November 3, 2018 - 6:00am
It has been a common refrain heard from many on the left since the August gubernatorial primaries: It's wrong to call Andrew Gillum a “socialist.” In the strictest application of the term, no, he doesn't fit the description. After all, he is not in a position of power to enforce true socialism.
However, on the political scale, he certainly resides on the far-left wing. And, in most revealing fashion, his acolytes are avowed proponents of the collectivist system.
Since his nomination, Gillum, of course, has tried to position himself more toward the center. The hybridized label democratic socialist -- as his backer Bernie Sanders has cloaked himself -- was initially bandied about, but that has been dumped, because even a whiff of the term carries some political toxicity. Gillum has routinely positioned himself as a proponent of the mainstream Democratic agenda, striving to sound less extreme.
This still does little to stem some of his policy positions that trend to the far left of the spectrum. State-centric proposals like sharply increased tax rates, broadening of the government-run healthcare, and sharp increases in the minimum wage are a few, as is the dramatic call to abolish ICE. Beyond these items, however, is a more direct indicator.
Much has been made about Gillum’s connection with the group known as the Dream Defenders. This Florida-based community organizing group has its own manifesto that carries a far more strident anti-capitalist, pro-socialist agenda. Gillum has had a difficult time in the past weeks reconciling his connection with the group. At times, he wants to sound supportive, but he also recognizes many of the group’s positions are not widely popular with the electorate.
Except, the group enthusiastically supports the Democratic candidate, and has gushed over what his rise to the Capitol would mean for them.
Further, in their formal endorsement of Gillum, the organization declared precisely what its positions are: “We are a socialist, abolitionist, feminist and internationalist organization. Our vision for Florida -- the Freedom Papers -- is one where a people-centered state replaces our current proﬁt-centered one (emplasis added)."
More revealing descriptions were delivered in their overall assessment of Gillum’s agenda:
“This is not only one of the most progressive platforms that a Florida gubernatorial candidate has ever run on," says the Dream Defenders, "but it is also one of the most progressive platforms we have seen from any gubernatorial candidate in the country.”
Those are some very stark words. Imagine if Andrew Gillum’s opponent had said that sentence. The charge of hyperbolic fabrication, and surely the accusation of racism, would be instantly made. Yet, this was in fact a glowing assessment coming from one of Andrew Gillum’s most ardent supporters.
It was revealed that Gillum had signed a pledge this summer that was created by DD that carried a number of controversial stances (defunding of police forces, elimination of privately run prisons, and channeling those monies to social programs). Additionally, the pledge declared signees' support to the group’s broader platform, dubbed The Freedom Papers. Some specifics include calling for an end to “disaster capitalism,” rants against Independence Day, and promotion of the movement to boycott Israel while promoting pro-Palestinian causes. (A revealing detail in this current climate of anti-Semitism accusals.)
Realizing this agenda challenge, a spokesperson from Dream Defenders tried to massage the clear connection Gillum has with the group. “Our ideology is different from what we asked of politicians. We know they’d never share the same ideals because we’re leftists, so we just asked that they prioritize different things in the Pledge.” That attempt at excusing responsibility does little to fix a much larger issue -- Gillum’s history with the group.
As I wrote previously, Gillum is more than agreeable with DD; he is entrenched. He has backed the group in the past, both in word and deed. Gillum, prior to his election as mayor, wrote a lengthy, glowing op-ed about the co-founder of Dream Defenders, Phillip Agnew, whom he has known for over a decade. And now, Agnew has told us, Gillum is far more than an ally of the Dream Defenders movement. He is crucial to its actual founding.
During a recent appearance on a broadcast with Democracy Now, Agnew declared how vital Gillum was in the formation of the organization. He began by stating their relation went as far back as 2003, when they met on the campus of Florida A&M University. Agnew later rose to student body president and says he was later inspired into community organizing.
“So, in 2012, when we start this organization, it is really with a model of what Andrew has led for many, many years in the state. We like to say Andrew Gillum isn’t a friend of the movement, he is a part of the movement.”
That movement is one they declare to be socialist, anti-capitalist, anti-police, and anti-Israel. By their own words. And it is their own people who are saying Andrew Gillum is an integral part of that movement, from its inception. This makes the argument against suggestions of Gillum’s socialist positions rather moot.
After all, when the very things we are told are extremist to ascribe to the Democratic candidate, are at the same time considered a selling point by his allies, there is no need to continue. This isn't the Republicans calling Gillum a socialist, it's the people who claim him as one of their own. They are the ones saying it -- which makes it a much clearer message.
It also becomes a message you cannot argue against.
Brad Slager, a Fort Lauderdale freelance writer, wrote this story exclusively for Sunshine State News. He writes on politics and the entertainment industry and his stories appear in such publications as RedState and The Federalist.