Blue Dot Special: It Takes a Villager

You Ask: Dottie Answers, The Demcast Dot Advice Column #4

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16 mins read
Graphic by Marcie.

As always, questions are gathered from DemCast readers and may be edited for length and clarity (or spelling and grammar if the case may be). To submit your questions or ideas for future columns, email DemCastDottie@gmail.com.


Dear Dottie,
I was so down last week after the Republicans in the Senate voted down hearing from witnesses or allowing document evidence to be submitted to the Impeachment Trial. It felt like watching the republic crumbling before our eyes. I knew it was coming most likely but I still couldn’t believe it when it happened. Several of my friends were really down in the dumps too. We need to find inspiration to keep my hopes up. What do you suggest?

Yours Truly,
Depressed Dots in Dayton

Dearest Alliterative Dots,

These are indeed the times that try a (wo)man’s soul. Or to use another cliche response for such questions… As FDR famously said during his first inaugural address during the Great Depression, 

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Those words are often invoked to rally the troops to keep the faith and soldier on. For the real danger in any fight is obviously the loss of hope that accompanies giving in to fear.

Fear, however, is a biological survival instinct. It is not fear on its own which we resist. It is that accompanying loss of hope. Without hope, one mentally cedes defeat. And, there is no surer path to real defeat than to accept it in advance.

The 2017 Women’s March, the largest protest in history, was organized by women seeking that hope to defeat the gut level fear which gripped many after 2016. Many a march, rally and organization has been formed for the similar purpose of drawing hope and inspiration from one another.

Though our Insta-obsessed culture rewards perpetually smiling cheerleaders over stoic strategic planners, it is impossible to maintain eternal optimistic sunshine. Don’t beat yourself up about it.

It’s a feeling quite a few (million) Americans experienced after watching the Senate vote down the possibility of holding a fair trial when Republicans rejected calling witnesses for the first time ever.

Faith in our institutions and laws is a bedrock key to democracy – and that bedrock was badly shaken last week. 

A concept applicable to the moment was coined by Jim Collins in his acclaimed book, Good to Great. It is called the “Stockdale Paradox.”  The basic gist is that contrary to expectation, too much optimism can hurt you. The Paradox is named for the story of Admiral James Stockdale, a former Vice Presidential candidate who had been a Vietnam POW who endured eight years of torture in what any one would call a living hell. 

In interviews, Stockdale recounted how those who didn’t survive imprisonment were the ones who expected to be freed by Thanksgiving, then Christmas, then Easter, but who eventually died of broken hearts as year after year of disappointment rolled on.

“You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end — which you can never afford to lose — with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be,” he concluded. 

And that brings us to a Florida man named Ed McGinty.

McGinty lives in The Villages, a well known blood red region of Florida where the brutal facts of the current reality include neighbors in what real estate marketers call “Florida’s Friendliest Town” apparently threatening harm to his family because of his political views. 

Politico magazine describes The Villages as America’s largest retirement community of carefully planned, meticulously groomed gated subdivisions, wall-to-wall golf courses, adults-only pools and old-fashioned town squares.

The Villages are a planned unit development (PUD) designed to recreate that mythical bygone era of “traditional values” when Americans knew their neighbors, respected their elders, were vocally patriotic and followed the rules (even if they end up being somewhat authoritarian regulations enforcing uniformity). More than 50,000 people currently call the region home. 

With a median age of 71, an almost entirely white population, and a reliable Republican base that went 70% for Trump in 2016, one would be forgiven for thinking The Villages was a case study for Making America Great Again through deed restriction.

Similarly, with two registered Republicans for every Democrat, almost religiously enforced behavioral norms including vocal patriotism, but also ironically with a well publicized STD problem, The Villages is Trump Country in a way few places would ever claim.

Its the kind of place you expect Polo-clad nonconformists probably speak in hushed tones at the pool house so as not to bring down the cliquish wrath of the Mike and Karens of Clan Stepford.

Alas, The Villages carefully enforced facade fell apart recently when Ed McGinty decided to protest the current president in one of the most Florida ways possible.

For Ed McGinty worried not about playing nice with the Judgmental Joneses who demand civility from all dissenters. His patriotism was not wrapped under an HOA approved American flag display plaque from a strip mall Kirklands. 

Ed’s political design style, so to speak, was influenced instead by the rugged individualists who made American democracy the envy of the world – by demonstrating what freedom of speech looks like in practice. 

Unlike many a Florida Man of late however, Ed’s exploits will go down in the annals of history in part because he was not arrested.

In uniquely Florida-Retiree-Americana style, Ed decided to exercise his First Amendment rights by affixing some (much less than polite) anti-Trump political signs to his golf cart. 

As McGinty explained to The Villages News,

“Democrats stop by and chat. Some people drive by and give me the finger. Those Trumper people don’t like me sitting here.”

