Sunday, March 10, 2024

No longer a presidential contender, Fl Gov Ron DeSantis now faces state backlash with his 'war on woke'

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis

A while back, Florida Gov Ron DeSantis was very sure that his "war on woke" would forge a pathway for him to the White House.  It didn't happen. And now with his presidential aspirations gone, DeSantis is facing lawmakers and voters back home tired of his "culture wars."

Florida Republicans may be drifting ever so slightly away from Gov. Ron DeSantis. The GOP-controlled Legislature — no longer tethered to the demands of a governor aiming for the presidency — on Friday ended its annual session in a relatively low-key fashion as lawmakers wrapped up their work and quickly headed home. 

 This year marked the first instances of lawmakers giving mild pushback against the governor, who was widely considered one of the state’s most powerful governors before he dropped out of the presidential race in January. Republican legislators rejected some of his appointees and rebuffed his push to bring gambling to a Miami Beach resort hotel owned by a top DeSantis donor.

 Instead of a session dominated by conservative hot-button issues designed to boost DeSantis’ campaign, legislators wrestled with top priorities of its Republican legislative leaders — including a contentious crackdown on social media for minors and securing hundreds of millions of dollars toward health care initiatives.

 The bill banning rainbow flags from public buildings in Florida sounded like a sure bet. State Rep. David Borrero (R), the legislation’s sponsor, argued that it was needed to prevent schoolchildren from being “subliminally indoctrinated.” That rationale echoed other measures championed by Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) as part of his “war on woke.” But instead of sailing through the Republican-dominated legislature, the DeSantis-backed bill died a quick legislative death, making it only as far as one subcommittee. 

 It wasn’t the only culture war proposal from conservative lawmakers to end up in the bill graveyard during the session that ended Friday. One rejected bill would have banned the removal of Confederate monuments. Another would have required transgender people to use their sex assigned at birth on driver's licenses — something the state Department of Motor Vehicles is already mandating. A third proposed forbidding local and state government officials from using transgender people’s pronouns.

  . . . Florida has firmly cemented itself in recent years as ground zero for the nation’s culture wars. The Sunshine State is the birthplace of conservative parental rights group Moms for Liberty, the original law restricting LGBTQ+ discussion in classrooms, one of the strictest abortion laws in the country and legislation that has led to the banning of more books than in any other state in America. But the pushback is growing. 

 Parents and others have organized and protested schoolbook bans. Abortion rights advocates gathered enough signatures to put the issue on the ballot in Florida in November. A bill that would have established “fetal personhood” stalled before it could reach a full vote. Judges are also canceling some of DeSantis’s marquee laws, including the “Stop Woke Act.” A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit ruled Monday that the law “exceeds the bounds” of the Constitution’s First Amendment right to freedom of speech and expression.

 Even the governor recently admitted the state might have gone too far in trying to remove certain books from school shelves, suggesting laws on book challenges should be “tweaked” to prevent “bad actors” from having too much influence.