Having followed the Democratic primary elections in Florida over the past month and more on these pages, it is worthwhile to make a short post to note the results. Daniel Uhlfelder, the Covid-activist of worldwide fame in 2020, lost.
This, I expect, will close out discussion (for now) on the politically interesting figure of Daniel Uhlfelder and his significance.
I have two previous long-form investigate essays on Daniel Uhlfelder, of sufficient length and detail that together (and including running commentary in the discussion-threads attached to them) they practically amount to the core of a short political-biography of one man and his place in the Corona-Panic:
- “On Daniel Uhlfelder, Corona-activist and Panic-pusher; an exploration into ‘why’ some embraced the Panic” [Oct. 2021].
- “Daniel Uhlfelder, the Covid-demagogue and Panic-pusher, runs for Florida attorney general 2022: his campaign and rivals” [July 2022].
For those looking for a more comprehensive study than what I can offer here, consult those first. This will be a retrospective recap, partly drawn and adapted from running commentary in the discussion threads on those posts.
The Uhlfelder phenomenon, as it happened, 2019 to 2022
“To recap,” Daniel Uhlfelder was one of the big winners of the Corona-Panic of 2020. He is of interest for that reason, although there are also other reasons to be interested in him as a case-study in how U.S. politics works…
As of late fall 2019, Daniel Uhlfelder was a total unknown outside his immediate circles in Florida. By that time, a flu-virus associated with Wuhan (China) had begun circulating in the world but with as yet no attention paid, nor a Pro-Panic coalition yet forming. Then suddenly in early December 2019, he hit the news for the first time.
This is how I told the story in September 2021:
If you check the Twitter feed of the man behind [a then-mocked anti-DeSantis tv ad produced by the “Remove Ron” political action committee], Daniel Uhlfelder (@DWUhlfelderLaw), you can confirm that he is serious about it, and that the ad *is* intended to be anti-DeSantis. […]
Mr. Uhlfelder is — was — an obscure Jewish lawyer in Florida. He had a few hundred Twitter followers on Dec. 1, 2019. But then his follower-count jumped to 50,000 by about Dec. 7, 2019. In that week, he had gotten attention over some kind of lawsuit against Mike Huckabee. A forgettable affair, but it did briefly make him a social-media star in 2019.
Uhlfelder’s big jump into fame was yet to come, though, and that was in spring 2020 with the Corona-Panic. It paid great dividends. As of today, Uhlfelder has over 200,000 followers.
And as of today, Uhlfelder has 232,000 followers on Twitter. It was his “social media” fame that is key to understanding the Uhlfelder phenomenon of the past three years, and to understanding the Corona-Panic, I think. In other words, there are ways that Uhlfelder personifies the Panic and how the Panic worked, spread, evangelized, consolidated, intimated, and won. The “social media” thing also explains his surprising loss to the much-less-followed Aramis Ayala (an extremely weak, controversial candidate, at least “on paper” as we once said), and his inability even to decisively beat the entirely non-social media candidate, Jim Lewis.
After first getting fame as an anti-Trump, anti-Republican, anti-DeSantis lone-angry-man crusader-for-justice type, and after being boosted by that media “ecosystem” in December 2019 to sudden status as big-follower account on Twitter, in 2020 Daniel Uhlfelder gained worldwide by alleging the no-lockdown policy in Florida was genocidal. That was through his well-publicized Grim Reaper costume antics. He thereby gained worldwide attention during the height of the Corona-Panic.
About the same time, dark conspiracy theories were spreading about Florida, though not necessarily crazier than mainline Corona-running-commentary (a major publication, Mother Jones, had articles denouncing as fascist the belief in “so-called natural immunity”). There were insinuations that political thugs in Florida were engaged in a systematic, giant cover-up to hide the huge piles of dead bodies. Such talk even entered circulation within the mainstream of the then-strong active-Pro-Panic coalition. Who knew just HOW many Florida people had been killed, and would be killed in the coming months, by the fascist DeSantis government’s reckless and inhuman policies — the callous refusal of the holy principles of Lockdown?
This well-publicized lone-angry-man in a Grim Reaper suit, in part symbolizing the true face of “DeathSantis,” was an important auxiliary to the histrionic and irresponsible claims of people like Rebekah Jones (link to the Ann Coulter column), also of Florida. In fact, the histrionic and unstable Rebekah Jones has also transitioned to a political career, went from obscurity as a data-entry clerk in early 2020 to this week winning the Democratic nomination to challenge right-wing U.S. Congressman Matt Gaetz…
(Update: See a post in Peak Stupidity, “Crazy Rebekah Jones — Candidate for US Congress,” which inquires on the sources of Rebekah Jones’ popularity, and comments in it.)
