HERE'S some bad news for Ron DeSantis. Two of my friends are coming to Florida. Which is DeSantis’ worst nightmare: good people moving to what he is turning into a bad place. Our friends are not getting a home in Florida because they are crusaders, determined to change Florida. It’s just that they like the place. They have a community of good friends there, and of course, they know that FloridaisThe Sunshine State. That said, you can expect our friends – Northeasterners by birth and longtime residence – to vote Blue and to lend a hand to this or that progressive cause. Of course their arrival will not make much of a difference. It would be silly to think that just two folks - nice and accomplished as these people are - can reverse the dystopia that the DeSantisans are hurrying to install. But my friends will alter Florida’s moral ecology. Not by much; just a smidgen. Which is enough to make a change in Florida. That’s what it takes: Good people from “away” moving in. And good, people already there, staying put.
THIS IS THE OPPOSITE of the remedy that usually comes to mind: BOYCOTT! In fact, I’m not aware there is much of a Florida boycott underway. I’ve heard the idea discussed enthusiastically on one radio talk show; but that was broadcast out of Boston, so it doesn’t count. To the contrary, according to census data, more folks are arriving in Florida than are staying away or moving out. Still, there's that dreadful word, “Florida,” which creates an instant flight-don’t-fight response. Stay out. Hide your wallet. Move your spring training camp to Guam. Get your oranges somewhere else. Visit the Grand Canyon. Do whatever you must to shrink, strangle, starve and shrivel that evil economy. Boycott, if you value your life and those of your kids. Did you hear the governor declare that Florida is “Where Woke Goes to Die?” You did. So hit the trail. Go somewhere else, anywhere else. Head for Hawaii. Driving south on I 95? Make U-turn. Run for your life. Most of us do not want to ban books. We do not want to bully transgender kids. We do not want to black out Black history. We do not want to give mass murderers easier access to rifles. We do not want to scare college presidents into defunding campus diversity programs. We do not want to make capital punishment easier. We don’t want to ban abortion or to give Covid a fighting chance. Best to stay away. And boycotts sometimes do work – the grape boycott of the 1960s advanced Cesar Chavez’s farm workers’ movement – and it’s something that every one of us can do: vote with our dollars, keep our money away from an outlaw economy.
IN THE LONG RUN, however, I think a boycott isn’t the answer. I believe that the most effective way to turn things around is just the opposite: it’s to invest in Florida in a personal way; to show up, or, in Florida-speak, to stand your ground. I’ve seen that work in the place where I grew up. Eighty-three years ago, my liberal parents moved from the borough of Queens in New York City to the Green Mountain State. The folks wanted to be rid of the city and to have their kids grow upwith the cows. The politics, just like the awful winters, weren't a factor. Not that my Stevensonian mom and dad were happy to discover the place was overrun with crabby, miserly, set-in-their-ways indigenous Republicans. But the Vermont Republicans of yesteryear were not the crazed, cruel and frightening GOP terrorists of today. They weren’t up taking food from the hungry; or to make nice to Russian dictators; weren’t about to bankrupt the treasury; surely they wouldn’t dream of overthrowing the national government. The old-fashioned GOPers even held their noses from time to time and found common cause with those Democrats who still thought highly of that damned FDR. Things really got weird in the 1960s. More and more people from “away” were heading into the Vermont hills, drawn by the state’s beauty, its small-town charm, its fiery autumn extravaganzas and its sweet-as-maple-syrup town meetings. The migrants weren’t reformers; they went to Vermont because it seemed “nice.” But, slowly, steadily, year after year, decade after decade, they changed the state, its culture and its politics. Heck, at one point, Burlington, the state’s “biggest” city (always a relative term in Vermont), elected a SOCIALIST as mayor. Brooklyn-born Bernie Sanders had emigrated from New York City, like my parents. Now, Vermont was really off its rocker, because it elected Bernie to Congress, then to the Senate and here’s the biggest knee-slapper, he ran for president and remade 21st Century progressive politics. Meanwhile, back on the farm, Vermonters elected more and more Democrats, even Democratic governors, even female Democratic governors. And what were the Hippies putting in the cows’ milk, now? Those loonies at the State House passed heavy-duty environmental laws and legalized gay marriage without any court telling them that they had to. So, yes, Green turned to Blue. And Florida can turn Red into Blue.
IT WILL TAKE a huge inflow of good people. It will require good people, who are already there, to stay in Florida. It’s not easy, being in Florida. I’m saying that because it’s simple enough for me to pontificate, when, every night, I get safely tucked into bed in solidly Democratic Rhode Island (not that any of us are truly safe, these days). It’s quite a different thing to actually be on the field of play, having to fight for the future of America in a place where the contest is really underway. But, if you’re Ron DeSantis, my friends will terrify you. They are fierce – and effective – foes of nuclear power and nuclear war. They're champions of abortion, at no little personal risk. They are healers, musicians, caretakers, writers, reformers, cooks, parents, sailors, grandparents and dog-lovers, who’ve recently warmed to cats. Wherever these people have been; wherever they are now; wherever they are going to be - the effect is always the same: things get better. Now my friends are headed to Florida. And, governor, I doubt that they’re alone. So if you're Ron DeSantis, it's time to woke up.
I'VE BEEN a reporter and writer for 58 years, long enough to have learned that journalists don't know very much, although I've met some smart ones. Mainly, what reporters know comes from asking other people questions and fretting about the answers. This blog is a successor to one inspired by our dog, Phoebe, who was smart, sweet and the antithesis of Donald Trump. She died Feb. 3, and I don't see getting over that very soon. Occasionally, I may try to reach her via cell phone.