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.