*Freedom Subject To Prosecution
Florida was ground zero for the “election” of George W. Bush, which put in motion eight years of disastrous policies that brought us to where we are today. As a Floridian, I can’t tell you the number of times I was scrutinized over that when asked where I was from when vacationing or making small talk with strangers, which is laughable to anyone who knows me. As if I would have ever have voted for George W. Bush.
Now Florida has become what I think of as a symbolic ground zero for what Republicans hope will bring them victory again in 2012:
The GOP War On Democracy.
The latest victim? A high school teacher organizing a drive to get her students pre-registered to vote. One might ask since when is a simple civics lesson, and helping young students exercise their right to vote considered a violation of the law?
Since Florida Governor Rick Scott bought his way into office and appointed himself CEO, judge and jury on behalf of the citizens in Florida. Thanks to Scott and his Republican enablers in the Florida legislature, teacher Jill Cicciarelli is in violation of Florida’s new strict election laws, is facing large fines, and could be prosecuted for it.
Cicciarelli isn’t just a victim of the GOP’s war on Democracy, she’s just one of many targets in Scott’s larger war against Floridians.
Take Rosalie Whiley, She’s a blind woman who wanted to apply for her food stamps online without having to rely on others to do it for her. One of Scott’s first actions of self-proclaimed “Supreme Executive Power” was to freeze regulations subject to his approval. One of those regulations blocked Whiley from getting her food stamps.
Another example is Luis Lebron, a Navy veteran applying for temporary assistance to support his 4 year old son. Lebron was denied assistance because he refused to waive his Fourth Amendment rights and submit to drug testing, another new law which Scott claims is for “the benefit of children.” The law requires those applying for welfare benefits to essentially “prove they aren’t drug users” before obtaining those benefits, a test the applicant must pay for out of pocket, presumably to be repaid if the test proves negative. This law which Scott claimed would save the state money has actually been quite costly to taxpayers, and the numbers of those testing positive minuscule at best.
In both cases above, the court stepped in and ruled in part against Scott’s laws and regulations. In the case of the ruling against Scott's regulation freeze, he disagreed with the court and found ways to get around the ruling by “informally” advising agencies on what rules they should enact. Apparently Scott feels his "Supreme Executive Authority," applies to the Florida Supreme Court as well. As Floridians now know all too well, if the King Rick Scott ain't happy, he'll make sure nobody else is either.
Scott and the Republicans in the Florida Legislature's actions are indicative of the entire party's. They set decades of disastorous policies in motion, and during the younger Bush years they all but destroyed the economy. Typical of the party, they make a mess, and then a Democrat comes into office and tries to clean it up, after which that Democrat is demonized, and the GOP PR machine drives them back into office where the cycle begins all over again.
However, the present situation is a little different this time, because not only is the adult in the White House a Democrat, but he's black, and he's smarter than the entire current crop of Republicans combined. Given those circumstances, they simply can't allow him to improve the disaster they created in any way, because now the American people are onto their game.
Republicans have used every trick in their demented little book. They've tried to insult our intelligence by blaming the results of their policies on a president who's been in office for only the last three years. They've tried to scare people with name calling. Socialists! Marxists! Nazis! Communists! Not to mention morphing all of the above into one gigantic demon never seen before. Run for your lives! The only way to save yourselves is to vote for Republicans, because they're the only party that will keep you safe! Except that myth too has blown up in their faces.
They managed to fool some into voting for them in 2010, Rick Scott among them. They ran on the promise of jobs, a better economy, smaller government, and less regulations and taxes for businesses, which they claimed were evil and prevented job creation.
The result? Well, the jobless are still in line at the unemployment office until the GOP cuts their benefits early. The promise of lower taxes for creation of phantom jobs hasn't panned out of course, another myth. The big GOP solution? Why, more tax cuts of course!
What about 'big government?" Well, that's a mixed bag. It got smaller if you count the axed government jobs, and the ongoing privatization of education and prisons, and government contracts to big donors.
On the other hand, government has stepped in to regulate the uterus and all things relevant to it, which may soon extend to birth control. The GOP won't stop until a woman is forced to give birth no matter what the circumstances. How she plans to pay for raising that child is her problem. If that child grows up and can't fend for itself in the face of the obstacles those politicians put in place, well, they're clearly slackers and they're on their own!
The one single recourse they may have left is their vote, and that may well be the one thing standing in the way of a continued GOP path of destruction when all that party's myths have become glaringly transparent. You need only look to the Occupy Wall Street protests all around the country to see that GOP fallacies have been destroyed much like George W. Bush's bungled 2002 quote: "fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can't get fooled again." It seems the days of Republicans reliance on voter misinformation and lack of education are numbered.
Which brings us back to New Smyrna Beach High School's student government association and Jill Cicciarelli, the teacher who dared to pre-register students so that they could exercise their right to vote. Under Rck Scott and Florida Republicans new election laws, that right is no longer a simple matter. The fear of prosecution has already been an effective way of suppressing the vote. While they may not have become another ACORN, the League of Wommen Voters in Florida no longer runs the risk of registering voters.
Now we have a high school teacher who may face prosecution for helping young, impressionable students who are getting a real education on how democracy works, and how easily it can be taken away. For them, and all Americans, that vote may be all we have left.
We vote, so we are the very people Rick Scott and the Republican Party are afraid of. We can't afford to let them take that away too.
And neither can this country.