Let us recall the (very bad) year that was in Florida

Buildings in Surfside, seen through an underwater camera in the ocean, illustrate the danger to Florida from rising oceans due to the climate crisis. Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

America is a hellscape of idiocy and grift and has been since the crazy SOB in the White House began his tenure by lying about the size of his inauguration crowd.

Three years into the regime, it’s only gotten worse, especially here in Florida, a state run by enablers, bootlickers, and some possible unindicted co-conspirators. Here, in no particular order, is a selection of 2019’s best (by which I mean worst) stories.

The climate crisis. Two days before Christmas, Mad King Donald ranted in West Palm Beach about the scourge of wind power (actually one of the cleanest and cheapest forms of renewable energy), blaming turbines for sending fumes out into “the universe,” causing cancer, and attacking bald eagles.

Meanwhile, heavy rains, exacerbated by global warming, caused widespread South Florida flooding, shutting down the Fort Lauderdale airport.

Lev and Igor. At first, Ron DeSantis aped Donald Trump, claiming he didn’t really know Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, the two Soviet-born Florida “businessmen” up to their eyeballs in the Giuliani-Ukraine scandal – even though they raised lots of money for his 2018 gubernatorial run.

Truth is, DeSantis was initially happy to take Parnas’ and Fruman’s 50 grand – until the two got arrested for campaign violations and suddenly DeSantis, who had largely avoided being tainted by Trumpist scandals, found himself being sucked into the ethical black hole that is Trump.

Parnas, who lives in Boca Raton, seems eager to rat out both Giuliani and Trump.

He’s become a true Florida Man.

Amendment Four. Republicans have figured out that relying on the votes of old, mean, dumb, white folks will not keep them in power forever, what with people of color, the young, and the educated breaking in big numbers.

Obviously, you stop voters from voting.

In 2018, Floridians approved restoring the franchise to nonviolent felons who’ve completed their sentences.

Republicans have spent the better part of a year figuring out ways to thwart the citizens’s will.

And if that doesn’t work, the Florida Legislature now demands that early voting sites on college campuses provide plenty of “non-permitted” parking for people who aren’t students – making sure that campus sites won’t be eligible, and fewer young people will vote.

See how that works?

Highways to Hell. Which would you rather have, some pristine wilderness, undisturbed wetlands to mitigate storm surges and filter pollutants out of our water, and habitat for the most majestic of creatures, the Florida Panther?

Or three big, fat, stinking toll roads tearing through some of the state’s last undeveloped areas?

Florida’s money-grubbing government says more roads means more money! More people! Sprawl! Gas stations! McBurgerWendyBells everywhere!

They’re all for this deranged plan to wreck what’s left of natural Florida.

Wildlife biologists say the southernmost road will destroy so much habitat, it will likely lead to the panther’s extinction. “Completely overstated,” huffs Florida senate president Bill Galvano.

Who are you going to believe, a respected scientist or a Trump voter?

Rick Scott, Waste of Space. What is the junior senator from Florida doing with his time in Washington?

When he’s not pandering to the short-fingered vulgarian in the White House, he’s trying to get rid of arts funding. Who needs the NEA and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and all those stupid museums?

Yes, the same twit who once opined that philosophy degrees were useless (God forbid people should learn to think critically) whines that taxpayers don’t get a good “return on investment” for the $300 million (chump change in federal budget terms) it spends on the National Endowment for the Arts.

Rick Scott has no idea what he’s talking about. The arts contributed more than $760 billion to the U.S. economy in 2018.

Trump: Florida Man. In late October, Trump declared he will henceforth be an official resident of Florida.

Now, he’s making the most of being a Florida Man, hauling a soldiers up on the stage with him at an Aventura fundraiser: one murdered a guy he thought might be a Taliban bombmaker and the other ordered the shooting of unarmed villagers.

Trump pardoned them. The Army considers them war criminals.

Actually, Trump likes war criminals. So what if disgraced former Navy SEAL Edward Gallagher, who – according to members of his unit – stabbed a teenaged prisoner and used Iraqi civilians for target practice? Trump invited him to Mar-a-Lago and thanked him for his service.

The Climate Crisis. Yes, we’ve had this one already. But this is Florida, so we will be seeing it over and over and over until Miami Beach finally disappears under the waves, becoming a deco artificial reef.

Truth be told, you can ignore all these other stories: They are mere pimples on America’s ruddy backside compared to what’s happening with sea-level rise, warmer water (hurricane super-food), and mass extinction. Florida is the United States‘ climate change ground zero, the place where even idiots (the technical term for anyone who denies the reality of higher temperatures and way higher tides) will have to admit that we are drowning.

Trouble is, ignorance beats knowledge every day in Florida. Trump won’t believe in climate change until he has to dog paddle his lard ass across the Intracoastal. Maybe not even then.

As for Florida’s lawmakers, in 2019, they actually started uttering the phrase “climate change.” I guess we will call this progress.

Sort of.

Plus, they’re going to hold a meeting.

Meanwhile, we continue to encourage fossil fuel extraction – including drilling in the Apalachicola Basin, one of the most biodiverse estuarine systems on the planet. We continue to drive gas-guzzlers and let poison pollute our waters and build condos on fragile slips of land that probably won’t be there in 10 years.

We’re a really smart species.

Happy 2020!

Diane Roberts
Diane Roberts is an 8th-generation Floridian, born and bred in Tallahassee, which probably explains her unhealthy fascination with Florida politics. Educated at Florida State University and Oxford University in England, she has been writing for newspapers since 1983, when she began producing columns on the legislature for the Florida Flambeau. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, the Times of London, the Guardian, the Washington Post, the Oxford American, and Flamingo. She has been a member of the Editorial Board of the St. Petersburg Times–back when that was the Tampa Bay Times’s name–and a long-time columnist for the paper in both its iterations. She was a commentator on NPR for 22 years and continues to contribute radio essays and opinion pieces to the BBC. Roberts is also the author of four books, most recently Dream State, an historical memoir of her Florida family, and Tribal: College Football and the Secret Heart of America. She lives in Tallahassee, except for the times she runs off to Great Britain, desperate for a different government to satirize.