It was scorching hot in St. Petersburg Florida around 12:30 when I sat down for an interview, luckily in the shade, with state Rep. Michele Rayner. Rayner, the first openly gay woman of color elected to the Florida house, spoke with me about the absurd and oppressive "Don't Say Gay" bill that recently passed through the Florida Legislature and is waiting for Trump mini-me Ron DeSantis' signature.
A lot of viewers wonder why I'm covering this "culture war" stuff—thinking it's just a distraction from the real corruption and economic injustice stories I should be covering. What stood out to me was the immediate connection Rayner made between the culture war and the economic hunger games happening in Florida and other parts of the country.
Rayner said the distraction IS THE POINT: DeSantis is pushing culture war distractions like the anti-LGBTQ bill—and yes, that's exactly what it is—to excite the national GOP base while distracting and numbing the masses to the affordable housing crisis and government-by-corporate-welfare he is presiding over. Of course, the local and national media—all owned by big corporations—would much rather cover the hot-button culture war issues than focus on a growing new Gilded Age.
This leaves the most active voters wrapped up in culture war distractions—that are harming vulnerable people—and less focused on the exploding economic gap in Florida and elsewhere. Meanwhile, the Florida Democratic Party, like the national party, latch onto the righteous side of the culture war rhetorically sticking up for LGBTQ and other minority groups while simultaneously hoarding the same corporate cash as the culture war Republicans are.
Like the Democratic Party nationally, Florida Democrats—aside from a few progressive Democrats actually pushing for real structural change for working people—list an array of excuses on why they can't do anything about exploding housing, rent, and healthcare costs and the cycle goes on and on.
Come election time, the Republicans viewed as FIGHTING (for all the wrong things) successfully bring out their base while Democrats fail to excite enough non-voters or one-time-Democratic voters who've grown too fed up with inaction.
THIS is why the culture war is important to cover. As was shown during my second interview yesterday with LGBTQ students and parents, these laws all-but barring the discussion of LGBTQ issues or families in school will harm children who already have enough challenges to deal with. Worse than that, this GOP weaponization of culture war distractions, mixed with no real populist opposition platform from Democrats to overcome the powerful culture war distraction, is helping provide Republicans with a clear path to winning more governorships, state legislatures, and potentially re-taking the White House.
I hope my reporting this week on these issues might connect the dots for why these culture war distractions are actually powerful tools being used by Republicans—and enabled by bought-off Democrats—to help maintain the economic status quo.
Now I'm off to shower before interviewing a local Congressional candidate and housing activist on how Disney's Mickey and Minnie Mouse are directly causing the affordable housing crisis in Florida! I'll then be interviewing two LGBTQ high school students about the "Don't Say Gay" bill. I'll wrap the day interviewing state Rep. Carlos Smith on how Governor DeSantis' culture war in Florida could be a sign of things to come nationally.
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