State-Level Autocracy

If you resist believing that today’s GOP is intent upon replacing democracy with autocracy– controlled, of course, by the GOP–you need only look at what they are doing in the states. 

One person, one vote? How old-fashioned!

Efforts to negate the popular vote have moved way beyond gerrymandering. In Wisconsin, Republicans are exploring ways to undo the election of a state Supreme Court Justice who won by eleven points. Texas’ lunatic legislature has passed a different set of rules for cities populated by “those people,” who tend to vote Democrat. 

And then, of course, there’s Ron DeFascists’ Florida, where folks who voted for their local prosecutor can wake up to find that the governor has summarily dismissed their electoral choice. The Brennan Center (link unavailable) recently focused on his latest arbitrary and undemocratic dismissal of a popularly elected official.

In 2020, Monique Worrell was elected to serve as the prosecutor for the Orlando area. She’d campaigned on a reform platform that evidently was too “woke” for DeSantis, who proceeded to suspend her from office for “neglect of duty and incompetence.”  Worrell has filed suit in the Florida Supreme Court challenging her suspension.

Worrell’s lawsuit is one of a number of current state court cases that raise important constitutional questions about the scope of prosecutorial discretion — the power of prosecutors to decide when and how to charge crimes, seek bail or sentencing enhancements, or make other decisions about how they pursue cases. It’s an issue receiving scrutiny across the country, with laws recently enacted in Georgia and Texas authorizing prosecutors’ removal for certain uses of discretion.

The Florida Constitution authorizes the governor to suspend prosecutors like Worrell for specified reasons, including neglect of duty or incompetence. In her lawsuit, Worrell argues that DeSantis failed to allege any conduct meeting that constitutional standard.

Worrell’s office had no policy or practice of failing to enforce certain laws, and her charging decisions were well within the bounds of what most lawyers consider to be proper prosecutorial discretion. Policy differences between a local prosecutor and a governor are not legal grounds for suspension. 

This isn’t the first time DeSantis has targeted an elected local prosecutor. In 2022, he suspended Tampa-area prosecutor Andrew Warren, citing pledges he signed not to prosecute certain types of cases, including those related to abortion and gender-affirming health care.

A federal court ruled that Warren’s suspension violated both the Florida Constitution and the First Amendment, but the court held that it lacked the authority to reinstate him. The Florida Supreme Court — which would have the authority to overturn the governor’s suspension — then rejected a petition from Warren filed six months after his suspension after concluding he had waited too long to file. Worrell’s petition, filed less than a month after her suspension, will likely force the state high court to directly consider the relationship between the governor and local prosecutors in implementing criminal justice policy.

Similar issues are pending in other state supreme courts. In Pennsylvania, Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner is challenging his 2022 impeachment by the state house of representatives, arguing that his exercise of discretion did not constitute “misbehavior in office.”  Georgia prosecutors are challenging a law imposing new limits on their discretion and creating new mechanisms to remove them from office. In Arizona, taking his cue from  Republicans, the state’s Democratic governor stripped local district attorneys of the power to prosecute cases under the state’s 15-week abortion ban, using an executive order to transfer that power to the state attorney general, who has vowed not to enforce it. 

These autocratic exercises significantly undercut democracy.

According to the New York Times, Ms. Worrell had been elected with 66% of the vote, and she released data showing that her prosecution rate was similar to that of two of her predecessors. Whether her performance was unsatisfactory was a question for the voters–not the Governor–to decide.

DeSantis justified her removal by citing several offenders who had committed crimes after serving their (presumably insufficient) sentences, or while out on bail; Ms. Worrell responded by pointing out that examples cited by the governor involved factors beyond a prosecutor’s control. Sentences and bonds are set by judges who are free to overrule prosecutors’ recommendations.

And she said that much of the information that was used to build a case against her came from local law enforcement officials who oppose her because she has prosecuted police officers, including one who shot an unarmed person.

“My message has been consistently, whether you’re a Democrat or Republican, whether you like me or you hate me: Democracy is under attack,” she said. “Duly elected officials should not be removed by elected officials who are not politically aligned with them.”

Autocrats-R-Us disagree. 


