A PAGE ONE VALENTINE
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.
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.