I really hadn’t planned to write again about DeSantis–after all, the longer he campaigns, the worse he polls. Even in a field of distasteful alternatives, he’s unlikely to be the Republican nominee. But–as a Facebook meme recently put it–“Don’t complain about your problems. Some of us live in Florida!”
DeSantis has succeeded at one thing: making Florida an example of what he and the MAGA GOP want to do to the rest of the country.
Let me begin by acknowledging that Florida insanity didn’t begin with DeSantis. Since 1987, the state has had a law forbidding cities and counties from passing regulations that are stricter than the state’s NRA-friendly firearms laws. The DeSantis administration has enthusiastically enforced that preemption–local officials have been threatened with $5,000 fines if they pass gun regulations, and a 2011 amendment that made it illegal to “mess” with gun laws–including discussion or resolutions by local councils.
When several communities filed suit against the portion of the law that penalized discussion, the DeSantis’ administration vigorously defended it and the state’s GOP-dominated Supreme Court upheld it.
It’s hardly news that DeSantis and MAGA Republicans are owned by the NRA. That’s been true for years. What is arguably new is the party’s abandonment of older “dog whistle” tactics in favor of out-and-proud bigotry.
DeSantis recently aired an anti-gay campaign ad that even some Republicans found offensive. According to Talking Points Memo, DeSantis attacked Trump for remarks TFG had made that–OMG!– seemed to be supportive of LGBTQ Americans.
The one minute and 13 second video starts off with a clip of Trump giving a speech at the 2016 Republican convention, saying, “I will do everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens.” That comes alongside a montage of photos, screenshots of headlines and tweets and two Trump clips where he seemingly shows support for the LGBTQ+ community.
About 25 seconds in, the video takes a bizarre turn. As the background music changes we start seeing a montage of photos and videos of Desantis alongside images of shirtless men with six packs and scenes from several movies with over-the-top masculine male characters, including the 2004 movie “Troy” featuring Brad Pitt as Achilles, one of the greatest warriors in all of Greek mythology.
The Log Cabin Republicans (a group I find mystifying) found it homophobic, and several journalists called out the spot’s weirdness.
“Truly one of the weirdest videos I’ve ever seen a politician put out. Also, splicing images of DeSantis alongside images of shirtless and masked men… does not quite send the anti-LGBTQ message apparently intended,” New York Times reporter Jonathan Swan tweeted.
The New Republic also considered DeSantis’ anti-LGBTQ advertisement, concluding that “even by GOP standards, it’s frightening,” and predicting that it would usher in an era of ever-more blatant GOP bigotry.
Pete Buttigieg, as usual, said it best:
“I just don’t understand the mentality of somebody who gets up in the morning thinking that he’s going to prove his worth by competing over who can make life hardest for a hard-hit community that is already so vulnerable in America.”
Well, ugly people do ugly things. But nicer people can and do respond appropriately. As Robert Kuttner reports in The American Prospect,
Florida stands to lose massive amounts of convention business. Much of that lost business, ironically, is concentrated in places like Miami and Orlando, which don’t share DeSantis’s views. The latest to pull out is the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning, which had planned a fall convention for Miami, and has now moved it to Chicago, incurring a stiff penalty from the hotels.
Planners tend to be liberals, but lots of groups far removed from politics want to disassociate themselves from DeSantis’s crusade. The Association of periOperative Registered Nurses (AORN) has moved its planned 2027 Global Surgical Conference & Expo from Orlando to Philadelphia. Around 7,000 nurses and exhibitors will no longer be helping the local economy. The organizers of Con of Thrones, a convention for fans of the HBO fantasy epic, canceled their Orlando convention, planned for the Hyatt Regency Orlando in August. The National Society of Black Engineers will also not be coming to Orlando in 2024, for a convention that would have brought 15,000 to the Sunshine State.
Kuttner identifies several other groups. He also distinguishes Florida’s situation from the “bathroom bill” episode in North Carolina, where similar cancellations killed that measure.
In Florida, the culture war against LGBTQ people is purely a stunt by DeSantis, as the centerpiece of his national presidential campaign. It is hard to see how he might backtrack or compromise without looking even more like a lame opportunist…
The cancellations come on the heels of reports that Florida is also losing thousands of agricultural workers, thanks to DeSantis’ anti-immigration law.
So–don’t complain! You could live in Florida!