No joke: Veteran columnist Mary Jo Melone looks back despairingly at the Florida election

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“When Tallahassee gets in the way, we’re taking them to the woodshed,” declared Pinellas’ Jeff Brandes, now on his way to the state House from St. Petersburg.

“When government stands in the way, I’m going to clear the way,” said Dana Young, a freshly minted state House member from Tampa.

Somebody better warn their fellow Republicans, who are now in charge of the universe. They’ve been threatened by some of their own.

Young and Brandes could be accused of no more than lack of originality, except that they are so eagerly cynical. Slogans like that were not meant to tap into the best within us, but the worst: our anger, and that from which it always arises, our fear. There’s plenty to be afraid of. In Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties, the unemployment rate hovers around 12 percent. In Pasco, it’s 13.

[image-1]So “Let’s Get To Work,” says Rick Scott, who spent his way into the governor’s mansion with the millions he made at Columbia/HCA. That one I just don’t understand. Voters who were said to be tired of fraud and waste in government elected a man still under suspicion of perpetuating fraud against the government. Columbia/HCA paid $1.7 billion in fines for what it improperly took from Medicare. Whenever Scott complains that the state hamstrings business with excessive regulation, remember that.

The election results mean there is no brake on the Republicans now. They can be as silly as they like, or as unapologetically bold.

Incoming state Senate president Mike Haridopolos and House speaker Dean Cannon are likely to re-introduce a bill in the spring to permit oil drilling off our coast.

A legislator from Stuart, William Snyder, has an immigration bill in the works that tops Arizona’s law for chutzpah. According to the Miami New Times, Snyder’s bill would have the police stop people and demand their immigration papers, except that anybody from Canada and “visa waiver” countries would be presumed to be here legally. Those countries? Four in Asia, and all of western Europe. In other words, mostly white people.

Rick Scott thinks this is a swell idea.

Same goes for drug-testing welfare recipients. Scott likes that, too. What’s next? Drug-testing people who get unemployment benefits?

Newspaper editorial writers will rail against things like this, naturally, but the Republicans will range unimpeded until some tipping point is reached, and voters realize they have been had. It has been said that this might happen quickly, that the election results were no endorsement of the GOP, and the rest of us might turn against the party as easily as we turned against the Democrats. Call me a pessimist, but I doubt it. We’ll be too busy scraping by to notice. The Republican lock on Florida will be too profound.

Already, Marco Rubio is being touted as a possible GOP vice-presidential candidate in 2012. Pam Bondi has Sarah Palin’s blessing.

I remind myself that the rest of the country watches Florida because we are a bellwether state, because independents (especially in that strip called the I-4 corridor, between Tampa and Orlando) tilt our politics, and tend to moderate them. But — no pun on our way of life intended — a sea change has taken place. We have let it happen, because we are afraid; the GOP is happy to take advantage of it.

And this is a party that loves to talk of morality.

No, I am not smiling. I am worried, plain and simple. I keep looking for the check that will balance the GOP in this state and can’t find it. If you think I exaggerate, and that the Republicans were simply silly during the campaign season, just wait until they get the chance to vote.

Mary Jo Melone is a freelance writer and an alumna of the St. Petersburg Times.

[Editor's Note: The following column is by Mary Jo Melone. It was posted to Daily Loaf by Joe Bardi, but the text is all Mary.]

The silly season.

That’s what some people call the months-long ritual of politics that just ended.

So why am I not laughing?

Is it because Allen West, the new South Florida Republican congressman who doesn’t live in the district he represents, once bragged he had a higher security clearance than President Obama?

Is it because Daniel Webster, the new Orlando Republican congressman, opposes abortion even in cases of rape or incest?

Or how about Pam Bondi, the new attorney general, who has lurched so far to the right her old Tampa friends hardly recognize her?

Is it because Democrats John Dingfelder and Linda Saul-Sena, after years of progressive service in politics, were simply swept away in their races for the Hillsborough County Commission?

Or because we have to call Jim Norman, the subject of a federal corruption investigation, state senator now?

We had one winner who seems to have stolen somebody else’s lines. Or was it the other way around?

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