Florida was under huge pressure through most of 2020 and 2021, but stood fast and never fell back under control of the Panic, despite the credible rumors of the Biden people and Fauci issuing direct threats of ‘federal’ power to be used against the state of Florida, unless the state caved into lockdowns, masks, mandates, closures, vaccine-passes, and the rest, which DeSantis rejected directly with unkind words directed towards Biden personally following the threat, according to a witness. (See: Peak Stupidity, “Federalism Rumble: DeSantis v Bai Dien,” Feb. 22, 2021.)
It was about the same time as that confrontation between DeSantis and Biden that Daniel Uhlfelder’s real political life began. In January 2021 he used his new fame, gained in 2020 as the lone-angry-man Grim Reaper, outraged at the huge stacks of virus-hit bodies from the fascist Florida government, to found “Remove Ron,” a political action committee, a process no doubt helped greatly by his father, a decades-long political lobbyist, said to be one of the most politically influential men in the state from the 1980s to 2010s but always acting behind the scenes. In winter 2021-22, the junior Uhlfelder, and the political network of which he was now a leading figure, resolved to transition to a run for Florida attorney general. When announcement-day came in early March 2022, he had a well-oiled political machine behind him, and the accumulated power of two years of Corona-Panic power. It all looked good, especially against the weakness of his main rival, Aramis Ayala.
Now that the votes are in and he has actually lost his election, it’s worth evaluating why. It’s probably the wrong to jump to the easy case of saying that people either had gotten tired of the Panic or rejected this Pro-Panic activist for being too extreme. I don’t think these are the main reasons he lost, though I don’t doubt some who were motivated by such feelings went over to the other rival, Jim Lewis, who ran an almost right-wing, law-and-order campaign.
The actual reason or the Uhlfelder loss is something else. It is a classic case of “good news, bad news,” when we consider the weakness of the winner, Aramis Ayala, on traditional measures of political attractiveness, her net positives-to-negatives being lopsided towards the latter.
The 2022 results: Uhlfelder loses; Jim Lewis has a surprisingly strong showing; Aramis Ayala wins
A recap of the three contenders in this Florida attorney general Democratic primary race in 2022:
(1.) the Corona-demagogue, Panic-pusher, and Anti-DeSantis organizer Daniel Uhlfelder who gained fame by accusing Ron DeSantis of fascism and virus-genocide while parading around the state’s beahces as the Grim Reaper with news cameras in tow.
(2.) Jim Lewis, a former left-libertarian who reoriented himself to be an almost a rightist law-and-order type for this election, running against the image of Aramis Ayala’s “Defund the Police”-style agenda.
(3.) Aramis Ayala, the Soros-funded, Black Lives Matter movement champion, crusader against eternal-White-racism, and supporter of lenient punishments for crime on principles of Wokeness.
Based on Twitter activity, I made the prediction Uhlfelder would win, a straight-line prediction from that method suggesting he would take 70% of the vote. And I said more than once, there is no way a candidate as bad as Aramis Ayala wins, though she did have a strong base with Blacks and probably more than a few low-info-voter Hispanics who simply voted for her based on name alone (her Carribean-origin husband’s family-name, Ayala).
The actual results of the circa 1,450,000 votes cast were:
- Aramis Ayala: 45%;
- Daniel Uhlfelder, 28%;
- Jim Lewis: 27%.
Aramis Ayala, the BLM candidate, wins.
Aramis Ayala will face, and lose to, Ashley Moody, the Republican and DeSantis loyalist who previously won comfortably in 2018. Ashley Moody is the descendant of a family of some esteem in the annals of American history generally, and is well rooted in Florida for many generations (see also section: “The general election opponent: Ashley Moody,” in the post “Daniel Uhlfelder runs for attorney general.”)
Ashley Moody performed several points better than DeSantis at the time, though he is much more popular now. If DeSantis wins reelection by 8 to 10 points, there is no way enough people specifically turn against Ashley Moody to make her lose to a “Black Lives Matter” movement-affilated challenger.
What do we say about the Uhlfelder loss. Good news because it means Corona-demagoguery didn’t necessarily pay in this specific case, at least not in terms of a sudden victory by a previous non-entity who rode fame on the Corona-Panic wave of 2020. However, note well, ye students reading this in the future, that this election was in August 2022, well past the long period when the Panic had major influence on everything political and much non-political; note well, I ask you, that this man might well have won if this election were it in August 2021 instead of August 2022.
