Ron DeSantis was reelected with a huge margin of victory despite facing a weak opponent. It’s possible that the governor will expand his nutty campaign if national Democrats don’t learn from the Florida party’s blunders.
It’s safe to assume that when Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis said that the states were laboratories of democracy, he wasn’t referring to the authoritarian agenda of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who is setting himself up for a run for the GOP presidential nomination in 2024. While serving in Congress, DeSantis helped establish the conservative Freedom Caucus, which propelled him to notoriety on a national scale.
As governor, he has made Florida a poster child for anti-democratic reaction, establishing it as the place “where woke goes to die,” as he has coined a catchy informal state slogan. As Disney and other large Florida employers voiced opposition to his plan to remove all references to se*uality and basic protections for homosexual and transgender students from public schools, he launched a separate culture war against the specter of “conscious capitalism.”
The Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, has taken an adversarial stance towards the state-run New College in Florida, despite the fact that other states have enforced bans on the true teaching of American history and purged school libraries of verboten race- and gender-themed literature. He appointed anti-CRT activist Christopher Rufo to the school board as a show of seriousness to conservative primary voters.
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Irresponsibly echoing Bertolt Brecht’s satirical dictum to “dissolve the people and elect another,” Rufo immediately took to his new sinecure with eager plans to gut New College’s faculty, admissions policy, and diversity mandates; “the student body will be recomposed over time,” while the college’s true-believing directorate “will recruit new students who are mission-aligned.”
DeSantis, as a politician, is more reserved in his public statements than Rufo, but the two professional culture warriors agree on a great deal. As the Republican supermajority in the Florida Legislature prepares to push a dizzying array of DeSantis-sanctioned projects geared at raising the governor’s national political profile, it will be crucial to follow Rufo’s five-year plan for counter-woke education.
Regarding the classroom, he wants to put a stop to any and all trans-inclusive pedagogical practices, including transgender students’ access to advanced placement courses in African-American history and the use of gender-neutral pronouns by teachers. DeSantis is teaching intolerance in the name of protecting parents’ rights and holding public institutions accountable to local communities.
He is also expected to approve plans to expand the questionable legal stunt he launched last fall of removing undocumented asylum seekers to blue-state jurisdictions and sign a restrictive six-week abortion ban (forcing Floridians into motherhood at a time when many of them likely don’t even know they’re pregnant).
DeSantis is doing all in his power to divide the people as long as they have the potential to cast errant Democratic votes. DeSantis’ 20-point reelection advantage last year can be attributed in part to his aggressive agenda of voter suppression and racial gerrymandering. And now, in a move that would make Brecht blush, he’s trying to pass off the manipulation of voter rolls as a mandate from the people.
“November’s election results signal a vindication,” he proclaimed in his March State of the State address. “We have the opportunity and indeed the responsibility to swing for the fences so that we can assure Florida remains number one,” he concluded. Don’t fret over the chitchattering elite. Put aside all the other distractions.
Always make sure you’re pointing north on the compass. We are going to be resilient. We’ll be the ones to keep the line. We are not going to give in. You haven’t seen anything yet, and I guarantee it.
Much of DeSantis’s electoral success in Florida may be attributed to the state’s notably weak Democratic party, which, in an all-too-typical display of myopic centrist strategy, nominated former Republican governor Charlie Crist as DeSantis’s opponent in the 2022 election. The obsessive right-wing onslaught on all things woke may be a non-starter for the national electorate, according to a recent USA Today poll.
56% of people surveyed saw wokeness as a positive commitment to social justice, while 39% called it political correctness gone wild. If national Democrats pay close attention to the lessons from the Florida state party’s failures, they might be able to send DeSantis, Rufo, and company to a well-deserved obscurity, and make “the Florida blueprint” that DeSantis touts in his recent campaign memoir a rapidly disappearing beachfront mirage.