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Marcus Singletary Interviews Florida State Representative Dennis Baxley (Part 2)

Rep. Baxley.
Rep. Baxley.
Rep. Dennis K. Baxley

Click this link to read PART ONE of Marcus Singletary's interview with Rep. Dennis Baxley of Florida.

Q: What is your opinion of the overall record of President Obama?

A: I think he's a cool black guy! I can see why people like him. I think it's a neat thing that it says: in America, an African-American has come that far that they can be elected to the presidency. His policies have been disastrous and misguided. They obviously emanate from an idea that central control of everything is the best path forward, and I don't think world history demonstrates that. The societies that have thrived and done the most to raise the standard of living in the world have been those where liberty was preferred and individual freedom delivered more than central control.

Socialism is a great plan, [and] any form of that looks good. Everybody gets what they need - until you run out of other people's money to give away and people are not motivated to go out and make something happen and be productive. That creates a dependency that pulls the culture down. I don't think that's his intent, but I think that's what happens. We've swung a little too far to the left, and I hope to see it recenter.

Q: Has the Republican party swung too far to the right, regarding the Tea Party and other factions?

A: The Tea Party's message, in the beginning, was just to educate, motivate, and activate ordinary citizens to find out what [the] government is doing and don't just sit there and take it. That was a good thing [and] a force to make people reevaluate the role of government in their lives.

We take swings in different directions but, ultimately, there's a self-correcting dynamic. When the people vote, I have confidence in the result. There's a lot of awareness by the Republicans [of] how we're being framed in messaging to women and Hispanics [and different] minority groups. How we conduct ourselves - there's some sensitivity to that.

Q: What about Obamacare?

A: Obamacare is going to implode from its own weight [and] be the test when the full implementations hit and the regular folks feel what all that means, in terms of policy. It's just an undoable thing - to take over a sixth of the economy and manage it…in the way that the whole plan is built. It's going to be the swingback issue. It has swung too far to the left, under the President, and will swing back to the right again. Hopefully, we can keep this economic recovery moving.

Q: What are the differences between Democrats and Republicans on guns?

A: Democrats used to be all together on this. Now, everybody's jumping on the other wagon [and] feeling the pressure. There's a narrative that's been spun out there that is simply false: that we have this huge problem out there of white, vigilante men hunting down young teenage boys and murdering them in the street. That is a very irresponsible thing to be spinning out there, because it will create backlash, and people get hurt. Yet, they're playing to that fear, and it's creating more problems instead of helping us solve problems of violence.

I want what my critics want. I want fewer victims of violence. We just have very different ideas of how that can be achieved.

Q: Is the NRA going down the right road, regarding gun advocacy?

A: I'm very comfortable with making sure firearms are not in the hands of people that should not have them, [yet people] have inherent rights to self-protection that should be accommodated. We are safer when law abiding people are taking that responsibility seriously. I also believe that if you own a firearm, a number of responsibilities go with that.

I have a son that's a deputy sheriff, and he says, 'I can't be there when [crime] happens. I can only come back and find the perpetrator and try to prosecute them. But, if someone goes out to commit violence, for the first 5-10 minutes, you have to take care of business and take care of yourself. You can't wait for us.'

It's easy to jump on the availability of [guns]. It seems like an obvious place to go to solve the problem but, in fact, you've got to recognize you're talking about human behavior. People find other ways to be violent. If we are not of the right mindset, we're still going to do the wrong thing. And we have to confront that reality.

Q: Should teenagers be considered for gun permits?

A: That's going a little too far. We have some different expectations for adult behavior [and] could be taking some serious risks about extending those kinds of assumptions to minors. If you look at the ages at which violent acts are created, [in] even just analyzing the corrections/inmate population, it's amazing how much of this happened in their early years, usually.

Q: You're an idealist, then?

A: I am! I basically love people. I like to solve problems. I realize some things are hard, and also [that] it's a very diverse world. There are going to be many perspectives, and whoever you're wrestling with on one issue may, in a few minutes, be your best ally. So, try not to hurt each other.

You can still be passionate, and an advocate for things that you believe. And that's healthy. It's when we get to discrediting each other as human beings - and being totally intolerant of hearing people that disagree - that it's a problem.

I see a big difference in outlook between urbanites and small town, rural America, which is more, to me, the heart and soul of the country. Urbanization encourages more of a dependency model, because there's so many people together. You do transportation together, you depend on public services more, and you lose a certain sense of self destiny - that it's in [your] hands to be what you're going to be. In pioneer America - just one hundred and fifty years ago, whatever was going to happen was in your hands. Urbanization has some tempering of that independent spirit that did produce a lot of prosperity for the country. I hope there's a way to hold on to some of that - even though many people moved to urban culture for more job opportunities and a way of life they prefer.

Q: One of my friends recently wrote a book, Be Nice: Nice People Can Succeed - A Practical Guide for a Mean World. Can nice people succeed?

A: You can actually disagree and maintain a great friendship if you can understand that it makes you more patient with each other. I've always taken care of people, and provided service. My father was a hopeless capitalist, and he taught me to go out and make something happen. Take care of yourself, and encourage people to reach their potential as much as they can.

People are always hungry for leaders. Leaders think about where you're going. They don't just manage what's going on. That's why they call them leaders. That's why we follow them - because we think they have a vision.

Q: A recent article compared black Republicans to Jewish Nazi sympathizers. What's your opinion of black Republicans?

A: I'm ecstatic about their courage, because when they stand up, they take tremendous abuse and, yet, it's simply because they believe something different. They're probably some of my most admired people, like J.C. Watts. They take the heat, actually look at what makes America work, and are unafraid to say it.

The Republican party is the place for opportunity, and the plans we have for America are the plans that will enhance opportunity. We'll have to live up to our ambitions to be more inclusive. We need to make people more welcome, on an individual basis. [If] you draw people to intersect with each other, in a social way, they start understanding each other.

None of us probably fit the caricatures drawn for us, [and] kicking people out if they [disagree] on something - no matter how strongly I believe it - is sometimes where we, in this struggle for the soul of the party, go too far. That makes it hard to come together. But I'm actually optimistic. You had to get a Jimmy Carter before you'd get a Ronald Reagan. Ronald Reagan [is] revered today, but he certainly wasn't when he was trying to attain a position of authority to make some difference. He was very critically analyzed, but history has proven that some of his convictions were right. It was a good correction for the country. It set us up for some good years. Overall, nothing works like a little prosperity.

Q: Who is a politician you admire, and why?

A: Jeb Bush was a huge influence in my life, [in] being able to picture what a compassionate conservative looks like. He cares about people, [and] wants long term solutions. He wants to teach people to fish. He doesn't want to give them fish. Jeb really [taught] me that, because you do these caring things, it doesn't mean that it's easy. If you do some hard things to help people become better achievers, those won't be perceived as being real generous, but they're actually better for those people, such as stiffening up higher standards on education.

Follow Marcus Singletary on Twitter, and pick up a copy of his latest best-of compilation album, IN THE MIX.

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