Florida, a place I have visited more than a hundred times but never want to again, is meanwhile flooding the rest of America with its dirty linen, Governor Ron DeSantis being only one of the soiled items it is excreting. Fortunately, he will soon creep back to Tallahassee, a mere historical footnote in presidential wannabe lore.
Across the state from Palm Beach in Sarasota, Moms for Liberty founder, Bridget Zeigler, a member of the local school board, book-banner extraordinaire, and strident advocate for biblical morality, finds herself in the epicenter of a salacious sex scandal involving a threesome in which she allegedly participated along with her husband, the aptly named Christian Ziegler, and another lady. Mr. Ziegler also happens to be the chair of the state Republican Party. The disconnect between the Zieglers’ public personae and their private lives is causing her Moms for Liberty co-founders to distance themselves from her at speeds approaching Usain Bolt in his prime. Stuff like this could not happen to nicer folks. When these bigoted hypocrites get caught with their pants down (literally in this case), a little schadenfreude is perfectly fine.
The Sunshine State, meanwhile, is shedding K-12 teachers, university professors and good students at rates equaled only by the proliferation of pythons (200,000 is one estimate) wreaking havoc on the Everglades’ indigenous wildlife. The brain drain transfer portal dwarfs that of its college football player counterpart. The New College of Florida, a special DeSantis foil, has lost 40 percent of its faculty. Overly gentle Ben Sasse, who left the U.S. Senate where he was an occasional, timid Trump critic for the presidency of the University of Florida, has been reduced from cowering Republican voice to timorous toady, an irrelevant and ineffectual observer of the trampling of academic freedom at this formerly respected institution. Sasse is only one of thousands of victims of DeSantis’ “War on Woke.” That went so well that DeSantis no longer dares even say the word, “woke” as he scurries around Iowa shouting awkwardly into the void. His rhetorical retreat is likely due to recent polling showing that the War on Woke is yielding diminishing electoral returns. Anyone hoping that this political shift would be accompanied by a policy shift will be disappointed. His authoritarian, white supremacist attacks on Florida’s public education system continue apace.
DeSantis has enacted multiple “educational gag orders” that criminalize classroom discussions of race, gender identity, and ugly historical realities that might make white students “feel guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress.” Florida teachers, whose salaries rank 48th in the country, have seen their jobs become only more thankless. The result is a teacher exodus and consequent K-12 staff shortage of massive proportions. When DeSantis began his first gubernatorial term in 2019, Florida had 2,217 teacher vacancies. Four years later, vacancies had ballooned to nearly 7,000.
De Santis’s dumbing down of his state is unfortunate. His other policies—a 6-week abortion ban, criminalizing gender affirming care, climate change denial, and much more—are equally bad. But not to worry. Climate change will take care of all of the bad that Florida generates. Glub, glub.
January 5, 2024