  1. People in power will go to great lengths to remain in power. It does not surprise me when it happens, but it is frustrating.
    There are so many ways to do it, as described above in today’s post. A new development, actually not new but being brought to light by the Capitol Chronicle lately, is the practice of appointment by caucus members of an elected official when the leave office before the end of their term.
    Three members of the Indiana Congress, two senators and one from the house, have left for “personal reasons”. The senators each have three years left in their terms and are going to lucrative positions in the private sector. They are being replaced by caucus members, which means that the constituency will be represented by people they did not elect.
    And get this: 1 in 5 members of the Indiana Congress got their position by caucus in the first place.
    “Democracy? We don’t need no stinkin’ democracy in Indiana!” -the Indiana GOP

  2. If they hate like a Nazi, talk like a Nazi, and act like a Nazi…they are a Nazi.

  3. In Georgia on this past Thursday, the Republican Senate Caucus (which has 32 of the Georgia Senate’s 56 members) apparently suspended a GOP state senator from the caucus who attacked them for opposing his plan to impeach Fulton County District Attorney, Fani Willis, for indicting Mr. Trump. The caucus announced Thursday it was indefinitely suspending state Sen. Colton Moore of Trenton, GA, who represents a district in Georgia’s northwest corner. Despite Moore getting ousted from the caucus, some Republican state senators are still backing a plan to seek Willis’ removal under a new state law which established a prosecutorial oversight commission which begins to function after October 1 to discipline or remove wayward prosecutors who fail to perform the responsibilities of their office.
    The caucus issued a statement that said “Sen. Moore has a right to his opinion,…but has knowingly misled people across Georgia and our nation, causing unnecessary tension and hostility, while putting his caucus colleagues and their families at risk of personal harm.”
    In contrast to Florida, Governor Kemp has refused to endorse Trump’s false claims about the 2020 election and counseled his party against baseless charges being brought against Fani Willis under this new law that simply doesn’t apply to her action against Trump and his cohort who committed crimes in an effort to overturn the 2020 election. According to the local Fox News outlet (Fox 5 in Atlanta) it is “the latest display of a divide between Gov. Brian Kemp and many elected Republicans, on the one hand, and grassroots Trump backers who have captured control of Georgia’s Republican Party organization.” Moore will remain a member of the Georgia Senate and will still be a Republican, but may find it hard, according to Fox News there, to pass legislation without the support of the majority caucus. Some district attorneys, including Willis have sued to overturn this new law, asserting it improperly infringes on their authority.
    What is happening in Georgia is yet another example of a party imploding upon itself, unable to come to grips with the extremism that is fast becoming its calling card.

  4. Whenever Democrat majorities return to the Presidency, House and Congress, red will start returning to a stain only on a few states and the country will go ‘round the bend and head back towards Constitutional, majority, power to the people.

    I think that our adaptation will be back towards what our grandchildren need and not what’s best for me today which will become a historical record of temporary, propaganda advertising too pervasive and influential media.

    Groups like Sheila has rounded up will be growingly listened to.

    The future will show the way back to normalcy.

  5. All the above are examples of fascism with autocratic beliefs. We no longer have any checks and balances. It’s autocracy for them and democracy for us. It’s also socialism for them and capitalism for us.

    Who are these autocrats? Who finances their campaigns without repercussions?

    A quick check reveals the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which donated $1 million, and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which donated $500,000.


    You’d think AIPAC and the Chamber would be the last groups investing in a Nazi like DeSantis.

    We need to do research and start protesting these entities. Make them pay the consequences for who they support and associate with. If we want a democracy, we need to act with backbone, even if our elected officials work diligently to prevent us from doing so. We can refuse to buy from the Nazi supporters.

    For example, I checked with the internet to see if there is a website for products made by Koch Industries, and one does not exist. This is a missed opportunity!

    We need to be more proactive if we want this behavior to change. Otherwise, the Nazis will try to outdo each other with extreme governing.

  6. I don’t think about autocracy. I think of Hanna Arendt’s 1951 “The Origins of Totalitarianism.”

  7. Why have elections when those elected are subject to arbitrary dismissal by such as DeFascist? Achtung! What’s next? The burning of the Reichstag?

  8. We’ve seen it coming for years. We ignored it. We need a sea change to understand that it’s easier and cheaper to pay upfront to prevent a fire, than to put it out after it’s taken hold in the forest.

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