Mid­dling turnout would have turned the elec­tion

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Opinion - Fred Grimm

Broward County, of all places.

Broward suf­fered more lag­gard, no-ac­count, couldn’t-be-both­ered, sorry-but-I-had-to-stay­home-and-play-GrandTheft-Auto, no-vote vot­ers than any other joint in Florida. Ex­cept for the state’s other mighty bas­tion of pro­gres­sive pol­i­tics, Mi­ami-Dade County.

Some 42.6 per­cent of Broward vot­ers were no shows. In what pro­gres­sives billed as the most im­por­tant mid-term elec­tion in mem­ory, an op­por­tu­nity to re­pu­di­ate the men­dac­ity and big­otry and sex­ism and re­ac­tionary pol­i­tics of the Trump regime,

503,000 vot­ers from the most pro­gres­sive county in Florida couldn’t be both­ered.

Only Mi­ami-Dade man­aged a more dis­mal show­ing. In a county where 53.8 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion is for­eign born, after a cam­paign sea­son turned ran­cid by the den­i­gra­tion of im­mi­grants, 618,000 Mi­amiDade reg­is­tered vot­ers still de­cided they had more press­ing is­sues than at­tend­ing to their civic obli­ga­tions.

The elec­tion turnout in Mi­ami-Dade was de­press­ing. In Broward, it was down­right dis­grace­ful.

Elec­tion day was ex­actly 100 days shy of the one-year an­niver­sary of the Park­land slaugh­ter. It was the gun vi­o­lence hor­ror right here in Broward County, we were as­sured, that would fi­nally mo­ti­vate the youth vote. This elec­tion would bring a day of reck­on­ing, when a mighty army of young vot­ers showed Florida politi­cians what hap­pens when they kow­tow to the NRA. Ap­par­ently, they win elec­tions. Elec­tion Day came just 11 days after an un­hinged Trump sup­porter, Ce­sar Sayoc, ap­par­ently in the throes of the hate­ful­ness afoot this po­lit­i­cal sea­son, was ar­rested right here in Broward County, out­side an auto parts store in Plan­ta­tion, and charged with mail­ing bombs to CNN and prom­i­nent Democrats across the coun­try. You’d think dis­cov­er­ing that the would-be bomber was a lo­cal boy might have awak­ened our in­do­lent vot­ers from their col­lec­tive lethargy. But no.

Just a day later, 11 Jews were mas­sa­cred at a Pitts­burgh syn­a­gogue, the dead­li­est act of anti-Semitic vi­o­lence in Amer­i­can his­tory. The killer was ap­par­ently mo­ti­vated by the myth that a car­a­van com­posed of ter­ror­ists,

MS-13 gang­bangers and walk­ing dis­ease vec­tors, all on the pay­roll of a Jewish bil­lion­aire, was march­ing out of Cen­tral Amer­ica, bent on in­vad­ing the U.S. (You re­mem­ber the car­a­van, don’t you? Such a big, scary is­sue, right up un­til Tues­day evening). You’d think that the county with the largest Jewish pop­u­la­tion in Florida would storm the polls and vote down politi­cians who af­fil­i­ate them­selves with the fo­menter of such hate­ful, dan­ger­ous, in­cite­ful, ly­ing rhetoric,

Ap­par­ently not.

Broward and Mi­ami-Dade and Palm Beach coun­ties all re­ported turnouts that lagged be­hind the statewide turnout of 62.1 per­cent. Jux­ta­pose the teeny-tiny win­ning statewide mar­gins (un­less a re­count re­verses the out­comes) of Rick Scott and Ron DeSan­tis against the 60 per­cent-plus mar­gins in fa­vor of Bill Nel­son and An­drew Gil­lum in South Florida. (Gil­lum led by 68 per­cent in Broward.) Just a turnout here­abouts equal to the mid­dling state av­er­age would have turned this elec­tion.

Didn’t hap­pen. But I’ll tell you who did show up. Al­most 78 per­cent of Sumter County vot­ers, led by The Vil­lages re­tire­ment com­mu­nity, 125,000 folks with plenty of leisure time to hop into their tricked-out golf carts, cruise down to their polling places and re­new their al­le­giance to the party of Don­ald Trump. The Pres­i­dent re­ceived about 70 per­cent of the Vil­lages’ vote in 2016. Rick Scott and Ron DeSan­tis did about as well this time out. In other states, the Repub­li­can Party may have evolved into the party of work­ing class white men, but Florida’s ver­sion is a gag­gle of pros­per­ous white re­tirees in ca­bana wear.

It’s the po­lit­i­cal para­dox of our time. The el­derly get their creaky bones up and mov­ing and go vote. The young – de­spite rather more ur­gent rea­sons to elect lead­ers who’ll pro­tect their fu­ture from en­vi­ron­men­tal degra­da­tion, cli­mate change, lousy schools, un­af­ford­able health care, gun vi­o­lence, rot­ting in­fra­struc­ture -- vote at about half the rate of folks who won’t be around to en­dure the long-range con­se­quences of their po­lit­i­cal choices.

The Tampa Bay Times re­ported that two-thirds of Florida’s no-show vot­ers in this elec­tion were younger than 45. Gil­lum, for ex­am­ple, re­ceived over 60 per­cent of vote from the 45 and younger set, while DeSan­tis re­ceived 54 per­cent of over-45 vot­ers. But the older cat­e­gory ac­counted for

75 per­cent of the elec­torate.

The statewide Demo­cratic can­di­date who came clos­est to win­ning was Nikki Fried, a Fort Laud­erdale lawyer run­ning for agri­cul­tural com­mis­sioner. She trailed Repub­li­can State Rep. Matt Cald­well by just 12,521 votes -- 16 per­cent of the statewide to­tal, a mar­gin so close it trig­gered an au­to­matic re­count.

Fried, by the way, is a lob­by­ist for the mar­i­juana in­dus­try. Maybe that tells us some­thing about how to fire up those elu­sive young vot­ers.

Fred Grimm (@grim­m_fred or leogrimm@gmail.com), a long­time res­i­dent of Fort Laud­erdale, has worked as a re­porter and colum­nist in South Florida since 1976.

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