In Florida, Gillum runs on hope, DeSantis runs on fear

In Florida, Gillum runs on hope, DeSantis runs on fear
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Tuesday’s results in the Florida gubernatorial primaries shocked everyone — on the Democratic side – in a good way. It is a terrific outcome for the Democratic Party, for Florida and for other progressives to chart a path to victory in the era of Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump: I hope voters pay attention to Dem tactics amid Kavanaugh fight South Korea leader: North Korea agrees to take steps toward denuclearization Graham calls handling of Kavanaugh allegations 'a drive-by shooting' MORE.

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum focused on inclusive, progressive, practical and sensible solutions for the real lives of voters, who come from all of the diverse communities that make up the swing state of Florida with its increasingly multicultural demographics.   

Gillum appealed to a wide swath of the electorate, including African-Americans, younger voters, Latinos, the LGBT community, women of color, immigrants, white progressives and independents.

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He appealed to those who believe, like Gillum, that health care is a right, not a privilege; that the economy should work for everyone, not just the 1 percent; that we do not have to choose between security and a compassionate immigration policy and that accessible quality education will be a strong economic driver for Florida.  

These ideas, communicated by the affable Gillum whose life is a quintessential “American dream” story, will draw a powerful, impactful yet simple contrast with the Trump-backed nominee for governor, Rep. Ron DeSantisRonald Dion DeSantisTrump privately bashing DeSantis as 'disloyal' after breaking with him on Puerto Rico death toll: report DeSantis 'hell bent' on debating Gillum in Florida governor race Trump stands by tweets questioning Puerto Rico death toll: 'NO WAY' MORE (R-Fla.).

It will also highlight the bigotry and white nationalism that will accompany any candidate endorsed by Trump.

It will not be an easy victory. Or, at least, Gillum and his team should not think it will be. The “racial bloodbath,” as the Washington Post described what is to come in this race, has already begun. DeSantis, in describing Gillum, said he was “articulate” and had “performed well” but that Florida did not need to “monkey this up by trying to embrace a socialist agenda with huge tax increases and bankrupting the state." 

Not 24 hours went by before DeSantis, used dog-whistle terminology that excites Trump’s white-nationalist supporters, laying bare the strategy he will deploy: inject fear and division, pitting groups of voters against one another.

As predicted, the DeSantis campaign is denying the congressman meant a racial slur by saying what he said. It says he was talking about Gillum’s socialism (Gillum is not a socialist) and that it was just a saying. Well, it’s not.

Even Dictionary.com tweeted: “When the words ‘monkey this up’ are used to refer to electing a man of color, it is a blatant dog whistle.”

But we should not be surprised that DeSantis and his team immediately invoked race and bigotry. After all, DeSantis was made in Trump’s mold; and he is proud of it. He will use fear-mongering as much as possible because he cannot win legitimately and fairly on the battlefield of ideas.

He will appeal to the devils of our psyche because he is ill-equipped to compete with true honor and civility, nor can he be judged on the merits of his message.  

Trump himself recently took to reprehensible, irresponsible fear-mongering when he told a private meeting of Evangelical leaders that, if Republicans lost the midterm elections, there would be “violence.”

While yet another indication of Trump’s devastating unfitness for office, it also betrays his deep-seated fear of a Democratic wave come November. Inciting fear is the only way Trump knows how to win.

But candidates like Gillum — and David Garcia, who won the Democratic primary for governor in Arizona, or Stacey Abrams, the Democratic nominee for governor in Georgia — don’t just represent the new face of America; they are the antidote to the disease coming from the White House that has infected every Republican running this fall.

Republicans who have turned a blind eye to Trump’s divisiveness, lies, misdeeds and possible criminal behavior will make voters turn against them in favor of fresh, new faces with rational ideas that conform to America’s most sacred values of democracy: equality and a fair shot for everyone, no matter the color of your skin or your station at birth.  

This cycle, Democratic nominees for governorships include a record 10 women, four LGBT nominees, three African Americans, three Latinos, one Native American and one Japanese American. This is an incredible story, not just for Democrats but for the country. Nominees for Congress are just as exciting, with varied stories of military, government and community service.  

These nominees are not only the most diverse in history. They represent what voters are looking for: leaders with convictions, commitments to serve communities, who know and understand their struggles, who offer pragmatic solutions to the rising cost of health care, to an economy that works only for the rich and to a culture of corruption, from the White House to cabinet agencies to members of Congress. 

Gillum represents the best of the Democratic Party. He is not just representative of the Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersWarren joins Sanders in support of striking McDonald's workers Kavanaugh allegations could be monster storm brewing for midterm elections      Senate approves 4B spending bill MORE wing, though Sen. Sanders’ (I-Vt.) endorsement was a welcome boost in the last days of the campaign.

Gillum says often that he was an avid Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHillary Clinton: FBI investigation into Kavanaugh could be done quickly Hillary Clinton urges Americans to 'check and reject' Trump's 'authoritarian tendencies' by voting in midterms EXCLUSIVE: Trump says exposing ‘corrupt’ FBI probe could be ‘crowning achievement’ of presidency MORE supporter. He sees his victory as the coming together of all Democrats; he’s right. And he is right for Florida.  

DeSantis, Trump and the rest of the GOP, whose campaigns are tinged with divisive, prejudiced intolerance and a lack of real solutions for voters, are right to be afraid.

Maria Cardona is a principal at the Dewey Square Group, a Democratic strategist and a CNN/CNN Español political commentator. Follow her on Twitter @MariaTCardona.