Almost halfway through December and over halfway to Christmas. Did I just freak you out a little bit? I have to admit, saying it outloud sent shivers down my spine. And it’s a little unfair, I’m going to stand on my soapbox here before we get into it, but this new gift giving dynamic isn’t one I’m in favor of. Everyone else knows exactly what to buy me, right? Gifts for my two month old. And some of that stuff, like the little socks and bows, is actually fun to shop for. So while you’re out there spreading Christmas cheer, I’m filtering Amazon products by delivery date trying to figure out which off brand massage gun you want. I kid, I kid, I’ll swing through Connors, down Citrus Ave, try to keep it as local as possible, but man, it would be way more fun to buy baby stuff than try to figure out what each aunt and uncle doesn’t already have.
Okay enough of that, I’ve got a loaded show during this commission meeting Tuesday. They might be unveiling the plans to the animal shelter about two hours from now, very exciting, a lot of amazing announcements coming out of Crystal River this weekend. Go check out the Mayor Joe Meek Facebook page if you don’t already follow it because it’s an exciting time for the city. Of course if you read Sunday’s column or have been following the news then you know it was a busy week for CCSO, there’s really a ton of topics to talk about but I’ve tried to narrow it. In about six minutes I’ll get to the reaction to the Chronicle weekend commentary which ties together a couple of the columns into one thing an otherwise great Sunday section missed. But let’s start here.
I turn 34 years old five weeks from today. Now as a parent with a looming birthday pushing me out of my early 30s into my mid-30s, I’m running out of chances to play the card that allows me to blame my naive perspective on youthful inexperience. Because my time is running out, I am going to make some assertions about the direction of the Republican Party, both locally and statewide, and if you disagree with me - I blame it on my youth - even if for the last time.
Mike Wright wrote a piece last week covering the Republican Executive Committee, or REC, elections. This is the official structure of the local Republican Party. And I kind of jumped down his throat a bit in my response, sorry Mike. Here’s why I did that though, from the piece, “Citrus County Republicans showed up in force and re-elected Mike to another two-year chairman term. In doing so, they sent a strong message to those who think turmoil is the best way to go: Hit the road, Jack.”
I took several parts of his piece, if you want to read my comment - go to the Just Wright Citrus Facebook page - the least I can do after my outburst is throw a bit of traffic his way.
Here’s my assertion that you might disagree with: one side of the Republican Party declaring victory is not the way to go. We shouldn’t be telling people to “hit the road jack” just because they challenged our choices in open elections or because they sometimes make meeting difficult with their stubbornness and differing viewpoints.
And here’s why some even in the Republican Party might disagree with me. Because statewide and certainly nationally, there are factions of Republicans who are relatively new to the Party process, most joined around 2016 with the rise of Trump, who are using rhetoric that they need to “take over” the RECs. Some will say take them back, into the hands of the people from the morally bankrupt.
When there is a takeover attempt, like what is happening more out there than locally although some of the talking points were similar, then the natural reaction is to declare victory and work to suppress any future attempt at upheaval, I get that, except that’s not at all what we should do.
First, let me say I don’t want this viewpoint to minimize any of the incredibly hardwork people put in to advocating for their candidates prior to the election. The results, some of which were as close as six votes as reported by Mike Wright in Florida Politics although it feels wrong to talk about specifics of a closed meeting publicly, could have been different if it weren’t for some dedicated people and they have my sincerest gratitude. They should savor the results after the long, thankless hours they put in. But they shouldn’t celebrate it as a win over others.
But Bobby, Bobby, this was a takeover. The other side would have happily crushed any dissent as soon as they took power. Yes they would have. In the name of conversative orthodoxy, some who have already been trying to bully or name call their way into getting people to be in full agreement with everything they say would have employed those tactics on the organization as a whole. And that highlights the greater responsibility we have to not do the same.
There’s an old West Wing episode, and I know it’s a lefty show written by an elitist that’s now over 20 years old, but this one episode was right after 9/11. The chief speech writer to the fictional president has written incendiary language about muslims and a congresswoman who also happens to be his ex-wife is trying to get him to cut the line. He won’t.
