It is often said that our federalist constitutional system – with fifty states able to pursue their own unique policies – represents a laboratory of democracy.
Well, these last few years have witnessed a great test of governing philosophies as many jurisdictions pursued a much different path than we have pursued here in the state of Florida.
The DeSantis lab in the last four years has been developing various strains of cultural hatred, such as Florida's attack on transgender kids – outlawing transgender girls from completing on girls’ and women’s sports teams, and Florida's “Don’t Say Gay” law, which bars teaching of gender issues in lower grades.
For his work on “Don’t Say Gay,” DeSantis used an actual lab rodent, namely Mickey Mouse, punishing the Disney corporation for its opposition to the bill by revoking the Mouse empire’s privileged control of its vast Disney World theme park.
Sometimes DeSantis has conducted teachable moments outside the lab, to give “sanctuary” communities a taste of Florida's immigration troubles, as he did last September by sending two airplanes to Texas – that’s right, Texas – to pick up about 50 mostly Venezuelan immigrants and fly them to Martha’s Vineyard, an island off the deep blue Massachusetts mainland.
IF THERE'S A UNIFYING THEME to the Florida Lab’s work, it's to stamp out the contagious liberal virus known to laypersons as “woke.”
Indeed, in his Second Inaugural, DeSantis explained how non-Floridian jurisdictions, besotted with wokism, have coddled criminals, corrupted public education, burdened taxpayers and practiced “medical authoritarianism.”
Which, thankfully, has not been the case in the Sunshine State:
We reject this woke ideology.
We seek normalcy, not philosophical lunacy!
We will not allow reality, facts, and truth to become optional.
We will never surrender to the woke mob.
Florida is where woke goes to die!
“Woke” started out as a positive word, conveying racial awareness, consensus and healing. But it's also been repurposed by right-wing alchemists like DeSantis as a racial slur.
Woke entered my brain late in the game – it’s an old brain, and a slow one – during the George Floyd incident, in which a policeman murdered a man in plain view, in plain daylight – and the nation came to an understanding of what it means to be black in 21st Century America.
Woke made it into Florida law as the ‘Stop WOKE Act” - Stop Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees Act, later renamed the Individual Freedom Act – outlawing teaching of racial topics in a way that would make students feel guilt or “distress” about the sins of our forebears. The legislation, partially blocked for now by a federal judge, aims to protect purported victims of classroom brutality in instances of this kind of classroom scenario:
A person, by virtue of his or her race, color, sex, or national origin, bears personal responsibility for and must feel guilt, anguish, or other forms of psychological distress because of actions, in which the person played no part, committed in the past by other members of the same race, color, national origin, or sex.
Then there's the recent move by Florida education officials to throw out a new national College Board Advanced Placement course for high school students on African American history, saying that “as presented, the content of this course is inexplicably contrary to Florida law and significantly lacks educational value.” The officials later explained they were offended by discussions of Black Lives Matter, black homosexuality and black feminism.
Last week, the College Board issued a revised version of the course, which included removal of a section on Black Lives Matter from the main “framework” of the course, suggesting only that the Black Lives Matter movement might be a subject of an individual student's research project. College Board officials said the changes predated the Florida assault on the course; but DeSantis’ fellow right-wingers had their knives out much earlier, too, so the College Board’s defenses sounded hollow.
However, the course remained a powerful powerful review of black history – and Florida’s move to cancel the course seemed another example of “where woke goes to die.” You can see the scope of the course at this link to understand what Florida students will be missing if state officials stick to their decision.
But you don't have be woke to realize that’s just camouflage for what’s underway in the Florida laboratory.
On paper, DeSantis has a formidable resume for a practicing political scientist: graduate of Harvard and Yale; legal advisor to the Navy's legendary Seal Team One; federal prosecutor; Congressman, and at 44, not objectionably too young or too old.
Donald Trump's alarming presidency - the only one to try to overturn an election - tempted some people to welcome DeSantis as one Republican who might break the GOP's fever for Trump.
But DeSantis' record says otherwise: it's a warning as to what to expect if Ron outflanks Don in the next race for the White House, and replaces him at the Resolute Desk.
So, there's no reason for wishful thinking, no chance for pleasant surprises if DeSantis becomes The One.
There will be nothing to cheer, and plenty to fear.
DeSantis has made his biases and tactics very clear within Florida and beyond. This week he will seek more funds for the abduction/transportation of asylum seekers to other states, including ones who have never set foot in the sunset state. If he gets into the White House, I wonder where he will want to send these people. Canada?
He will be running as an Anti-Freedom of Thought in Education Republican, an AFTER-Trump candidate. People say they want Biden to run because he could defeat Trump again. I fear that he could not defeat this snake.
Biden should not run.
There are other candidates who can win.
Just don't ask me who they are.
No, it's the mayor of New York City sending migrants to Canada!
All true, but do rants help?
Politically, DeSantis is doing something right. Last election
DeSantis (R) 59%
Crist (D) 40%
According to exit polls, Crist got 65% of the White vote, 58% Latino, 69% Cuban, 56% Puerto Rican. Only group that supported Crist was Blacks, 87%
In other words, the thing we should be examining, why the landslide for DeSantis? Why does the anti immigrant and, especially, the anti woke stance resonate? Crist wasn't a great candidate but he had been elected governor once, and won and lost many state offices. There was no "anybody but Crist" sentiment. DeSantis clearly won on his own.
It does appear that cultural issues key in Florida, especially age-related ones. Crist got a majority of the vote of those age 18 through 39, who represent 24% of the voters; but DeSantis won those age 40 and older, 75% of the voters.
Except for really old liberal types like Brian and me, it does appear that the bulk of voters 40 and older are worried about immigration. They want schools to teach the basics, and are uneasy when teachers start teaching kids anything about sexual orientation and gender identity.
They aren't particularly right wing free enterprisers -- they don't mind DeSantis going after corporations like Disney and big tech companies. They want help from the state after Hurricanes.
I think a lot of people came to Florida to fulfill their "American dream." They like the state; they like their lifestyle. The climate is warm, the livin' is easy. Many are retired. Many have moved to Florida fairly recently -- about 1 in 4 have come to Florida over the past 20 years.
DeSantis' message to them is that the "woke" liberals, who think they need to "tear down" America to make it better, don't realize that instead future citizens should be taught to love their country -- after all, it is the best country in the world.
Of course for a lot of young people, in Florida as throughout the US, life is much harder -- and many don't buy DeSantis' message that Florida is as utopian as you can get. But to point out America's faults, is to threaten a lot of Floridians, especially those who are older.
So what is an effective Democrat response? Surely not to blast DeSantis as another (or worse) Donald Trump. Both men are populists, but DeSantis' message is different. And he doesn't seem hung up with all the psychological baggage Trump carries.
If this is a reasonable analysis, what should be the Democrat response?
DeSantis is a racist.
That means he is not fit to be governor, president or a Disney ticket-taker.
Idon't know why so many Floridians voted for him. Shame on them.
As to how to counter the politics of hate, the first step is to say no.
Second, find candidates who have core progressive and reform values, and who are competent. Mix well with equal parts charisma and humility.
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I'VE BEEN a reporter and writer for 58 years, long enough to have learned that journalists don't know very much, although I've met some smart ones.
Mainly, what reporters know comes from asking other people questions and fretting about the answers.
This blog is a successor to one inspired by our dog, Phoebe, who was smart, sweet and the antithesis of Donald Trump. She died Feb. 3, and I don't see getting over that very soon.
Occasionally, I may try to reach her via cell phone.