Sal Nuzzo: Don’t go away mad, just go away

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“That’s all I can stands, I can’t stands no more.” — Popeye, the Sailor Man

It’s 7 a.m. Friday, and I am sitting in Red Eye Coffee in midtown Tallahassee pouring out a stream of consciousness as righteous anger seethes. So, if this gets a bit sketchy, please accept my apologies in advance.

Because I just finished reading another Mac Stipanovich word vomit.

Mac, who has taken a retirement perch as that cantankerous old guy yelling at whoever walks by to “stay off my lawn” has a lot to say about Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, who decidedly lost the Democratic Primary for Governor. Mac decided that apparently, he should spend a day or so journaling about how awful Fried was, why she lost, and a bunch of other things about her. It was sad, it was unnecessary, and it was disgusting.

Yeah, I can’t believe I am defending Fried either.

Mac, who I think worked for a one-term governor a few decades ago (I had to Google it to find out), and who now publicly (over and over and over) laments the fact that Florida Republicans keep coming up with policy issues and enacting agendas that resonate with the majority of Floridians and who keep getting elected and re-elected and re-elected (as opposed to the ones of his preferred Republicans, which result in them being voted out of office).

Like limousine liberal and former “staunch conservative” Joe Scarborough, Mac gets a platform because if there is one thing the media loves more than the sound of its own voice, it’s the sound of a “recovering Republican.”

So, Mac’s diatribes get placed, and people like me without much self-control read them, and then immediately go for the blood pressure meds.

Well, like the world’s greatest sailorman often said, I can’t stands no more. So here we are.

Mac — take a deep breath. Take 10. And then say a prayer. Ask for wisdom, like Solomon. And then when you’ve received it, please do one honorable thing in your later life — call Commissioner Fried and apologize.

There is a common refrain among people outside of the political process. I hear it often when speaking both in Florida and around the country on policy. It goes something like this … why aren’t “better” people running for office? Never mind that the term “better” is completely subjective. The sentiment comes across as a bit nostalgic, or even slightly depressed. I have heard the words “lesser of two evils” so many times over my years that I now have a 30-second elevator speech on playback in my brain for when I hear it. It usually involves the idea in the media that “if it bleeds it leads” and a reminder that there are men and women like Byron Donalds, Kat Cammack, and others who have a servant’s heart and seek to follow their principles honorably to help their fellow Floridians.

But you know what? Mac’s piece provides one good reason why “better” people avoid running … him.

I have the easiest (and best) job in the world. I get to work closely connected to the policy and political process and impact my state for the better. And I get to do it in a way that those who run for office could only dream of. I get to formulate ideas, and then educate people on why those ideas are the best path forward. I don’t have to construct a policy agenda, draft legislative language, get leadership support, articulate it to a group of people struggling to make sense of the current world, present it on the record in legislative committees, build stakeholder support, wrangle votes, keep a coalition together, suffer through endless debate on the floor, get the chambers to approve it, get the Governor to sign it, endure media scrutiny and the desire to tear it down, and then campaign on it while an opponent attempts to beat me over the head with it to take my job.

I have it easy. Those elected do not. They come from all walks of life; they put their families, work, social lives, all of it on hold — to seek office because they legitimately believe in something. It could be a policy challenge, it could be a sliver of the community they represent, it could be a “right” that they feel is being diminished, and yes it could be personal ambition. Whatever motivates them, almost every one of them wants to serve and serve well.

There’s a very old saying about politics — maybe even older than Mac …”if you want a friend, get a dog.” And while it is absolutely the case that you need thick skin and sharp elbows to run for office, I want to think that as human beings we would see that there should be a limit to kicking someone while they are down.

I am an avowed conservative. I did not agree with Commissioner Fried on ANYTHING during the campaign. I thought she was a candidate with a bad platform, advised by atrocious consultants, who also had the misfortune of seeing a well-known opponent come in and defeat her. If I were a registered democrat in the state, I would not have voted for her.

Nevertheless, I respect her for throwing her hat in the ring and doing so when she must have known it would be vicious. I admire the ability she had to keep composure when people said and wrote things that would have made someone like me ball up in a fetal position crying to make it stop.

I pray that if I ever have the inclination to put pen to paper (or fingers to keys) to write such a nasty, unnecessary, intentionally mean article, the angel on my right shoulder would beat the ever-loving snot out of the devil on my left. And maybe if I had, in a moment of weakness, decided to type something like that up, I would further hope and pray that I would never be so absolutely soulless as to submit it for public consumption.

Commissioner Fried (should someone send you the link and you made it this far), keep your chin up for the remainder of your term. You absolutely left everything on the field. For that, you have my admiration. I wouldn’t have been able to manage. You did.

And Mac, hang it up. Get a better hobby. Don’t go away mad, just go away.

___

Sal Nuzzo is Vice President of Policy at The James Madison Institute in Tallahassee.

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