What's The Matter With Florida?
I mean, besides the obvious.
I’m Michael A. Cohen, and this is Truth and Consequences: A no-holds-barred look at the absurdities, hypocrisies, and surreality of American politics. If you were sent this email or are a free subscriber and would like to subscribe, you can sign up here.
America’s Hot Mess
Over the past several years, Florida has cultivated a reputation as the state most closely resembling a dumpster fire, perched on a tire fire, floating in a viscous pool of orange juice. The state bird is a chicken finger. But while once, “Florida Man” and “Florida Women” were telling monikers for the actions of its colorful, non-Mensa residents, the leaders of Florida’s state government are doing their part to embody the state’s well-deserved prominence as America’s red-headed stepchild. If state governments are the so-called laboratories of democracy, then Florida is increasingly becoming America’s meth lab of democracy.
Over the past few weeks, Florida’s Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, and the state’s GOP-dominated legislature have introduced and passed legislation ever so slightly at odds with DeSantis’s inaugural address description of Florida as a “citadel of freedom.”
Last month, DeSantis unveiled a bill that would, in the words of one critic, “enact the most draconian restrictions on public higher education institutions in the United States.” The proposed bill “would hand control of the core curricula at Florida’s universities to a single system-wide board appointed by the governor; ban critical race theory (CRT) and diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives (DEI) at universities by legislative fiat; and give boards of trustees unchecked power to hire and fire faculty, effectively ending tenure protections.”
Last year, after Disney criticized DeSantis’s prized “Don’t Say Gay” legislation, he pushed the state legislature to revoke the company’s self-governing status. This year, the state legislature gave DeSantis the power to appoint a five-person board to oversee the theme park. And as Jonathan Chait points out, DeSantis hopes the board uses its position to “force Disney to stop ‘trying to inject woke ideology’ on children.” So using the power of state government to punish a company for exercising its First Amendment right was not enough for Generalissimo DeSantis — now he wants to use the power of the state to control the type of content they produce. Freedom … let it ring!
Meanwhile, in the state legislature, a Florida Republican has introduced legislation that “would decertify any political party that ever included a plank to support slavery in its platform.” Since the Democratic Party once had a platform plank backing slavery, the law would, in effect, decertify it.
Another legislator introduced a bill requiring bloggers who write about Florida’s state government to register with the state. I guess folks in Florida are not so familiar with the First Amendment.
Speaking of freedom of the press, DeSantis has talked about weakening libel laws to make it easier for individuals (and politicians) to sue media organizations for defamation.
All of this comes on the heels of Florida schools removing books from their shelves for fear that they will run afoul of laws passed last year that limit the teaching of race and gender-related issues.
In short order, Florida has become perhaps the most authoritarian-leaning state in the country. Not all of this proposed legislation will become law (and some of this is undoubtedly political posturing by DeSantis as he seeks the Republican presidential nomination). But even if this is posturing, no public official should so easily and flagrantly push legislation that undermines fundamental and bedrock constitutional protections. These legislative efforts are a good and alarming indication of what a DeSantis Administration could look like. With DeSantis in the White House and backed by a Republican-led Congress, it’s hard to fully imagine the damage he could do as president (and it’s not as if we can count on the Supreme Court to keep his anti-democratic and unconstitutional impulses in check). Quite simply, a country that looks more like Florida is not something any reasonable American should aspire to.
I appreciate Fareed Zakaria sparing me the need to write this piece on the emerging and deeply concerning bipartisan consensus on China.
Washington has embraced a wide-ranging consensus on China that has turned into a classic example of groupthink.
To watch Tuesday’s hearing of the new House select committee on China was to be transported back to the 1950s. Members of both parties tried to outdo one another in their denunciations of China, describing — as committee chairman Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) did — the Communist Party as an “existential” threat to the United States, and blaming it directly for every problem in America, from drug use to covid-19 to unemployment. (An odd charge since unemployment is currently at its lowest in more than 50 years.)
This hearing comes on the heels of the ridiculous national hysteria over the Chinese spy balloon and the Biden Administration’s overreaction in using $400,000 missiles to shoot down $12 hobbyist balloons.
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