Thursday, September 25, 2014

Civics 101 for Low-Information Scott Voters

I've found that supporters of Rick Scott are lacking in some of the most elementary knowledge about how our state is governed. That seems like a truism, given that they support Scott in the first place. But I've found that they are lacking knowledge in some very specific areas that are critical to Scott's campaign. Here are the top three points I'd like to cover.

Independent is not a party.
Over and over again the refrain against Charlie Crist from the Scott camp is: "He doesn't even know what party he wants to be!" Or, "He keeps switching parties!" If they get specific enough they may say Crist changed parties twice.

But no, he didn't. Crist was a registered Republican when he ran as an Independent against Rubio and Meek in 2010. He did not run as a member of the "Independent Party." 

To  be sure,  there are parties with similar names (like the far rightist American Independent Party, or the Independence Party), but that is not what Crist was running as. He ran as an Independent in the sense that he had no support from an established political party.

I'll also point out that Scott fanatics generally have no idea that switching from one party to another isn't that unusual. One of their heroes, Ronald Reagan, switched his D to an R. Hillary Clinton switched from an R to a D. In their eyes the worst offender would have to be Theodore Roosevelt, who threw away his R to become a BM (Bull Moose). He not only switched parties -- he started his own!

Florida law requires our state budget to be balanced. It is also amazing how many of Scott's flock say that Crist, during his term, "treated the state budget like a credit card," put the state in debt, and so on. No, he didn't, and he couldn't have. Florida is required by law to have a balanced budget. We can't spend more than we take in. 

The only "debt" we have is a type of bond debt, which is used for certain types of building projects. That sort of debt did increase under Crist, and did indeed decrease under Scott, but it had been increasing for years under past governors and is not a "credit card" kind of debt that a governor can just use as they please.

The Legislature, not the Governor, holds the purse strings. That leaves one last civics lesson for Scott's followers. Saying Crist did this or that with the state budget, or that Scott does whatever with it, leaves out a huge part of the equation: The Legislature. There's a political myth, one we can even see on the national scene ("Obama quintupled the national debt!"), that our executive branches have dictatorial powers, especially over spending. They don't. Our executive officers can suggest a budget, they can wheedle or coax members of the legislative branch to approve budget measures, and can even veto expenditures. Ultimately, though, how much is spent is in the hands of the legislative branch, not the executive branch. That means any blame Scott's flock assigns to Crist, properly belongs to the GOP-dominated Florida Legislature. 

There are plenty of other civics lessons that Rick Scott's gang could use, but these three lie at the heart of many of their complaints. If you can get one to listen to you for a few minutes, do your best to educate them.

I know. That's the hard part.

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