In his peak frustration, he says “I don’t remember having to explain to the Italians that our problem wasn’t with them, but with Mousalini, they’ll like us when we win.” The differentiation between a group of people and the extremists within those groups is so important, but the message is still the wrong one. In fact, he even relents and at least considers cutting the language at the end of the discussion.
So why is this forgiving mindset especially important to the Republican Party? Because we’ve already seen the negative effects earlier this Spring.
I love our great governor but let's not forget he took action to crush dissent against his proposals within the party. I’ve never talked to Representative Ralph Massullo about this subject personally, and even if I did, I’m sure he would reject this characterization of events because he is one of the most diplomatic people I know but the Governor’s endorsement of Blaise Ingoglia over him in the state senate race had to be at least in partial response to Blaise supporting the governor’s congressional maps and Dr. Massullo voting for the legislative maps.
At the time, I thought he should have stayed it but since Dr. Massullo is as smart as he is gracious, he recognized running for House again was the better route. I still would have liked that primary to have been decided by the voters rather than the governor even though I think Senator Ingoglia will do a great job and I’m thankful to be collecting $1,000 from him this Friday for the Citrus Construction Academy.
Call me naive because there are people out there who want to take over power in order to leverage it against others, including me, but I still don’t think that is reason enough to do the same to them. Hit the road, jack? No. To me, that’s as naive as they’ll like us when we win. We need to see the elections of last week as a spirited contest within an active and healthy Party and not frame it as celebrating the crushing defeat of dissenters who now deserve to be punished as something less than Republicans. We may not always agree but we are all in this together. They’ll like us when we lead through respect, not fear.
Getting to topic 2 but first,
We just crossed 300 downloads of our mobile app. This may not sound like a lot but getting people to search for a platform then add it to their phone requires major involvement and 300 people have happily done so. Thank you to you if you are one of them, maybe you’re listening on the app right now. If you haven’t, please take a moment and type in Citrus County Concurrent in your phone’s app store to join the over 300 others in staying in the know on the go.
Okay okay. Executive Editor Jeff Bryan had his second consecutive week off from writing. I say this not to call him out, everyone deserves some time off, and knowing him the little bit that I do he’s likely elbow-deep in 10 other projects rather than relaxing on a beach somewhere, but I got to say, I miss reading his work.
We did, however, get pieces from Publisher Trina Murphy and weekly columnist Cortney Stewart along with other but I want to focus on those two for the purposes of this topic. I’m actually going to talk about Cortney’s piece from last week which was about the World Cup and Trina’s column focused on the importance of local charitable giving. Both reminded me of something that we so often overlook. Common ground.
Cortney talked about the impressive TV ratings the American World Cup games get for a country that doesn’t really value the sport and it’s a good point. She’s highlighting the value of patriotism as a uniter. So too does Trina talk about all the different organizations and the good they provide the community. She talks about individuals as well as teams and the work they accomplish on behalf of their organization’s missions. We can feel the common humanity among it.
It’s not just sports or charity that can have this power though. I still believe that politics and the media can too although it is getting increasingly difficult. This difficulty is because social media, but not because of the reason you think about social media. The filter bubble, you might be thinking, the echo chamber of only seeing what we already agree with. Not really. There’s actually academic research that says exposing yourself to both viewpoints can radicalize you even further because you become frustrated with how dumb the opposing person is to your previously held belief. So if that’s the case, what’s the answer to tamp down tensions?
Common ground. The sinister element behind social media is that it is social identity theory on steroids. It is the hyper-encouragement and reward behind virtue signalling and drawing deeper distinctions between your in-group and others out-group. In other words, it actively discourages finding common ground with someone you might disagree with and encourages drawing battle lines.
I loved the Chronicle Sunday section this week, although I do miss me some Jeff Bryan, but I hope these holidays you too can find that common ground with friends or family you might otherwise disagree with.