Florida Activists Say DeSantis’s Extremism Will Haunt Him in Presidential Race

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is anticipated to announce his run for president any minute now, reportedly throughout a Twitter occasion with proprietor Elon Musk. DeSantis will enter the race as a frontrunner for the Republican nomination however nonetheless trailing behind former President Donald Trump, who’s fast to boast about main DeSantis within the polls.

DeSantis will possible resurrect themes round “freedom” deployed throughout his 2022 reelection marketing campaign, however Floridians within the crosshairs of the governor’s extremist insurance policies are warning fellow Individuals that his reign in workplace has been authoritarian to the core.

In an effort to “out-Trump Trump,” as his critics wish to say, DeSantis has leveraged the facility of his workplace and the fealty of a GOP supermajority within the state legislature to launch a barrage of assaults on the civil rights of ladies, immigrants, LGBTQ individuals, academics, college students, labor unions, and extra. Varied social actions have united in response, submitting a flurry of lawsuits difficult new social rules and holding protests and scholar walkouts throughout the state.

Assaults on educators and LGBTQ children have been notably underhanded and nasty as DeSantis rammed via what activists name “Don’t Say Homosexual” insurance policies that prohibit speech about sexual orientation and gender identification in K-12 public schools. Like a lot of DeSantis’s signature insurance policies, “Don’t Say Homosexual” is going through legal challenges from college students, dad and mom and civil rights teams.

Florida has many LGBTQ residents, and its bars and seashores are a vacation spot for queer vacationers. Nonetheless, underneath DeSantis’s management, Florida has develop into synonymous with the “anti-LGBTQ, anti-freedom” fervor gripping the far proper, and the state’s repute is severely broken, in line with Brandon Wolf with Equality Florida, one of many teams difficult “Don’t Say Homosexual” insurance policies in courtroom.

“The injury goes to outlast his already flailing presidential marketing campaign, and the heartbreaking half for me is we’ve to piece collectively the wreckage in his wake,” Wolf instructed reporters this week.

Notably, DeSantis quietly signed an extreme and unpopular ban on abortions after six weeks of being pregnant, earlier than most individuals know they’re pregnant. Tales about ladies forced to give birth in Florida regardless of serious health risks are actually percolating within the nationwide media.

For DeSantis, a six-week ban appeals to his supporters within the anti-abortion motion and units him aside from Trump, who has been hesitant to embrace a nationwide ban on abortion. Nonetheless, the ban asserts state management over the our bodies of thousands and thousands of Floridians and ties the arms of medical doctors, who resist 5 years in jail for working afoul of the legislation. Even victims of rape and incest should current documentary proof of their trauma to qualify for an exception and obtain abortion care.

Abortion rights have been a significant legal responsibility for Republicans within the 2022 elections, and DeSantis has signaled that he would much rather talk about every other challenge for the time being. Tacking to the correct of Trump could assist DeSantis within the primaries, however he should finally defend his file with swing voters if he wins the GOP nomination.

“He tried rewriting historical past, whitewashing the historical past books and censoring away the reality; it wouldn’t shock me if he tried to rewrite his legislative and coverage historical past,” Wolf mentioned.

If DeSantis overtakes Trump within the GOP main and makes an attempt to pivot towards average voters within the normal elections, the individuals of Florida will guarantee he carries the bitter baggage of the tradition wars together with him, in line with Florida State Rep. Angie Nixon of Jacksonville.

“It’s going to be a summer season of resistance, and we’re actually going to be stunned by how Floridians actually push again towards DeSantis,” Nixon instructed reporters on Tuesday. Beside protests, which attracted tons of to the capitol in Tallahassee throughout the legislative session, Nixon mentioned grassroots teams are making ready to problem DeSantis-backed insurance policies with poll initiatives.

Whereas DeSantis pivots to a nationwide viewers, his efforts at social management will proceed going through backlash at college board conferences and within the courts.

As a part of DeSantis’s crackdown on speech and anti-racist historical past classes in faculties, conservative dad and mom went on a censorship spree, demanding faculties take away well-liked books from libraries. Final week, the writers’ free speech group PEN America teamed up with affected college students and oldsters to problem e-book bans in Florida’s Escambia County Faculty District as unconstitutional. The Division of Schooling can be stepping in as a result of e-book bans so usually goal titles with queer, Black and Brown characters, a transparent act of discrimination towards marginalized college students.

“What we’ve seen, what this governor has achieved together with his supermajority, has been to create an absolute energy for the state over the individuals,” mentioned Tessa Petit, govt director of the Florida Immigrant Coalition. “Which is the rationale the state is regulating each single one in all our freedoms.”

Petit pointed to a latest anti-immigrant legislation signed by DeSantis that prohibits taking an undocumented individual into the state, making a weekend household journey to Georgia and again a crime punishable by prison time.

The assaults are clearly designed to please a nationwide MAGA viewers, leaving Floridians to defend their rights — together with fundamental bodily autonomy — from the state of Florida and its new legal guidelines as DeSantis surfs the nationwide stage. In the meantime, activists say issues corresponding to sea degree rise and a scarcity of reasonably priced housing go unaddressed.

Even Disney World, a prime employer in Florida, has confronted unprecedented political assaults in retaliation for supporting the rights of its LGBTQ workers and prospects. The corporate lately introduced it could transfer 2,000 jobs to California. Democrats say Florida is experiencing a “mind drain” as potential school college students and school cross Florida faculties off their listing, and transgender youth flee the state with their households searching for gender-affirming well being care that has been banned statewide.

“Like I’ve been saying y’all, America, you’re at risk, lady,” Nixon mentioned.

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