People of all stripes unite, oppose cuts to kids, the vulnerable

Jenny Wojcik is hardly the kind of person you'd expect to find protesting a Republican governor and legislature.

She's a staunch conservative who likes poking holes in her liberal friends' arguments.

And yet on Tuesday evening, this proud Republican stood amid a sea of placard-waving protestors who were decrying Gov. Rick Scott's plans to cut funding for everything from schools and veterans to the sick and disabled.

"I had to speak up," said the 38-year-old elementary school teacher.

"With every other round of cuts in this state, I just thought I would close my door, keep my head down and do my job. Well, I can't just do my job anymore. That's the problem.

"They have cut so much of education already — the music, arts, sports. I love what I do and can't imagine doing anything different. But what we are giving them now is not the best anymore. It's just not OK anymore."

So Wojcik spoke up Tuesday.

She was joined by more than 600 others at a rally in downtown Orlando.

And that group was joined by thousands more in about 30 cities around the state.

They were teachers and nurses; police officers and the unemployed.

They were Democratic advocates for the sick and Republican parents who had lost children to pill mills.

All were angry and wanted to be heard.

I wonder if Florida's politicians will listen.

Oh, listening to the masses was all the rage when it was done in the name of Tea Parties. Florida politicians not only praised the protests, they encouraged people to participate — even deemed them "patriots."

So will they listen now?

I hope so. Because I believe in the power of the people. I always have — no matter who is speaking up.

Back in 2009, when others were trying to marginalize the health-care protestors, I described many of them as "genuinely frustrated and intelligent people" who should be heard.

When Nancy Pelosi and the White House were trying to patronize and downplay the movement, I wrote: "Democratic elitists are too quick to dismiss the unrest, further enraging very real people with very real concerns."

I believe in listening to people who take the time to speak up.