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Florida's New Normals?: Ray Rice, Jameis Winston, Rick Scott

Can Florida politics succeed where sports has failed?

Can we get a grip on dangerous social reality, recognize the seriousness of the challenge, and take the right actions to meet it?

When news first broke about Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice’s violent abuse of his fiancée, the NFL swept it under the artificial turf. Instead of confronting a culture that tolerates and too often condones abusive language and behavior toward women, the powers-that-be pretty much let it be by giving Rice a slap on the wrist.

Then months later came damning video of the incident. It raised all kinds of questions about who knew what, when, and what if anything they said and did about it.

Rice lost his job. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell should, but may not lose his job too. Time will tell what kind of “culture change” the league will achieve moving forward.

In Florida, the questionable (or worse) behavior of NCAA champion FSU’s star quarterback Jameis Winston during the past year reminds us that college football culture needs changing too.

Given the objectification of women that our kids grow up with in video games, music, movies and more, the fear is that degrading (and worse) behavior may already be accepted as the “new normal”.

One can only hope all the talk of addressing the issue, from college campuses to NFL boardrooms, leads to rethinking what that new normal really ought to be.

Allowing a bad societal trend to approach normalcy is not limited to sports.

Since President Barack Obama’s election in 2008, the world of politics has gone from bad to worse. Shamelessly spreading disinformation and encouraging ignorance have become the new normal for the Republican Party and the corporate-conservative wealth controlling it.

The rise of Facebook, Twitter and other social media has fueled mass distribution of lies and distortions. Millions of people have been trained to question or disregard facts in favor of propaganda.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott rode that toxic rising tide to victory in 2010. He didn’t campaign against Democratic opponent Alex Sink so much as he lied through his teeth about Obama and national health care reform.

He didn’t campaign for lasting lower-income and middle-class economic recovery. He campaigned simply for job creation and economic growth.

That was good enough for lots of voters still staggered by the Great Recession and swayed by the emerging new normal. Scott’s victory put a hidden agenda in play:

• Gain statistical economic growth by making Florida’s richest people and corporations richer.
• Gain job growth mostly in poverty-wage industries.
• Gain grassroots support by claiming upside-down economic “recovery” is good for the middle class.
•Gain 2014 re-election with constant commercial slandering of the opponent, distracting middle-class voters from the realities of stagnant wages, declining incomes, lack of workplace bargaining power, and the tax burden of covering public assistance and health care costs for Florida’s working poor.

new study released last month reveals the effects of that agenda. None of it’s good news for the middle class.

In sports, all we can do is pressure team and league officials to change a culture that condones mistreating women.

 But in politics, we can remove elected officials such as Rick Scott, who condone a culture that mistreats, misleads and cashes in on the middle class.

A sports culture that actively demonstrates respect for women and a political culture showing respect for the middle class with helpful actions rather than self-important words; those would be new normals we could all be proud of.

Daniel Tilson has a Boca Raton-based communications firm called Full Cup Media, specializing in online video and written content for non-profits, political candidates and organizations, and small businesses. Column courtesy of Context Florida.

This piece was reprinted by the Columbia County Observer with permission or license.

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