Florida Man

I am constantly confounded by the evident belief of Republican presidential candidates that the way to GOP hearts is be overtly autocratic, bigoted and/or “in your face” corrupt.

Which brings me–once again–to “Florida Man,” aka Ron DeSantis. (I am hopeful this will be the last time I focus on DeSantis, since my reading of his trajectory suggests he will not be the nominee…but hey! I was equally certain that no sane political party would nominate Trump, so my prognostication skills aren’t great…)

As we’ve seen with TFG,  this particular breed of politician exhibits what a friend used to insist was a prime motive for seeking political power: to help your friends and f**k  your enemies. We’ve seen this dynamic in DeSantis’ petulant efforts to punish Disney for daring to criticize His Majesty’s anti-gay bigotry.

An even more recent–and telling– exhibit, courtesy of Robert Hubbell:

Like other red states, Florida is doing its best to prevent car manufacturers from selling electric vehicles. This week, DeSantis signed legislation prohibiting “direct to consumer” sales of electric vehicles, a marketing approach that bypasses automobile dealerships. Elon Musk pioneered the “direct-to-consumer” approach and uses it exclusively to sell Tesla cars.

So, one would think that the Florida legislation banning direct-to-consumer sales of cars would be bad news for Tesla. But you would be wrong—because the legislation exempts Tesla from the ban. 

As a result, large auto manufacturers like Ford, GM, and Chrysler are prohibited from selling electric vehicles directly to the consumer, while Tesla is free to do so. It is amazing what a presidential endorsement can buy in Florida!

DeSantis’ has declared war on anything he considers “woke”–evidently, any effort to ensure equal treatment of, or information about, previously marginalized Americans. A recent post to Daily Kos shed light on DeSantis’ animus toward New College, a small liberal–“woke”– institution in the state.

The narrative has been that this is a small college that DeSantis is trying to take over for his culture war and leave it at that. It is true that DeSantis is effectively destroying Florida’s universities with the help of his supporters’ openly hostile resentment of higher education. And yes, he’s making Florida toxic to not just out-of-state students, but Florida’s own students and professors who are deciding it’s best to leave the state and go somewhere less oppressive. Not to mention the medical students who are canceling their residencies in Florida due to abortion laws. But there’s so much more than that.

To begin with, no outlet has even described the unique way New College operates. It’s modeled after the New College of Oxford University in England. There are no grades: all courses are pass/fail. The student is responsible for his or her entire course planning, and there are no required courses. There’s few organized sports, and no fraternities or sororities. This school is only for the most highly motivated students who have the maturity and intellect to chart their own path and create their own approved course structure. New College has always scored at the top of national rankings, such as The Princeton Review and Forbes; and has ranked fifth in U.S. News & World Report’s annual review of public schools for higher learning. It is a very small school, with under 1,000 students, but has produced more Fulbright scholars than either Harvard or Yale.

The post attributed DeSantis’ determination to transform New School “into a sham school catering to bigoted yokels” to something that occurred on its campus 10 years ago, and ties it into “the resurgent white nationalist movement in Florida.”

For a school that has produced some notable alumni, one of the ones they tend not to feature is a young man by the name of Derek Black. He is the godson of David Duke and the son of Don Black, the grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. Don Black founded the first neo-Nazi online forum and world’s most prominent white nationalist website, Stormfront.

When Derek Black came to New School, he was a committed neo-Nazi. The experience changed him.

In 2013, Derek sent a letter to the Southern Poverty Law Center that rocked the white supremacist movement to the core, and outraged the hate communities in Florida. The key phrase was this: “I do not believe advocacy against ‘oppression of whites’ exists in any form but an entrenched desire to preserve white power at the expense of others. I am sorry for the damage done by my actions and my past endorsement of white nationalism.”

DeSantis candidly admits he targeted the school for its “progressive culture.” That culture dealt a blow to  Florida’s white supremacist movement, and that movement is  a core part of DeSantis’ base.

And the core of today’s GOP.


  1. It is interesting that you mentioned Derek Black. He wrote a book that was awarded the Pulitzer and I read it some years ago in a book club. It is very good and worth reading. It demonstrates how entrenched the white supremacy ideology was in Mr. Black, and how much patient effort it took from his friends at the New School that eventually caused a change of heart and resulted in the letter you quote. The book is called “Rising Out of Hatred: the Awakening of a Former White Nationalist” and is worthwhile reading.

  2. Eli Saslow is the author of this book Rising out of Hate.
    Heaven forbid education should actually..educate. No wonder their heads are spinning in the south.

  3. Thanks Sheila, for opening this important conversation.
    Thanks, James for the book recommendation, and look forward to reading it.

    There is a documentary on Daryl Davis, a black jazz musician who befriends and eventually the changes hearts and minds of some KKK, one person at a time. https://www.pbs.org/independentlens/documentaries/accidental-courtesy/

    He is amazing! Here is the link to an NPR article: https://www.npr.org/2017/08/20/544861933/how-one-man-convinced-200-ku-klux-klan-members-to-give-up-their-robes

    As for De Santis, he is the biggest “mean girl” ever.

