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Do You Really Want to 'Make America Florida'? Under DeSantis, It's a Mean Place

Do You Really Want to Make America Florida Under DeSantis It s a Mean Place
Date Posted: Monday, May 22nd, 2023

Opinion by the Miami Herald Editorial Board


Florida, under Gov. Ron DeSantis and Republican Legislature, is increasingly hard to recognize. It’s an intolerant and repressive place that bears scant resemblance to the Sunshine State of just a few years ago.

The 2023 legislative session cemented those appalling setbacks. Florida is now a state where government intrusion into the personal lives of Floridians is commonplace. What will it take for citizens to push back on this unprecedented encroachment on their rights? And, more broadly, what if Desantis supporters get what they want, which is to “make America Florida”?

The latest round of laws makes Florida sound more and more dystopian — something voters in the rest of the nation should note if they are considering what a DeSantis presidency could look like. The state has new rules for who can use which bathroom, what pronouns can be used in schools, which books can be taught, and when women can get an abortion (almost never.) There are measures to strip union protections from public employees, keep transgender children and their parents from choosing to seek medical treatment, prevent universities from discussing diversity or inclusion, and ban talk of gender identity or sexuality in schools all the way through 12th grade.

The governor, meanwhile, is consolidating power — with a personal militia to do his bidding and the ability, granted by the ever-compliant Legislature, to fly undocumented immigrants around the country on taxpayer dollars. Guns will be easier to carry, and the death penalty will be easier to impose, thanks to DeSantis and the Legislature.


Forbidden speech, attacks on the rights of vulnerable groups, union-busting, a governor-controlled State Guard? Welcome to the mean state of Florida.

This session, lawmakers seemed to take delight in passing bills designed to push already-marginalized groups into the shadows. One bans children from drag shows (where’s parental freedom now?) Another makes it a misdemeanor to use bathrooms in public schools and other government buildings if the bathroom doesn’t correspond with your sex at birth.

That’s the same bill that led Rep. Webster Barnaby, a Republican from Deltona, to erupt into a thundering, Old Testament-style tirade at a House Commerce Committee meeting in April, calling transgender people “demons,” “imps” and “mutants from another planet.” He apologized later, but the fact that he felt free enough to go on that rant speaks volumes about the way Republicans in Tallahassee are thinking. And though the words were abhorrent even to some Republicans, in the end, that didn’t make a dent. The bill passed.

Lawmakers still had plenty more punishment to dole out: Florida also will start prohibiting teachers from asking for students’ preferred gender pronouns in schools, expanding the “Don’t say gay” law, and criminalizing gender-affirming care.

In addition to making it legal to carry a loaded and concealed gun, without training or a permit — that’s HB 543 — lawmakers made sure under SB 450 to lower the bar for the death penalty to eight votes from a 12-member jury, the lowest in the nation. They did that knowing that Florida has the highest number of exonerations in the country, with 30 people since 1973 wrongfully convicted and sent to Death Row, only to be cleared years later.

What happens if we continue to convict the wrong people? Republicans clearly don’t care. They had one main goal this session: to make DeSantis more right-wing than potential White House rival Donald Trump.


They may have succeeded with the six-week abortion ban, which goes into effect if the state’s current 15-week law weathers an ongoing legal challenge in the state Supreme Court. The six-week ban is especially cruel and punitive because many women don’t know they are pregnant within at that point. That could amount to forced pregnancy, a hellish concept if there ever was one — and one that may make even staunch Republicans blanch.

And don’t forget about immigration. Lawmakers sure didn’t. They passed a bill that will give DeSantis $12 million to continue his inhumane migrant relocation effort — the one that drew national attention last year when he treated a group of migrants like pawns, flying them from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard. The government will also prohibit local governments from providing money to organizations that issue identification cards to people illegally in the country and will require hospitals that accept Medicaid to ask about citizenship — no doubt intended to dissuade undocumented immigrants from seeking medical care.

Banning speech, discouraging medical care for immigrants, making transgender people feel unwelcome while making women less free and loosening up gun laws? This dark and angry place isn’t the Florida we know. It’s not the Florida we want.

Voters across the country should take note. As we head into a presidential election, the Florida that is emerging today under DeSantis’ tight control is a bleak cautionary tale.

Source: the Miami Herald Editorial Board/Miami Herald.com

Date Posted: Monday, May 22nd, 2023 , Total Page Views: 1553

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