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How Was It Lost?

Post # 306, Bob McKnight's Florida Commentary

Florida went from the Best Legislative Body in the Country to Among the Very Worst. Here is how.

1995 was the year we lost the civility in our government--both national and local. Democrat Bill Clinton was President, Republican Bob Dole was the Majority Leader in the Senate and the new Speaker was Republican Newt Gingrich in the House. In Florida, Democratic Governor Lawton Chiles was in his second term and Jim Scott was the Republican Senate President. The Speaker of the Florida House was Democrat Peter Wallace.

The seed that began growing to create the deep divide was the Republican resentment of

Bill Clinton won the presidency with only 43% of the vote. The conservative Republican base did not like President Bush and many of them supported Independent Ross Perot. That shift resulted in more Republican votes lost for Bush than Clinton and Clinton was sworn in with the second-lowest winning percentage of all but 2 presidents. Perhaps more important were the swirling rumors about Clinton's reputation as a womanizer in his home state of Arkansas.

In 1987, the Miami Herald broke a story about Senator Gary Hart having an affair outside his marriage, and when asked about it, he urged the press to follow him. They did and found Hart actively involved in a sex affair. He dropped out of the race for President and the standard for reporting sex in politics was now changed forever.

House Speaker Gingrich was a smart and fiery leader of the conservatives in the U.S. House of Representatives. He began an investigation into Clinton's sexual rumors in the Whitehouse and found evidence worthy of a filing of Articles of Impeachment. Clinton was impeached and civility was lost for at least the next 30 years until today.

The attack on politicians and government only got worse in the new Century with the advent of social media, and the demise of the independent editorial press. The Courts authorized unlimited private funding of elections so the power was now concentrated in the hands of the unregulated. Civility was lost. It was the same in Florida as in the rest of the country. Florida was ranked as the very best Legislature in 1972, and now is ranked among the very worst. Maybe time will change us.


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