  4. Sheila, I have to disagree with your comment “.. I was equally certain that no sane political party would nominate Trump, so my prognostication skills aren’t great…” No sane political party did nominate 45. There’s no way anybody can claim the GOP is sane.

  5. Thank you, James, for the book recommendation. I just checked out the e-book.
    And thank you, Sheila, for telling us the story behind the story.

  6. So now Florida man has ticked off Ford, GM and Chrysler and, potentially, their employees. Add them to the growing list. Teachers, librarians, pro choice women and men, Disney, the LGBTQ community, etc..
    And y’all think this guy is smarter than TFG?

  7. Instead of trying to figure out DeSantis, perhaps we should be taking a hard look at the Florida voters who support him. Some kind of a sickness there.

  8. Saslow’s “rising…” is now on my reading list. thank you.
    BTW, Black went to New College, not New School, another progressive college, but in NYC.
    If either TFG, or this poor excuse for a human wins in ’24 we will be exploring
    a move to another country. In that regard, it should be useful to let people know
    who is bankrolling RFK Jr’s campaign: Bannon, Stone, and Michael Flynn!! Jr.
    sick enough on his own, and fits into today’s piece by dint of his own Nazi sympathies.
    DeSantis, out in the real world, does seem to be shooting himself in the foot, repeatedly,
    as TFG, is apparently doing, but we can expect to see the GQP getting nastier, and crazier
    than ever as ’24 approaches, and can not really predict where this will all wind up.

  9. Over twenty years ago my then living wife and I purchased a property on a lake in North Naples, Florida. She, a retired university and long tenured professor, passed away in 2009. I stayed, with the intent of living it out to the end. My four children lived and still live in Indiana. Then came DeFascist. I voted for his opponent. We lost. I didn’t know he was a fascist and thought I could still live it out since the weather was great and I liked my neighbors.

    I was wrong. I cannot and will not live under fascism, having spent some two years in WW II in opposition to such an autocratic and inhumane rule. I sold my house on the lake, closing the deal on the St. Patrick’s Day just past and now live with my elder daughter in Bloomington, Indiana, in Monroe County and home of Indiana University, a blue dot in a sea of red. My retired but busy daughter is an active Democrat and serves on both the Planning Commission and the Board of Zoning Appeals.

    I became aware of DeFascist’s dictatorial tactics in re the New School, his political rewrite of curriculum of schools, his no say gay, his reversal of professors’ tenure etc. etc. etc. and decided to leave such a neo-Nazi environment. I will not be going to Florida until this cancer on the body politic is removed, and should DeFascist be elected president, I already have my next venue of Portugal and/or Costa Rica planned as an ex-pat.

  10. Don’t be so sure that Trump will be the GOP Nominee. Eventually he will make a plea deal which will oblige him to drop out of the public view leaving De Santis to bring his fascism to America.

  11. Larry: I agree that Trump may not be the Republican candidate come ’24 but am not sure that DeFascist will be his replacement, as those who have filed hope. If so, whoever is the candidate will have to play to Trump’s base and if elected play his game until he or she can safely put forth their own views, as we have seen with the majority of such candidates in the primary while tip-toeing through the Trump tulip field. A lot will depend upon whether Trump goes for a plea deal that will keep him out of jail, a distinct possibility since the evidence of taking and obstruction is so plain to behold, not to mention the full menu Jack Smith has in reserve. It will be interesting.

  12. Drug head Hunter and The BIG GUY – tax evasion, illegal gun possession, selling access with “daddy” in the room to China – slap your hands Hunter- nothing to see here – you get to keep your gun and no prison time for failing to pay $200,000 in taxes….. This is all about The BIG GUY corruption- we’ve got whistleblowers and text messages….. DOJ just looked the other way !!!!! Millions to the Biden family ….. wonder why ???? Americans understand this!

    Ron and TFG are GOLDEN -One of them WILL be president !
    liberals are SO screwed!

  13. I suppose I always had a soft spot for New College. They were one of the few schools that tried to recruit me. I also worked with a New College graduate – a very bright women.

    What bothers me is the lack of response from the rest of the academic community. I may have missed something, but did any academic institution declare that Florida high graduates would now need to pass the GED to get admitted? Did any graduate schools state that degrees from schools in Florida would no longer be recognized?

    In Europe, the EU declared that Hungary’s universities were no longer eligible for various grants, due to the politicization of their governing bodies.

    I would like to see the Ivy league schools, and places like Stanford, Michigan and the UC schools declare Florida degrees the equivalent of paper mills. (no chance of Indiana schools doing that)

    As for GM, etc. – I will leave to the lawyers here, but isn’t that law “restraint of trade” or some such violation, allowing one firm and blocking others?

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