In 2006, the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI) published American Conservatism: An Encyclopedia. Reading the book, I was struck by the fact that the editors included literally everyone in American history no matter their positions on the issues. The two antagonistic presidents who clashed in the Civil War -- Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis -- were included. So were William Jennings Bryan, Teddy Roosevelt and William Howard Taft. Joseph McCarthy was included -- and so was Eugene McCarthy. Its often bewildering who gets thrown under the conservative umbrella.
Now there are many types of conservatives, of course. There are neocons and paleocons, evangelical Protestants and traditionalist Catholics. Some look to Alexander Hamilton while others draw inspiration from Thomas Jefferson. The thinkers and writers who continue to shape American conservatism -- Burke and Rand, Kirk and Hayek, Chesterton and Lewis, Mel Bradford and Harry Joffa -- often stand far apart from each other.
There are many forms of conservatives out there -- but Rep. Daphne Campbell, D-Miami Shores, is not one of them.
Campbell, a freshman legislator, won attention the past few weeks for attacking abortion and quoting the Bible on the floor of the Florida House. She has been very aggressive in calling out her fellow House Democrats -- namely Rep. Scott Randolph of Orlando and Leader Ron Saunders of Key West. Her battle with Randolph, who certainly is one of the leading liberals in the Legislature, has gotten very personal with clashing accounts of their confrontation on the House floor last week.
With Republicans and conservatives rallying behind Campbell this week, she is becoming something of a folk hero on the right.
Conservative activist John Stemberger, the president of the Florida Family Policy Council, was very generous in his praise of Campbell.
I spoke to Rep. Daphne Campbell by phone and personally thanked her and told her she is to be applauded for standing alone within her party in support of the weakest and most vulnerable members of society -- the unborn, said Stemberger in a statement.She is a hero within our community and we will do everything we can to rally around her and support her.As for Rep. Scott Randolph, his temper-tantrum-like behavior is intolerant and juvenile. His disrespectful and shameless comments are a disgrace to the dignity of the Florida House of Representatives and he has behaved in a manner which is uncivil, undemocratic and un-American."
On Wednesday afternoon, shortly after Stemberger called her a hero, Campbell took her stand against school choice.
Campbell came out swinging at bills expanding school choice that passed the House on Monday -- and called for the state to send more money into public education.
This legislation mindlessly allocates funds to virtual and private schools while simultaneously removing the funds from schools who desperately need the money to improve, said Campbell, attacking the bills which allow students to take more virtual classes and require high school students, starting with incoming freshmen for the 2011-12 school year, to take at least one online course before they graduate.
How can we add even another burden to families that are struggling to make ends meet already? demanded Campbell. Passing this legislation is blatantly an unfair disadvantage to those thousands of Florida students who have no or very little access to the Internet.
When the House took up SB 736, the measure reforming teacher performance pay, Campbell voted against the measure, joining other Democrats in backing the teacher unions. She sponsored a measure looking to pull the plug on the FCAT.
And its not just education. After being elected to the House in November, Campbell called for Congress to pass the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act and praised the leadership of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.,on the issue. Less than a month ago, her office released a statement in which she opposed Republican efforts to streamline the government. According to the release, Campbell was in opposition to a proposed state budget that will have a potentially devastating impact on all aspects of the states governmental functions.
This budget is not just about numbers, dollars or budget holes, said Campbell in that statement. Its about Floridas students, families and business owners who have real expectations, dreams and goals for the future.
Campbells allies are not helping her with their over-the-top vitriol. On Friday, Sara Espinoza of the Democratic League of Miami-Dade demanded Hispanic members of the House Democratic caucus demand Randolphs apology and claimed he committed a hate crime against Campbell -- and then comparing Randolphs actions to some of the most evil in world history.
The Democratic Party is not the Nazi Party or the KKK and State Rep. Scott Randolphs Nazi-like hate crime against Representative Campbell is an affront not only to Representative Campbell, but to all the people of Florida, said Espinoza, grasping for the heights of moral idiocy. Apparently, Representative Randolph thinks the Florida House is his plantation and Representative Campbell is one of his slaves.
Dr. Eladio Jose Armesto, also with the Democratic League of Miami-Dade, was also hard to take seriously in his defense of Campbell on Friday.
Randolphs political extremism is the main reason Republicans have been able to reach veto-proof majorities in both the House and Senate despite being outnumbered by registered Democrats in Florida, said Armesto, ignoring the fact that his party had been losing ground in the Sunshine State long before Randolph was elected to the House in 2006.
Frankly, Randolph is an embarrassment to Florida and the Democratic Party, added Armesto. He needs to publicly apologize to Representative Daphne Campbell or resign from the Democratic Party. If not, Randolph will definitely face additional, stronger sanctions if he ever attempts to run for public office again.
A strange comment considering that Campbells supporters expressed outrage that Randolph hinted he wanted to see her out of the House after 2012.
While Campbells pro-life credentials are in order, her opposition to meaningful education reform and fiscal restraints, combined with her supporters shrill and absurd attacks, show that she is no conservative -- and conservatives in the Sunshine State should not be lionizing her.
Reach Kevin Derby at email@example.com or at (850) 727-0859.