Latino populations in the USA, and certainly the most diverse: the Republican-leaning Cuban establishment is increasingly outflanked by Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, and newcomers from throughout Central and South America. Though often derided as "God's waiting room," Florida also has millions of young people. When young people and minorities vote in Florida, Democrats win, as President Obama did in both 2008 and 2012. When these constituencies stay home, as they did in 2010, we get stuck with people like Rick Scott.
This is part of a larger pattern in the purple states. All of the states I mentioned in the first paragraph voted for President Obama in 2008, and were part of his historic victory, and are certainly integral to what Ruy Teixera called (perhaps a bit prematurely) "the new Progressive majority." All but North Carolina also went for Obama again in 2012, and he almost carried NC again. Unfortunately, in 2010, in an off-year election amid a terrible economy and (perhaps unrealistic) hopes that many progressives had for the Obama presidency, many infrequent voters stayed home, and we got governors Scott, Walker, Corbett, Kasich, McDonnell, etc, as well as Republican-led legislatures who gerrymandered the hell out of our purple states in post-2010 redistricting. This dug a big hole that will take a long time for us to dig out of. Since then, they have gutted public education, restricted women's rights, disenfranchised minority communities, and allowed ALEC and the Koch brothers to write our economic and environmental policies.
Are you disgusted by what these right-wing state governments have done in Florida and our other purple states? Guess what? So are we! There are millions of progressives here in Florida and throughout the other purple states who are doing what we can to fight back. But here's a thought: instead of boycotts or gratuitous insults that won't change minds or policies, how about channeling your righteous anger toward helping us to boot these nut jobs out the door in 2014? We could really use the help! Whether your thing is making phone calls, knocking on doors, or donating money, help us win back Florida (and Wisconsin, and Ohio, and so on). You'll not only feel better, but you'll make things better for millions of good people who deserve better than the abusive policies of the Tea Party and the snide condescension of the blue staters.