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Fascism festers in the Sunshine State | Hard Right Turn

On April 19, the Florida Board of Education voted to approve House Bill 1069, an expansion to the “Parental Rights in Education” Act passed last March, commonly known by critics as the “Don’t Say Gay” law. 

Previously, the “Don’t Say Gay” law prohibited classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in grade levels K-3. After July 1, 2023, however, any discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in grade levels 4-12 will also be prohibited.

Chloe Patel | Senior Graphic Artist

Six days later, President Biden announced his intention to run for reelection in next year’s 2024 presidential race. The proclamation — forthcoming for some time now — was met with widespread disapproval. Even the President’s own party is disappointed, with a poll conducted at the end of last month indicating that only 25% of Democrats wish to see the incumbent run again. 

In January 2022 when Biden first took office, many progressives tried kidding themselves into believing that the Republican Party’s turn toward extreme social conservatism and white nationalism under Trump was somehow a temporary aberration. 

Unfortunately, the last three and a half years have definitively proven that Trumpism was a symptom, not the cause, of the Republican Party’s rapid descent into rabid Christofascism. 

From the repeal of Roe V. Wade to the dozens of laws passed across the country turning trans people into second-class citizens, the damage Republicans have been able to do even outside the Oval Office demonstrates the abandonment of all their pretenses of being the party of “small-government.”

One of two men will almost certainly be the contender against the widely unpopular Biden next November: either Donald Trump, who is currently awaiting trial for his indictment on 34 felony charges, or Ron DeSantis, the Governor of Florida who the Republican establishment has been grooming to be Trump’s successor since 2020.

As much as I revile Trump, were it my only option, I would choose Donald over DeSantis in a heartbeat, and so should you. Why?

Under DeSantis’s governorship, Florida’s become a petri dish for the implementation of ever-increasing fascistic legislation. Should his tyrannical rule over the Sunshine State set any precedent, a DeSantis presidency would make Trumpism seem benign in comparison. 

The modus operandi of DeSantis’s legislative agenda in Florida has been to codify into law the radical social conservatism which exists only as rhetoric in the rest of conservative America —for now, that is. 

Besides the censorship and erasure of marginalized groups represented by the “Don’t Say Gay” law, this legislative session, DeSantis has proposed an unprecedented volume of blatantly bigoted and radically repressive legislation, presumably in a show of force prior to his 2024 campaign.

There’s Senate Bill 254, passed on April 4, which made administering gender-affirming care to minors a felony as well as prohibited Medicare from covering such care for adults — and unprecedentedly, allows the state to remove children receiving such care from their parent’s custody 

There’s also Senate Bill 300, passed on April 13, which effectively outlawed abortion by imposing a ban on terminating a pregnancy after only 6 weeks — which is before many people even realize they are pregnant — and also turns administering an abortion into a felony. 

And don’t forget HB 999/SB 266, which would, among other things, eliminate all diversity, equity and inclusion activities or majors which contain “critical race theory” or “gender ideology” from all public universities in Florida. This bill also allows the governor to appoint his cronies as leaders of hiring and firing all public university faculty members. 

To top it all off, there’s HB 991/SB 1220, which would, among other things, curtail the freedom of the press by making it easier for public officials to sue journalists for libel and defamation. 

These are a few cherry-picked examples of the most aggressively authoritarian laws proposed and passed in the state which markets itself as America’s last bastion of “freedom” and “liberty,” but DeSantis’s slate of hate contains many others. 

Trump was all bark and no bite — a blundering, blustering megalomaniac willing and eager to say whatever would get him the most applause and attention, as well as an utterly ineffectual politician.

DeSantis is different. A cold, calculated and cunning politician with over a decade of experience compared to the upstart Trump, DeSantis is already incredibly popular among conservatives in his own state — likely because he’s actually been able to deliver on his lofty promises.

Herein lies my greatest fear: If President DeSantis is able to achieve at the federal level half of what he’s managed to enact in Florida, the cult of personality which could form around him would make the most fanatical MAGA hatters seem level-headed. And when their dear leader loses reelection or reaches his term limit, the Jan. 6 insurrection may seem like a walk in the park for American democracy.

One Comment

  1. Francine Peterman

    Call it as you see it! Silence and not naming these atrocities for what they are leads to their acceptance! I know! At 15, my great cousin was recognized as smart and dedicated to her homeland. She was taught Morse Code and stationed in a top floor apartment in the Netherlands to send messages to the German militia, alerting them when British and American planes were headed their way. When I—a Jew as she knew—visited in the ‘90s, she proudly brought ought a tray of her Nazi paraphernalia to share with me.