• By Rich Leonard, Communications Committee

Admire her or not, Senator Elizabeth Warren has rightly framed what’s at stake in the 2020 elections: How do we think government should work, and who do we think government should work for?

We can start with a truly representative government, legitimately elected without voter suppression, dark money and foreign actors who spread disinformation. I want leadership that thinks strategically, shows empathy and accepts science as fact. I want truth and transparency.

I suspect I am not alone. We want competence in Washington, not the chaos and corruption of the Trump era; healthy debate in the Legislature where country comes before party; and highly qualified appointees to the cabinet, attorney general and other critical positions. Today we have partisan hacks who trample on the Constitution.

We want a Supreme Court that accepts Roe v. Wade as settled law and acts as a rational, non-partisan body. (Note: the Constitution does not mandate the number of justices on the court, which has changed over time.)

We believe  government policies should work for all, with a focus on the working and middle- class, not the rich and the powerful who hide behind dark money contributions and pay lobbyists huge sums to buy influence.

Given the current state of affairs, these changes would require strong public support and Democratic leadership. The Trump Party, formerly known as Republicans, only know how to resist progress.


 “Florida, Florida, Florida”

This was the mantra of the late Tim Russert of NBC News. We are an electoral power with 29 votes; only California and Texas have more. Unlike those states, however, Florida is up for grabs in 2020. In that respect, Florida is the Crown Jewel.

Democrats have hope. In the 2018 midterms, Florida Republicans won a senate seat and the governorship by less than one percent, the thinnest of margins.

Still, flipping Florida requires a heavy lift. The state’s sheer size and number of media markets will require a boat load of money and an army of campaign volunteers.

Efforts by The Democratic Party of Indian River in 2018 resulted in the highest Democratic turnout ever. We can make a difference in winning Florida and putting a Democrat in the White House.


With victory come expectations, however.

Our issues are real. The people affected are real. Research, data and anecdotal evidence are real. A newly elected Democratic president will be expected to focus on solutions to problems that, while not unique to Florida, would have tremendous impact here:


  1. Climate change. We live on a peninsula, just a few feet above sea level. Rising sea levels and the probability of stronger and more frequent hurricanes threaten us all. A TCPalm.com headline Tuesday said it all: “Florida Faces Existential Decisions on Climate Change, Researcher Says.” We cannot afford to wait any longer. Reversing man’s impact on climate will take decades. However, we can act immediately to improve federal disaster response and relief.


  1. Health insurance. Florida has one of the highest percentages of uninsured, in part because former Gov. Rick Scott and Republicans blocked Medicaid expansion that would have covered 800,000 residents. A national solution does not have to be a binary choice between Medicare-for-all and repairing the damage done to Obamacare. We require a balanced solution that provides affordable healthcare for all.


  1. Repealing the Trump tax cut that greatly benefits the wealthiest and ignores the needs of the vast majority of citizens. The wealth gap is plainly evident in Indian River County.


  1. Reducing poverty.Again, the poverty rate in Florida is among the highest in America. We are not looking for a repeat of the Great Society of the 1960s, but we do require the federal government to re-examine its priorities.


  1. Education.  Florida’s education system and outcomes are ranked in the lower third of the country. If our school districts can’t meet expectations, the federal government must play a larger role.


  1. The elderly. Social Security was never meant to be the sole source of income for retirees, but it is just that too many. Florida has a disproportionate number of elderly whose retirement funds ran out long ago and struggle with disease and disfigurement. They are hidden away in their homes or in substandard, under-funded nursing homes.


  1. Economic fairness. The plain truth is that working- and middle-class families have suffered at the hands of corporations and the wealthy who make the decisions. Real wages have not increased in decades. People all across Indian River are working two part-time jobs without health coverage. Meanwhile, wealth has become concentrated at the top. Capitalism is often its own worst enemy.


  1. Opioid abuse. Indian River County does not have even one facility for short-term, medically supervised detox. That’s a crime. Many who suffer from addiction fear going through the pain and discomfort of withdrawal without medical help, so they just keep using. Elderly addicted to pain pills are no different. The state and federal governments must provide additional funding, not just words.


  1. Gun violence:17 victims at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, 49 dead at Pulse nightclub in Orlando. The state and U.S. Legislature must do more to enforce background checks and rid our nation of assault firearms meant solely to kill.


These are not baseless claims and I will provide supporting evidence in future columns.

Meanwhile, the Democratic Platform will include other major issues affecting all of Americans: Immigration, race, women’s reproductive rights, gender pay inequality, LQBGT issues, police shootings, restoration of the safety net and a sane foreign policy. We will dismantle every last vestige of Trump’s executive orders and install competent leadership across the board.

Our government doesn’t work anymore. It’s a hot mess, to use the current vernacular. Given a chance, Democrats can begin to bring changes we sorely need.


Join us.  Be part of the solution.