After Hurricane “Ian,” Can a Pro-Choice Storm Hit Florida?
Of Camille Lumbert’s marina office in Fort Myers Beach, all that remains is a foundation and a few pillars now supporting a sketchy roof, under which the site manager sheltered last week, while occasionally looking around. she the apocalyptic landscape that appeared more than a month ago after the passage of the hurricane Ian in this corner of Florida.
“We still live in uncertainty about permits, materials, what happens next,” she says, her tone calm and her smile fragile. “But at least we found the electricity a few days ago. »
A stone’s throw from her, a handful of yachts tossed onto Route 865 by the violent winds were still waiting to be relaunched, surrounded by piles of trash bags, torn sheet metal, residues of deconstruction, furniture and mattresses destroyed by the hurricane and its downpours.
“We are used to living with that, admits Camille Lumbert. But it’s getting worse and worse. Extreme weather events are piling up. Regularly, tons of dead fish wash up on the beaches due to changing water quality and red tides caused by toxic algae. With hurricanes, it starts to get crazy. Enough to make people here aware of climate change? asks the 21-year-old girl. » I hope. But still, you know, it’s Florida here. »
A pivotal state, historically in a mood of change between Democrat and Republican, Florida could indeed during the midterm elections to be held next week confirm its lasting roots in Republican conservatism. A few days before the election, pollsters are still predicting the victories of Governor Ron DeSantis – a rising figure on the American radical right and a solid aspirant to the presidency of the United States – and of the Republican senator Marco Rubio, in the race for their re-election. And the two have been campaigning for several months far from the environmental issues which nevertheless hit this corner of the United States hard.
« The political landscape is changing, » commented political scientist Aubrey Jewett, professor at the University of Central Florida, in an interview. Donald Trump won Florida in 2016, by 1%, but two years ago, while losing the presidency, he further strengthened his support here with a 3% lead over Joe Biden. Yes, the two races for governors and senators remain tight. But traditionally, when that happens, in the end it’s always the Republicans who win, ”continues Aubrey Jewett.
The Democrats are trying to reverse the trend by banking on the commotion created within the progressive fringe of the population, here as elsewhere, by the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States to reject the judgment Roe v. wade in June. This opened the door across the country for the adoption of restrictive abortion access policies in several states. Florida, described by many here as a « sanctuary in the South » for women seeking to terminate a pregnancy, was no exception.
Under the leadership of Ron DeSantis, the state passed a law that prohibits abortions after 15 weeks – against 24 before – including in cases of rape, incest and human trafficking. Doctors could also be held criminally responsible for any medical act performed outside this new framework.
At the crossroads of choices
“The concern is very strong among abortion rights advocates, and they are mobilized to get people to vote to protect it,” summarizes Melba Pearson, activist lawyer with the Floridian office of the American Civil Liberties. Union and professor of law at Florida International University. “It is possible that this question appeals a lot to women in the suburbs, who normally vote more for the Republicans and who could this time opt for the Democrats in order to preserve the freedom to choose and dispose of their bodies. But it must be admitted that the subject has lost some prominence in public opinion over the past few weeks, overtaken by other concerns such as the high price of gasoline, inflation and other « table of kitchen” that do not work in favor of the Democrats. »
« Republicans are very good at exploiting fear and insecurity, » said Billee Bussard, a former journalist from the Jacksonville area who came to prepare a door-to-door campaign in the local Democratic office. “But we might be surprised by a higher turnout of voters mobilized by another fear, that of losing the right to abortion here. I can’t imagine that a voter, both Republican and Democrat, who has a daughter, who has women in her family, can vote for a party that proposes to reduce women’s rights to such an extent. This is inconceivable to me. »
Inconceivable? Not for Angelica Pacheco, Republican candidate for the city council of Hialeah north of Miami, met near an advance polling station where she had come to campaign last week, proudly displaying her attachment to Donald Trump. “When he runs for president, I will start to rejoice,” she said.
And then the conversation continued: “My position on abortion? I had five children. That answers the question, she said. It wasn’t always easy, but I got through it, and anyone can do it. Being a mother is part of human nature. We have to protect that. »
“The right to abortion in Florida could be permanently lost,” says Aubrey Jewett. This is a very important question, but one whose effect on the vote has become uncertain. »
Florida Republicans are indeed less and less heard on the issue in the last miles of this campaign, preferring above all to focus on inflation and its consequences for which they seek to hold Joe Biden directly responsible.
“People don’t want more abortions or more climate change. [sic] summed up a host of a conservative Tampa-area opinion radio station earlier this week. “They want to pay less for their gasoline and find products at the grocery store at affordable prices. »
Marco Rubio, he has decided above all to feed the cultural war launched against the Democrats for several years by the American far right, to increase his lead over his opponent, Val Demings, ex-chief of police of Orlando and keep his seat. in the Senate in Washington. One of the politician’s television commercials sums up the strategy to politicize education, crime, sex and immigration. “The radical left will destroy the United States if we don’t stop it,” he explains. “They indoctrinate children and try to change our boys into girls. They allow illegal immigrants and drugs to flood America. And if you react, they banish you from social networks and they call you racist, ”adds the elected official, placing himself as a defender of republican values and freedoms.
“The Republican Party has always been for less control of government, and it is paradoxically strengthening the presence of this government in the daily and intimate lives of citizens,” laments Lara Bailey, a retired nurse and ex-Republican doing now campaigning for the Democrats in Jacksonville. “And their rage is becoming more and more worrying. »
Last March, Ron DeSantis succeeded in passing a law to ban teachers from talking about gender identity from kindergarten to grade three and now give parents rights to challenge the presence of certain books in the classroom. school libraries. This legislation is challenged in court by parents and students who denounce its discriminatory nature, as well as the censorship guided by far-right values that it induces.
In Fort Myers Beach earlier this week, Ann Thompson, preferred to stay away from these ongoing political storms, after suffering the hurricane Ian and her damage that she was picking up, resigned and even smiling, around her house. “The air conditioning will be reinstalled tomorrow. It should help control the spread of mold, she said. We got 8 feet of water in the garage, and the roof blew off. »
“The current campaign? I have decided to place myself in the camp of peaceful ignoramuses. I don’t want to think about politics anymore. With fake news, with the internet, it’s too depressing. But before leaving, she will end up committing herself. A little. “Here, everyone votes for the Republicans. And Ron DeSantis, finally, we like him. »
This report was financed thanks to the support of the Transat International Journalism Fund.The duty.
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