Friday, September 8, 2023

Lessons from Florida

DeSantis vilifies minorities. Imagine what he’d do as president | Opinion


My Note:The editorial board of one of the largest newspapers in Florida, the Miami Herald, on Tuesday published a scathing indictment of Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, warning should he become president, “Imagine what he would do if he exported his vision to the whole country.” They add, 

Voters across the country only have to look at Florida to understand what he’s pushing. Divisiveness. Anger. Marginalization of anyone who might not be white, Christian, straight or whose family doesn’t go back generations in the United States.”

I do not rule out this dangerous politician. He is the top second choice with 36% favoring him it Trump is disqualified. More need to be aware of what he has done to Florida and what he could do if president.       


Under Gov. Ron DeSantis, Florida has used the power of government to assault the freedoms of anyone he and his supporters consider different. 

Gov. Ron DeSantis, Florida

Black people, gay and trans people and immigrants have all felt the unmistakable hostility of the state. In his pursuit of a far-right record that could outstrip Donald Trump’s, DeSantis has systematically — during five years in office, with a lockstep Republican Legislature — turned Florida into an unwelcoming place for many. 

As DeSantis runs for president, voters across the country only have to look at Florida to understand what he’s pushing. Divisiveness. Anger. Marginalization of anyone who might not be white, Christian, straight or whose family doesn’t go back generations in the United States. 

He has harnessed the power of the governor’s office and Legislature to do it. We can only assume he would continue on that un-American trajectory if he were to succeed in winning the White House. Even if he fails to win the 2024 Republican nomination, DeSantis is just 44; he’ll likely remain in politics for a long time to come. 

And that’s a problem. The kind of attacks on vulnerable groups that have flourished in DeSantis’ Florida harm us all. The United States is supposed to be a beacon of hope and opportunity. But his policies, too often, are the opposite of that ideal. Florida, under DeSantis, has become an example of what not to do.

 Immigrants seeking refuge here are among DeSantis’ favorite targets. There were those infamous migrant flights starting last year, when he used Florida tax dollars to fly asylum seekers from the border to “blue” places like Martha’s Vineyard. He has pledged to support an end to birthright citizenship, something generally believed to be unconstitutional.

In Florida this year, a new law that cracked down on employment of undocumented immigrants and made it a felony to transport into Florida anyone who has entered the country illegally has had negative impacts: Key businesses like construction and agriculture have started losing workers. 

And as Hurricane Idalia made landfall last week, the new law raised fears that immigrants and their families wouldn’t seek shelter from the life-threatening storm.

There’s plenty to criticize about immigration policy in this country, but using people as pawns on migrant flights and scaring others so much they’d rather risk their lives in a hurricane than ask for help from the government is about creating headlines, not solutions.


And then there are DeSantis’ well-documented attacks on the rights of trans and LGBTQ people. The best known of those policies is his parental-rights law, known as “Don’t say gay,” banning the teaching of gender identity or sexual orientation in public schools and threatening teachers with a felony charge if they do. He’s also backed laws to make gender-affirming care illegal and exercised control over which pronouns students use and even which bathrooms.

Disney, a vast multinational company, dared to criticize DeSantis on the “Don’t say gay” law — and the governor went after the company with a vengeance. The message was clear: Florida’s governor will use the power (and money) of the state to try to crush those who disagree with him. 

That brings us to DeSantis’ actions toward Black people. His 2021 “anti-riot” bill masqueraded as an attempt to keep public order but was actually aimed at squelching Black Lives Matter marches in the wake of the George Floyd murder. Now DeSantis has defended the incredible and revolting claim in the state’s middle-school curriculum that “slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.” It was a blatant recasting of history to make it more palatable for white people and it drew scorn, as it should. 

It’s no wonder DeSantis was booed when he showed up to speak in Jacksonville about the shooting of three Black people by a killer with swastikas on his gun. All things considered, booing seems like a rather restrained response. Don’t forget, this is the same leader who refused to condemn neo-Nazi demonstrators in Florida for years. 


These anti-Black, anti-LGBTQ, anti-trans, anti-immigrant actions have a financial price, too. Conventions have begun refusing to come to Florida — at least 10 have canceled in Broward County alone. Disney killed a $1 billion development planned for Central Florida after DeSantis attacked the company’s right to free speech. The NAACP issued a travel advisory in May of this year, urging people of color and LGBTQ individuals to avoid the Sunshine State, a move the governor derided as a “stunt.” That was three months before the Jacksonville shooting.

Other groups have cautioned about coming to Florida. The Florida Immigrant Coalition issued a travel advisory this year. So did Equality Florida, an LGBTQ civil-rights organization. As the group’s senior policy adviser, Carlos Guillermo Smith, told the Editorial Board, Florida has “rolled out the welcome mat for hatred and bigotry.” See: Florida's Shocking Curriculum Censorship: AP Psychology Axed Over 'Don't Say Gay' Law Controversy!

There is a term for what DeSantis has been doing as he stokes resentments of immigrants and Black people and trans people. It’s called “othering” — when you turn the person you’re attacking into someone you keep at arm’s length. You don’t know them or understand them or care about them. You can impose all sorts of negatives onto that kind of a blank canvas. It’s the opposite of empathy. And it makes it easier to pass laws that target them. They’re the “other.”

What’s going on in Florida isn’t a left-versus-right thing. It’s a right-versus-wrong thing. Going after various groups of people to push them out of public life isn’t about liberalism or conservatism. It’s about denying them human dignity and human rights. 

DeSantis, though, specializes in dread and fear. So far, he has been restricted to one state. Imagine what he would do if he exported his vision to the whole country.

1 comment:

  1. Florida's governor panders to hatred to achieve power. Does he hate, or is he using hatred to achieve his ends? Either way, I pray that he never achieves nationwide political office.

    Sadly, his base cares not for democratic principles. They only care that they are on top of the power pyramid - damn all others who get in their way. Does it matter much if transgender people's rights are protected by law? No. But to someone looking to gain power, it is easier to take that power from people whose actions are fueled by hatred to others, than to build it by delivering good works to the population as a whole.

    We've seen this 90 years ago in Europe, and it can be replicated here is we don't stop these barbarians at the gate. It takes more effort to live and let live, because one has to become comfortable with unfamiliar ideas, customs and practices. It is much easier to force people into conformity, as the rules are easier to define. If we define gender as a binary, then we don't have to deal with babies who are born intersex. We "correct" the gender to make the baby's parts conform to a norm. If we did nothing to the baby, then we'd have to acknowledge that gender is non-binary - a much more difficult and complex idea to grasp for many people.

    Hopefully, Desantis will over reach, then crash and burn. He is a risk to both Florida and to the United States. And I can't wait to see his comeuppance....