Stop cringing at this half-brilliant fascist from Florida

The entire state of Florida, home to 22 million people, it is currently running as a giant Fox News campaign ad for Ron DeSantis 2024 Presidential campaign. As a method for developing responsible public policy, this approach has a number of drawbacks. However, when the politically archaic concept of good government,” it becomes clear that DeSantis’s culture war strategy is highly effective air cover for the more substantive Republican project of class warfare. As he waves his hands and dazzles us with snippets of sound, he’s trying to break the back of the Florida teachers’ union, which would rank as one of the most profoundly damaging blows to the labor movement in recent years. If the state’s incompetent Democratic Party can’t come together to ride through the torrent of bigotry and performative lying, we’ll soon wake up to find that this whiny, headstrong ex-athlete has done to Florida workers what former Republican Gov. Scott Walker did to Wisconsin.

This week, DeSantis announced that he is proposing legislation designed to decimate the power of Florida’s teachers’ unions. It would ban dues checking, making it unbearable for unions to collect dues, and it would ban teachers who do union work or hand out union materials on the job. He is also trying to undermine collective bargaining by creating a dedicated money source to give raises to teachers, but sets an expiration date for it and then claims that unions fighting for better contracts are putting their members at risk of lose access to that money. total. It’s not hard to see the logic. In a state where less than 5% of workers are union members, the teachers union is one of the only real strongholds of the Democratic-leaning workforce. As always when Republicans howl about teachers unions, the pious pose of caring for parents is a cover for a deliberate plan to destroy one of the few types of unions that can have influence, even in red states. All that concern studied by parents never seems to extend to the issue of providing a well-funded public education system for their children.

Florida people of all political persuasions often speak of Ron DeSantis as a formidable giant that Democrats cannot hope to contain. this is false he is a half-smart, unsuccessful Ivy League baseball player whose defining characteristic is not intelligence or likability, but inordinate ambition. He has a shrill, goofy voice and a palpable absence of warmth that won’t translate well on the national stage. He’s just as immoral as his rivals, but he lacks the polished presentation of Ted Cruz and the magnetic lunacy of Donald Trump. Although, as a general rule, I don’t do electoral forecasts, it would not be strange to see him crash and burn before a presidential campaign that depends, above all, on his charisma. It’s easy to imagine him as the latest in a long line of media-hyped red-state governors whose self-importance crashed and sank on the rocks of a competitive primary.

Nor is he some sort of king whose rule over Florida is to be taken for granted. Florida is essentially a fifty/fifty State that must be extremely competitive in every election. So why did DeSantis win re-election last year for twenty points? Because Democratic turnout in the state collapsed for twenty points compared to 2018 election, while Republican turnout increased. In 2018, Democrats ran Andrew Gillum, a younger and more progressive Black candidate for governor, and almost won; in 2022, they targeted a lukewarm ex-Republican and whipped them. When you don’t give people anything exciting to vote for forThey don’t go out to vote.

Like partisan redistricting, electoral rigging and blatant acts of racist voter suppression, DeSantis’ new salvo against the teachers unions is an effort to turn a limited and temporary advantage into a permanent one. Disenfranchise some Democrats, demoralize the rest, and demolish the few institutions that can sustain their power across the state. This is the DeSantis plan, and he’s not shy about it. He doesn’t need to be. His base revels in it, and his opposition is weak, scared, and apparently without a plan.

In Florida, all the biggest macro-issues in American politics are screaming as we speak. The proud fascism that DeSantis embodies must be met with radicalism. Clinton-style Democratic attempts to triangulate their way out of the issue are doomed to fail, and will only serve to drive home the false impression that Florida is a red state. You can’t go wrong with DeSantis. He jails blacks at gunpoint for voting; he bans books and outlaws the teaching of black history with a directness that would make George Orwell blush; he demonizes trans kids, perfectly happy to drive some youngsters to suicide if it helps solidify his own position. This guy is not a sophisticated mastermind, he is an asshole. He is the embodiment of the worst. 30% of Floridians, those who make the state a national joke. And those who turn their backs on him, like the dozens of college presidents who bow publicly to his back. vision”, are cowards who will find themselves on the wrong side of history when uncensored textbooks are finally written.

That’s something Florida proves: the absolute need for Democrats to stop being weak and fearful of their own convictions. The second thing it proves is the absolute centrality of organized labor as a way out of the political dilemma that afflicts the United States. Inequality has killed the public’s faith in institutions, and the modern media have entrenched national partisanship to a point that some perceive as futile. Unions can roll back inequality. Unions can unite people of different political beliefs in a common cause in the workplace. Unions can show people a real democracy that works. Unions can lead ordinary people into political activism based on the principles they learn from fighting for fair treatment for themselves. Unions can be strong enough to serve as a wall stopping the predation of opportunistic and hateful politicians like Ron DeSantis.

But all of that can only happen if a lot of people are in unions. In Florida, like the rest of the South, they mostly aren’t. Unions need to spend a lot more money to organize new workers. Unions need to spend a lot more money organizing in the South. The Democratic Party needs to prioritize and enable this to a much greater degree, out of self-interest, if nothing else. Unions can change people, they can change Florida, and they can change the country. But only if they come out of their stupor and organize millions of people.

All these things are connected. To be sure, workers and environmentalists together can be a strong enough coalition to control the state of Florida, much stronger than the petty racists and boat-owning car dealers that make up DeSantis’s base. Bringing this together requires a strong labor movement and requires the Democratic Party to help build that movement. There is nothing impossible in any of this. The threat here is bigger than a teachers union or a state. Ron DeSantis intends to make Florida a springboard he will use to get into the White House and show that America is still a racist and oppressive nation at heart. Stop him before he gets there. As a native Floridian, I make a courteous appeal to Florida Democrats, unions, teachers, and people of all stripes who don’t prefer life in a dystopia: come together before it’s too late.