Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry’s introduction of Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump at his recent rally in Jacksonville should not surprise anyone much less draw the harsh criticism it has. Before his election as Mayor, Curry served as Chairman of the Florida Republican Party, which means he is in the same conundrum as National Republican Party Chairman, Reince Pribus, who must smile like a broadcaster on national TV while a crab pinches his testicles.
As a putative leader of the Florida Republican Party, Curry must put on a brave face and project that his party is unified. But that may also prove suicidal to his political career every bit as much as a Confederate volunteering to lead Pickett’s charge at Gettysburg. While that may seem like a stout deed, Curry like most red-state politicians cannot muster enough courage or leadership to unyoke himself to the patented Republican dog-whistle issues to which he and his ilk marched in step but are now proving disastrous to their party. Yet, they continue to stand behind Trump as his doom and gloom rants and vitriol expose the ugly underside of the GOP that festers with bigotry, xenophobia and homophobia.
It is as though that Curry and his conservative comrades bought lifetime tickets to Fox’s political propaganda show that for the last 15 years bamboozled the middle class into thinking they were really working for them. If there is any redemption to Trump’s candidacy, it is that he has pulled back that curtain. Just ask Rubio, Bush and rest of the well-moneyed Republicans who lay thrashed in Trump’s wake.
But Curry, like Scott and other state and local politicians, have yet to feel the growing wrath and rebellion surging through the Republican ranks like a bad fever. But that same rage of resentment that Trump has fueled and that has felled the sacred sons of the Republicans Party will encircle Curry and he will have no way out. On one hand if he does not disavow himself from an ever-growing radicalized Trump, he will be marginalized by an electorate shifting more to the center; if he does he risk alienating his ultra conservative base in a city as red as Marilyn Monroe’s lipstick. Furthermore, because Jacksonville is such an entrenched right-wing Southern city, Curry may carry too much political baggage for what is sure to be transformative and more inclusive Republican Party rising from the ashes of 2016 to invest in him.
But no matter what happens to Trump in November Curry could wiggle free from the straight jacket he finds himself in by realizing what smart politicians ultimately do – all politics are local. He could take a progressive stance on a Human Rights Ordinance as well as implement more economic progressive policies that fund the reshaping of Jacksonville’s image from a staid, hidebound city to cultural gem on the St. John.
But this would mean breaking from the chorus of his party’s hackneyed and effete sound bytes to sing a different song. Hopefully, he will have the chops to be that soloist.
Written by Mike Bernos
Mike Bernos is CEO of Trans-Lucent Consultants. He is an award–winning journalist, having written for among others, ABC News, Gannett News, USA Today, Florida Trend and Christian Science Monitor. He is the author of three books and a songwriter whose works appear on Pandora, Sirius XM, and Spotify. He lives in Riverside.