This past Tuesday, Florida voters sent a historic message by electing Barack Obama statewide. At the same time worrying signs were apparent in Florida's election results which reminded us of Florida's dubious history. Areas of the original Florida or what many in our state's capitol refer to as the "real Florida" voted for John McCain by much bigger margins than they had supported George W. Bush. The only counties in the state where McCain won by a much bigger margin than Bush were west of Tallahassee: in an area traditionally very Jeffersonian and Segregationist. Counties such as Liberty, Calhoun and Jackson had actually given Democrat Bill McBride substantial victories over Jeb Bush in 2002. McBride got only 43% statewide when compared to Obama's 51% yet these formerly segregationist counties showed many whites willing to vote for a weak and possibly unqualified Democratic candidate for Governor were unwilling to vote for a winning African-American candidate for President. Many elected Democrats in the state legislature had felt focusing on this area of the state was more important than focusing on the I-4 corridor in the early part of this decade. That can explain why in 2002 McBride was routed in Pinellas, Hillsborough, Orange and Volusia counties, urban Central Florida areas Obama carried in 2008 by a large margin. The 2008 results should show beyond a reasonable doubt as did the 2002 results, that these counties don't matter in Florida elections if you can win along the I-4 corridor.
Statewide however, Amendment 2, an effort by far right conservatives to legislate the definition of marriage into the Florida Constitution was passed statewide with 62.5% of the vote. The same conservatives who decry judges who "legislate from the bench" like the great Earl Warren or Thurgood Marshall are willing to attack moral codes and legislation to the state's constitution. This once again demonstrates the rampant hypocrisy of most conservatives. But we digress: the issue here is that Amendment 2 continues Florida's pattern of discrimination. A pattern we saw rise up in the 1970s when Anita Bryant came to Florida to protest Dade County's then revolutionary gay rights statute.
Bryant's campaign came just a few short years after George Wallace carried 66 of Florida's 67 counties in the Florida Democratic Primary. Wallace running on a campaign opposing school busing and using code words which meant "I'll keep the blacks in their place." was a hit statewide. The northern elite media who had many friends and perhaps family that lived in Florida had mischarecterized the state as being "less Southern than Northern" in the lead up to the primary. Thus primary night, a shock ran through liberal precincts of the North when Florida decisively made Wallace the victor.
Florida is a state that had more per capita lynchings than any other in the 1910s and 1920s, even though Mississippi had a Governor James K. Vardamann that openly advocated the murder of blacks. The Rosewood Massacre outside Orlando took place in this period of time as well. The state around the same time elected a Governor, Sidney Catts whose entire platform was based on discrimination, particularly against Catholics who were populating Northern cities and may move South. Despite being part of the previously "solid south" for the Democratic Party, Florida cast its electoral votes in 1928 for Herbert Hoover against Catholic Al Smith. The same thing happened in 1960 when Richard Nixon carried his only southern state running against the Catholic John Kennedy. When the Democrats nominated a die in the wool segregationist like Woodrow Wilson, the state's voters proudly cast their ballots for the party that ruled the south. But when a northern liberal like Adlai Stevenson or worse yet a Catholic like Al Smith was nominated by the party that dominated the state, Floridians crossed over and voted Republican.
This may seem like a remarkable set of coincidences but chances are they are not. While Florida took one giant step forward with the victory of Barack Obama in the state, we are reminded of Florida's not so proud history with the passage of Amendment 2 and the votes of many North Florida counties against Obama.
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- I am the host of the Major League Soccer Talk and EPL Talk Podcasts and am frequent guest on other (world) football shows. I am also the publisher of various other websites including this one. I work in public/government relations in addition to my soccer work and have a keen interest in history, politics, aviation, travel,and the world around us.