Sexism + socialism: The Republican line on Democratic women candidates — do-nothings — is emerging

TALLAHASSEE, FLA. 3/7/19- A coalition of women's groups march to the Capitol as part of International Women's Day Thursday in Tallahassee. COLIN HACKLEY PHOTO

“Do-nothing.” “Delusional.” That’s the way Republicans are talking about Nikki Fried and Val Demings, the top Democratic women running for governor and U.S. senator in next year’s elections.

By contrast, Gov. Ron DeSantis was relatively mild when Democratic Congressman Charlie Crist of St. Petersburg entered the Democratic gubernatorial primary, joking about Crist’s history of switching parties (Crist served as a Republican governor).

Vice President Kamala Harris takes her official portrait Thursday, March 4, 2021, in the South Court Auditorium in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building at the White House. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

It doesn’t end there: U.S. Sen. Rick Scott has lobbed the do-nothing charge at Vice President Kamala Harris, too.

“What has she ever accomplished? And by the way, putting Kamala Harris in charge of the border is like asking an arsonist to put out a fire, like asking [New York Gov.] Andrew Cuomo to be in charge of a sexual harassment seminar,” Scott said on Fox News, according to this Florida Politics report.

Fried, the Democratic Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services who’s after DeSantis’ job, and who has clashed with him frequently during meetings of the Florida Cabinet, commented about the opening salvos Wednesday on Twitter.

“Ron DeSantis’ response to my campaign for Florida governor: ‘She does nothing.’ Marco Rubio’s response to @valdemings’ campaign for Florida senator: ‘Demings is a do-nothing House member.’ They lie about our records because they’re scared of facing two dynamic women in 2022,” Fried wrote.

Fried
Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services Nikki Fried. Credit: CD Davidson-Hiers/Florida Phoenix

She even deployed the criticism in a fundraising blast, writing: “If you’re sick of hearing Republicans lie about women and ready for something new, click here to chip in $5 or more and help us fight back against these attacks.”

Such attacks are clearly sexist, according to Barbara DeVane, a Tallahassee lobbyist whose clients include Florida NOW.

“Once, again, Rubio and DeSantis have reared their sexist heads, when they say these women are do-nothings. Nothing could be farther from the truth. These are two dynamic women,” DeVane said in a telephone interview.

The Republican contenders “have done nothing for the majority of the people in this state,” she added.

“Projection at its finest,” Anna Eskamani, a Democratic state House member from Orange County, joked in a text message to the Phoenix.

The comments play to the idea that women are weak and ineffectual, Eskamani said in a subsequent telephone call.

“Emotional,” she said. “I think any attempt to paint us as that feeds into gender-based tropes.”

DeSantis unloaded on Fried the day after she opened her campaign on June 1.

“Nikki Fried has done nothing in office. She does nothing. All she does is emote on social media, virtue signal to small-dollar donors in California and New York,” the governor told reporters during a news conference, not mentioning that he’s raised money in the same states.

The GOP has found at least one substantial criticism of Fried — her correction before jumping into the race of her financial disclosures to include $351,480 in previously unreported earnings, as reported by Politico Florida and elsewhere.

Sen Joe Gruters of Sarasota County — who also serves as Republican Party of Florida chairman — has asked the relevant committees in the Florida House and Senate to investigate. Additionally, Evan Power, chairman of the Leon County Republican Party, filed a complaint against Fried with the Florida Commission on Ethics, according to published reports.

As for Demings, state GOP Executive Director Helen Aguirre Ferré this week issued a rousing denunciation of the congresswoman, who helped prosecute Donald Trump’s first impeachment and served as the first female Orlando police chief.

“Demings is clearly delusional about what is good for the Sunshine State,” the statement reads in part. “She thinks (U.S. House Speaker Nancy) Pelosi knows what is best for Florida families. While Sen. Rubio consistently delivers results for Florida, Val Demings will always prioritize her political ambitions and liberal socialist agenda over the needs of Florida families.”

“Delusional” — that’s a psychiatric diagnosis for people who can’t recognize reality. In other words, crazy.

Rubio, himself, focused on the ineffectual and “socialist” angles in in a video posted on Twitter.

“Congresswoman Val Demings is a do-nothing House member with not a single significant legislative achievement in her time in Congress,” Rubio said, calling her a “far-left, liberal Democrat” who votes with “the Marxist squad,” referring to a cadre of progressive Congressional Democratic women.

U.S. Rep. Val Demings (D-FL). Photo by Shawn Thew – Pool/Getty Images.

The Phoenix couldn’t reach the Demings campaign for comment, but the campaign-opener video posted on Demings’ Twitter feed notes her service on congressional judiciary, homeland security, and intelligence committees, plus her role in the Trump impeachment, which raised her national profile.

She’s demonstrated that she’s perfectly capable of scrapping with Republicans — see this exchange with the GOP’s Jim Jordan during a judiciary hearing.

Florida Democrats, meanwhile, hit at Rubio on Thursday in a written statement accusing him of putting “party over democracy” and refusing “to stand up for what is right.” The party criticized a number of Rubio positions, including his opposition to $1,400 in federal COVID-relief checks; to legislation to allow women to sue over unequal pay; and to a commission to investigate the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, among other perceived sins.

“Marco Rubio has proven time and time again that he does not have the spine to take on hard fights, and will put politics over people every single time,” party spokeswoman Alexandra Caffrey said. “Floridians deserve a real leader representing them in the Senate, not a weak coward like Marco Rubio.”

Eskamani, the Orange County Democrat, argues the “socialism” scare word and culture war assaults amount to changing the subject away from Republican vulnerabilities.

“It seems like culture wars are their main go-to — trying to completely distract from issues, because they know that if they talk about issues they won’t win,” she said.

“It’s really important that Democrats not be distracted by that. You want to focus on substance — how you have and will improve the lives of everyday people, and provide not only the history of that but the vision for the future.

“You know what it’ll do? It’ll get people like me all charged up,” DeVane said. “People like me feed off their energy.”