The more immediate reasons for the Uhlfelder loss I shall return to shortly, but first a few other words.
Florida governor race and its relation to the attorney general race
The race for governor of Florida in 2022 got much more attention than the race for attorney general, for the reason that the winner of the Democratic primary would face Ron DeSantis, who betting markets believe is the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024 (see “DeSantis vs. Trump 2024,” in previous discussion thread). If he somehow loses his reelection as governor this year, that is called into doubt. I should also add that by far the most-viewed post here at Hail To You over the past months has been the profile of DeSantis’ family origin and ancestry, including some media inquiries. DeSantis is one of the biggest names in U.S. politics, and continues to show boldness of leadership and steadiness of moral seriousness otherwise lacking.
The governor contenders on the challenging Democratic side were the hard-left Nikki Fried and the Biden-like figure Charlie Crist. The latter was the winner, and it is said that if any man can beat DeSantis, it’s this man, a dusted-off former statewide officeholder (Florida education commissioner, elected 2000; half term; Florida attorney general, elected 2002, one term; Florida governor, elected 2006, one term; in U.S. Congress from the Tampa Bay area, elected 2016, reelected 2018 and 2020).
Charlie Crist is “Biden-like” in that his previous image is that of a centrist but in older age there seems a little something ‘off’ about him. Yesterday, Crist (b.1956) told reporters that he doesn’t want the support of any current DeSantis supporters, whom he considers morally tainted. This mirrors Biden’s attitudes towards Trump supporters and symbolizes the strange direction towards which U.S. politics has turned in our time, which I believe is all related to why the Corona-Panic happened and to the implications of technology and its effects on our thinking, a problem we have yet to fully appreciate but which will probably be clearer to people of the future in the 2030s or 2040s and beyond, if we can run the gauntlet till then without too much further damage.
The Florida attorney general race caught my attention not primarily because it is indirectly related to the DeSantis political career. The attorney general is one of the major power-players in the state’s executive branch below the governor. The more important reason was that this attorney general race cast a star of the Corona-Panic (Uhlfelder) against a radical Black “BLM”-style candidate, Aramis Ayala. (See the previous Uhlfelder post for much more on Ayala.)
I should add that the U.S. political position of “attorney general” is more important than it may sound or than many may be aware, being closer in character to the position known as “interior minister” in many countries. The position is directly elected in the U.S. states (but the “federal” attorney general is appointed by the president, currently the awful Merrick Garland). (See a comment on the previous thread for more on this “attorney general as interior minister” comparison.)
I must say I was surprised when the result came back that he had only taken 28%. I had tried to use Twitter-data to estimate his margin of victory, and the straight-line estimate put him at or over 70% of the vote, indicating Twitter is not reality, which I must say is a reassuring result.
Another method of estimating strength was Google Trends, which turned out to be much more accurate but was ambiguous. The Google Trends data suggested people searched for “Aramis Ayala” twice as much as they searched for “Daniel Uhlfelder.” (See a long comment on the previous thread, “Who’s going to win? Florida attorney general Dem primary,” in which I outline the results of two estimation methods, Google Trends and Twitter; and a post-election analysis of just how wrong the Twitter-estimate was, “Twitter prediction failure, and what it means.”) That ratio is pretty close to how many votes Aramis Ayala won by.
The Twitter method vastly underestimated the third candidate, Jim Lewis, and I had dismissed him in all previous analyses. My Twitter-prediction method implied Jim Lewis would be lucky to break 5%. But here he was with 27%, nearly as much as the Covid celebrity, Uhlfelder.
Whence comes this support for Jim Lewis, which hardly registered on Twitter? There was no Republican primary, and some of the Jim Lewis voters could have been Republicans voting to try to ensure the virus-fanatic Uhlfelder or the race-fanatic Aramis Ayala didn’t get in. This makes Jim Lewis a classic “darkhorse,” and with just a few changed votes or more favorable demographics (on which more shortly), he could easily have stolen the show despite an extremely bare-bones operation and a self-made website and no funding.
The Republican-voters theory would explain why Jim Lewis didn’t have enthusiastic supporters active on social media. It would also explain why there were so many votes in the Democratic primary in 2022, nearly twice the votes cast as in 2010 and 2014, although similar to the high-interest wave-year of 2018.
