Dear Florida, democracy is in your hands. And it doesn’t stop on November 3.
President Trump, Florida’s most powerful resident, has proven that he does not care about people from the Keys to the panhandle.
We have seen the numbers. Under Trump’s watch, over 220,000 people have died of COVID-19, with Florida continuing to report some of the highest rates of infection in the country. At Thursday’s debate, Trump suggested that a vaccine would be ready before the end of 2020, though there is little evidence.
I recall the sirens and refrigerated trucks from the early days of the pandemic, as neighbors in my Queens apartment were rushed to Elmhurst Hospital. Trump has continued to treat the pandemic like a business move, touting junk science, in lieu of advice from doctors and scientists who have stressed masks and social distancing.
Meanwhile, Trump has spent countless hours trying to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, while we have heard no details on an alternative healthcare plan. At a time when more Americans than ever have lost their employer-sponsored health insurance, Trump continues his assault on public insurance options, putting even more children and families at risk. In Florida, there were 55,000 more uninsured children in the state in 2019 than in 2016.
And, for an administration that claims to be pro-life, Trump recklessly planned in-person gatherings, while infected with the virus. This is not only irresponsible, but anti-life.
It did not have to be this way.
The nation does better, Florida does better, when families stay together. Trump is trying to divide us, but immigrants constitute the backbone of Florida’s economy. Consider the farmworkers who put tomatoes on our table and the nurses who continue to serve at the bedside of COVID patients, all while paying their fair share of taxes. Let’s not forget that Trump paid $750 per year in taxes.
I grew up Catholic, the daughter of Indian immigrants, in Brooksville, a small rural town 45 miles north of Tampa, named for Preston Brooks, a pro-slavery congressman. I always imagine returning to the palm trees and sprawling oaks, cool springs and sandy beaches, to the state where my family still lives. But before I relocate, I want to be assured that the state, in all its incredible diversity, has my back.
We have to vote. While voter suppression continues, with reports of disinformation in Spanish social media channels, civil rights activists like Patricia Stephens Due fought against segregated buses, schools, and restaurants, and championed one of the most dangerous voter registration efforts in northern Florida in the 1960s. Democracy is never granted by those in power. It is only a reality when exercised by everyday people.
There is no candidate that can meet us all the way on all the issues. Let’s focus on what’s most important. This election is about who we want to make hard decisions that help working families ward off the hardships of the recession and medical bills. The election is about trusting how a vaccine is introduced to the American people.
Trump is running out of options. He’s crying wolf, targeting the post office, and bullying us into giving up our sacred right to democracy. The United States has always held elections, even in times of great crisis. We held successful presidential elections amid the Civil War, the Great Depression, and both World Wars. Now it’s our turn to prove that nothing — not even this pandemic — will stand in the way of our democratic commitment to voting.
With 29 electoral college votes, the most number of electorates of the swing states, Floridians have the ability to decide this election, as they have so many times before. Trump won Florida by just 1.2 percentage points in 2016, a matter of just over 100,000 votes.
Counting every vote may take longer this year, and that’s okay — taking time is a sign that our democracy is working. Whether we are Black or white, Native or newcomer, Latinx or Asian, we know that for democracy to work for all of us, it must include us all. Floridians should not rest until every ballot is counted.
Let’s do our part by showing up in record numbers. And let’s commit to staying engaged after November 3. We need to ensure a peaceful transition in January, and we need to keep voting, keeping marching, into next year.
Image credited to open source efforts of #EveryoneCounts.