FLORIDA TRIP VLOGS
On day two of my Florida's Culture War and New Gilded Age reporting tour, I interviewed three LGBTQ high school students about the "Don't Say Gay" bill.
What immediately stood out to me was how Elena, Will, and Echo were more intelligent and articulate than most of the schmuck pundits I see daily parading cable news airwaves. Will, a gay and nonbinary 11th grader who had testified in front of the Florida Legislature agains the bill—which all-but puts a gag order on any discussion of LGBTQ issues from K through third grade and likely beyond—knew the bill backwards and forward and fairly quickly told me what's really going on.
"They're trying to kill us," Will said about Republicans in Florida and across the country pushing these laws that are really meant to equate queer people with pedophiles.
"They're putting us in danger and they know what they're doing," Will added.
As the interview went on, all three students shared the crisis of depression and suicidal thoughts in the LGBTQ community BEFORE this latest anti-LGBTQ bill. This really struck a cord with me because, frankly, I've been suffering with depression most of my life and over the last few weeks have had a relapse falling into a deep depression that I'm trying to continue to work through as I try new medication.
As a straight man who experienced depression as a high schooler, I can't even imagine being in these kids' shoes having to deal with the normal mental health challenges teenagers struggle with AND THEN having extremist anti-LGBTQ legislation added into the mix.
At the end of the interview, the kids extended their criticisms beyond extremist Republicans—calling out weak and feeble Democrats who are emboldening Republicans' to successfully wage culture war crusades.
"Republicans are going farther and farther right and Democrats are saying oh we should become more center to appeal to them...no you should go father left and we need to mobilize!" Will said. Elena, a transgender high schooler, added that the Republicans are malicious but the Democratic Party is one constant "sad theme" of dying movements wrapped around a party that refuses to "fight for us" for economic justice for the working class.
"The Democrats and Republicans aren't even that different when it comes to the political spectrum as a whole," Will said. This clip ended up doing well on Twitter, garnering nearly 18,000 views as of this writing.
Wait till you learn more about their donors' list and the way things really work here in the United Corporations of America (I thought to myself).
Overall, for all the focus the progressive movement and very-online left put on the corruption of the Democratic Party—which includes my reporting and commentary—this trip has also opened my eyes more to the importance of not ignoring or minimizing the Republican bigotry and extremism putting a target on these kids' backs.
Of course, it's not breaking news that Republicans are attempting to distract the masses with anti-LGBTQ bills as well as racist dog whistling in the form of their critical race theory nonsense. But that doesn't mean it doesn't affect and threaten real people and groups.
If you can, please SUPPORT this ON-THE-GROUND reporting—which is not cheap for myself and a cameraman (flights, hotel, rent-a-car, gas, food)—by becoming a Status Coup member for as low as $5-10 bucks a month. It's how we grow and cover more ON-THE-GROUND.
You can also support this specific reporting trip with a donation.
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.
SUPPORT Status Coup's ON-THE-GROUND reporting by becoming a SC member for $5-10 bucks a month (you get great perks as a member).
Already a member? SUPPORT this reporting trip (it's not cheap!) with a donation.
We will update this page with posts of Jordan's Vlogs as he reports ON-THE-GROUND in Florida this upcoming week!