In glancing at some of Jim Lewis’ actual rhetoric in debates and interviews, he ran well to the right of what the current national Democratic Party stands. He was also a good debater, whereas Uhlfelder was in need of more practice at such things.
Now, on to why I think Uhlfelder lost and Aramis Ayala won and the real lesson of a close-up look at this race.
Elections as ethnocultural censuses
The best theory on Aramis Ayala’s path to victory in the primary rests on two things:
(1.) A strong bloc-vote from Blacks. They are 30% of voters in this primary election. All indication is she swept this vote.
(2.) The support of the most ideologically committed Woke-ists.
On Blacks: It is certain that the majority of Aramis Ayala’s votes in this primary were from Blacks. Up to six-in-ten of her total vote was from Blacks.
The most ideologically committed nonblack Woke-ists were also for her, being an additional 10 to 15% of Democratic primary voters. Those few non-blacks who expressed support on Twitter were invariably people with telltale signs of ideological commitment to leftist Wokeness doctrines visible in their profiles.
To recap, that’s 30% Blacks + 10% committed-leftist-“Woke” vote, accounting for her win.
Whatever slack there was from those two groups is made up for by two other factors:
(3.) Marginal Hispanics breaking for the candidate with the Spanish name (her Caribbean-origin, felon, illegal-voting husband’s), and
(4.) Strong turnout in the Orlando are where she had name-recognition. Aramis Ayala was previously elected in the Orlando area as one of the “Soros district attorneys” (Nov. 2016), before being partly removed from her duties as because of her opposition to racism she refused to prosecute certain crimes according to the law.
Against a single opponent, or in a one-on-one run-off, Aramis Ayala might struggle to get over the 50% line. In a three-way race with primarily loyal Democratic voters (a primary election), she was able to win with this base coalition.
And the most important reason for the victory was not ideas, nor even the once-mighty Corona-Panic, but a headcount based on ethnocultural identity, or more of a ‘census’ than a pure ‘election’ in some Athenian-assembly idealized sense.
Most of Aramis Ayala’s votes came from Blacks, with an important auxiliary in those most committed to Wokeness principles. It’s race/ethnicity + culture including (or especially, for some) political identity and loyalty to Wokeness. This can be ethnopolitical identity (see: “Florida’s Ethnopolitical Groups“), based primarily in racial blocs.
Lessons of the Ayala victory / Uhlfelder loss
(Lesson 1.) When racial politics is involved, traditional measures like newspaper endorsements (which all went to Uhlfelder), and even “candidate quality” (to quote Senator McConnell), are out the window, and an election becomes a kind of partial ethnocultural ‘census’.
(Lesson 2.) Social media is not reflective of reality. The Twitter-data-based method both vastly overestimated Uhlfelder support and entirely missed Jim Lewis support. We should apply this kind of perceptual-corrective towards any other phenomena that seem unusually strong on social media.
(Lesson 3.) The USA is in serious long-term trouble. The weight of the demographic problem continues to sag things down.
I compare the USA’s political situation to a once-sturdy-and-reliable cardboard box, into which a stream of cold water is poured over time. Never quite enough water or with enough force to break the box, but more water keeps flowing in and more time passes, the cardboard gets wet, and after a while it can no longer sustain weight, must be treated with great care, and can no longer perform its proper functions of carrying things, and he who puts himself in charge of care of the box must treat the whole as fragile and at risk of collapse if not handled just right.
A candidate such as Aramis Ayala — who in 2017 went on rants against White police while in office, including after she was pulled in a car over by speeding, who in 2020 gave speeches about how the USA is an almost-irredeemably racist country whose raison d’etre is to oppress Blacks — would have been laughed off stage in any era before the past ten years or so.
If such a figure as this had run statewide in the 1990s or 2000s, even into much of the 2010s, she would have been capped at some limited percent and would have had to moderate her rhetoric. No more. Now she is the statewide candidate, and if by some fluke she wins, it’s a soaked-cardboard-box-collapse-like scenario before our eyes, for she would no doubt run something in Florida like what Merrick Garland has done nationally with his hundreds of right-wing political prisoners.
The same kind of “center did not hold” produced the radical-‘Muslima’ Congressperson from Minnesota, and other such results. The way the Minnesota district ended up with such an embarrassing representative was a tilt in the primary based on demographic weight, which would not have happened in past years. It also produced the Obama reelection in 2012, one of the first big cases of such on definitely demographic lines.
As for Daniel Uhlfelder, his concession message ended with an endorsement of Aramis Ayala. Fortunately, Ashley Moody is going to win this one in November.