Florida Poet Laureate Peter Meinke reacts to Florida's midterm elections

This week's Poet's Notebook posits that "purple state" is about is real as the "blue wave."

click to enlarge The talking heads of Morning Joe. - Jeanne Meinke
Jeanne Meinke
The talking heads of Morning Joe.

The dark blush of anger

the impolite reply

the loathing of foreigners

uphold the State.

We often begin our day half-listening to Morning Joe and co-host Mika, enjoying the liberal patter between them and their guests. Mika’s the daughter of the well-known political advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski (who died last year), and Jeanne and I snobbishly called him Bishek because we had two friends named Zbigniew — try pronouncing that — during our year in Warsaw; and they both answered to “Bishek.” We like Mika because she occasionally tells Joe to shut up, in a fond sort of way; and because President Trump insulted her, calling her “low IQ Mika,” along with the grosser insults which are Trump’s specialty. 

He called Andrew Gillum (lock him up!) “a stone cold thief.” Of course Gillum shouldn’t have accepted tickets to Hamilton, but that’s low on the list of political sins, including those of Ron DeSantis (not to mention Trump and ex-Governor Rick Scott). Anyway, after the election Joe and Mika ran through the various victories and defeats, deciding who were the big winners and losers.

And the biggest loser was: FLORIDA! America has once again proved it can hold a national election that’s safe and reasonably fair. Its citizens can rise to the occasion, this time electing an extraordinarily diverse group of political leaders — women, gays, a rainbow of colors and beliefs, many of them sensible, like expanding medicare, loosening marijuana laws, encouraging unions, and offering the vote back to minor felons who’ve paid their dues. And now the Dems control the House. In short, no matter how he rolls it, Trumpism got whacked.

But Florida’s a major disappointment. It’s unsettling that Florida has long been called a “purple state,” giving us slivers of hope as the various elections loomed, but always, like Lucy with Charlie Brown’s football, football-loving Florida snatches them away at the last minute, proving we’re a red state at heart. It’s not so much that as a state we’re racist (though that may be the case), but that we’re capable of electing such fifth-rate candidates who’ll do anything Trump goads them into doing, no matter how short-sighted. But health care? Fair taxes? Compassionate immigration laws, and above all for Florida, strong climate change actions? From Senator Scott and Governor DeSantis? Fuhgeddaboutit! 

Jeanne and I aren’t proud of it, but early on we were suspicious that this might happen. We liked Gillum; still, we were afraid Florida wouldn’t be up to electing a progressive black candidate, so we voted for Gwen Graham in the primary. But Gillum was so bright and eloquent, who wouldn’t like him, with all these registered Democrats, new immigrants, and a seemingly enthusiastic youth vote from the colleges and universities? We happily embraced Gillum and went along with Florida’s imaginary Blue Wave. 

This national midterm vote should give us confidence — all those smart women! — that the country will rise up and regain its dignity in 2020, but a look at the electoral map makes us a tad queasy; it hasn’t budged from 2016, with its splashes of university-fueled blue on both coasts and a small pool at the top of the Midwest around this huge area of red, state after state after state — right now including Florida — where nothing ever happens, and they like it that way. Even this late-developing recount has a feeling of doom; a longshot for Nelson and Gillum, and unforeseeable violence if they win. It’s hard to believe that Lucyfer will switch and not pull that football away once again.

Being a poet, I’m allowed to have a vision now and then, so how about this: In 2020 a blue-striped wave of forgiven felons, now vegetarians who’ve seen the light, will flock to the voting booths and save Florida and America in the biggest heist they’ve ever pulled.  

Hey, why not? This is Florida.

Roars at a touchdown

slums near the harbor

liquor for the poor

uphold the state

—both quotes from “Three Talks On Civilization” in Selected Poems by Czeslaw Milosz (The Seabury Press, NY 1973) 

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