The Villages News also reported McGinty recently protested at a Villagers for Trump golf cart parade in Lake Sumter Landing, saying he tries to express his political views at different spots around “Florida’s Friendliest Hometown” for at least an hour a day.

“It’s to say to the Democratic people who don’t like Trump, we’re all together… You don’t have to feel like you can’t show your face or something. But most people are afraid to do what I do.”

Since his signs didn’t match the messages favored by his neighbors, an especially vocal neighborhood Karen named Marsha took it upon herself to stop her own golf cart in its tracks and attempt to publicly shame him in what The Villages News politely called a “nasty tiff.” It just so happened to be on the same day Ed had found a note taped to his door that read threateningly: “Be very careful if the well being of your family is of importance.”

Marsha, Marsha, Marsha

Marsha videoed herself confronting Ed who was sitting in his golf cart reading A Very Stable Genius by Phillip Rucker and Carol Leonnig. Residents drove by and alternatingly gave him the finger or honked in support. One Fed Ex delivery man yelled unfortunate obscenities at Ed in what must surely be a new textbook example of how not to represent yourself while in corporate uniform. 

The Sumter County Sheriffs office was summoned. Sure that “blasphemy” against the president had to be a crime but being told that it was not, she swore to post her videos to Twitter where the Trump Train would suitably shame and intimidate McGinty into silence. The story got some attention from local news but mostly flew well under the headlines. This is Florida, after all. 

Then Marsha posted her video, tagged Dan Bongino, and the story went viral. 

The Internet is just as magical and unpredictable a place for virality as Disney World. 

Despite her best attempts to have the police and the troll train silence Ed’s democratic “blasphemy,” Marsha’s efforts at generating sympathetic outrage had the exact opposite effect. Rather than rallying to her side because Ed had finally called her a pig as she repeatedly taunted him with her camera and ridiculous questions while she devoutly defended the indefensible, most viewers instead saw in Ed McGinty something of a kindred spirit who’d finally had enough of polite silence in the face of insanity. 

Although his political views were reportedly well known by his neighbors, they are all supposed to know one another after all, they had not been previously known by the blue dots who happened to be on Twitter during Super Bowl LIV weekend. And within hours the dots had formed an ocean of support. 

Before deleting her video and setting her Twitter account to private, the video showing her confronting the man in the anti-Trump golf cart had been saved and shared by thousands. As of the Monday, February 3rd, it had been viewed more than 4.5 million times and thousands of blue dots had expressed their support, admiration and solidarity with McGinty with hashtags such as #ImWithEd.

Comments of support and concern from around the country, and within Florida, poured in from strangers offering solidarity and people who lived in or had friends and family in The Villages who were also Democrats. It turns out that The Villages Democratic Club is one of the largest Democratic Clubs in Florida with almost 1000 paying members.

Although plenty of nasty comments can also be found online from Clan Stepford demanding to speak to a manager about The Villages deed restrictions and decrying how unpopular Ed is in their opinion, the troll patrol was left mostly muttering to themselves about how stupid the liberals were being from seats at a surprisingly empty table on the wrong side of the internet cafeteria. 

Twitter is not the every day real world, of course. And, despite Ed McGinty’s best efforts, a majority of the “friendly” Village People will likely vote to re-elect the man he loathes in November. However, thanks to Marsha and her desperate attempt to claim 15 minutes of fame, Ed McGinty’s one man golf cart protest has inspired tired activists nationwide just when many needed it most. 

We all know that it takes a village to raise a child (and villages that allow children, of course).

But never forget my down-trodden dots, it only takes one villager to rally millions of tired troops to keep fighting for that child’s future.  

Reality can be brutal. Find inspiration in one another to keep the faith. And find your people. Even in the reddest of red districts, you will not be the only blue dot. Although I personally wouldn’t go about it the way Ed did, I can attest that the more you show your true colors, the easier it is to connect.

Hopefully Yours,
Dot


**Learn more about The Villages Democratic Club here. The Club is even participating in the Reject the Coverup Rallies on February 4th by inviting members to come in their golf carts! Find the rally near you here. **

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The DemCast Dot column is penned weekly by an occasionally cranky suburban mom and writer living in a Florida red district. To submit your questions or ideas for future columns, email DemCastDottie@gmail.com or visit DemCastUSA.com. All submissions may be published as received.


DemCast is an advocacy-based 501(c)4 nonprofit. We have made the decision to build a media site free of outside influence. There are no ads. We do not get paid for clicks. If you appreciate our content, please consider a small monthly donation.


The DemCast Dot column is penned weekly by an occasionally cranky suburban mom and writer living in a Florida red district. To submit your questions or ideas for future columns, email DemCastDottie@gmail.com. All submissions may be published as received.

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