12 min read

May 2023

Lord Farquaad of Shrek posing, saying, "Some of you may die, but that's a sacrifice I'm willing to make," in a meme.

Vain, short, obsessed with creating a "perfect" kingdom where he forced his way into being king, Lord Farquaad was a fantastic villain to introduce audiences to the anti-fairy tale world of Shrek, the ogre with a heart of gold, in 2001. To create his perfect kingdom, Farquaad rounded up all of the "fairy tale creatures" and sent them off as refugees to be someone else's problem. After all, the fairy tale creatures were different from "normal" people, were easy to target, and though generally no more significant threat than humans, were easy to scapegoat with his society's problems. Not satisfied with creating a refugee crisis to get what he wanted, Farquaad was willing to sacrifice his own people to extract Princess Fiona from a dreaded dragon. Sure, the dragon was a threat, but it was a manageable one. Farquaad saw what he wanted--the throne--and figured the best way to get it was to throw his own soldiers into the flames. It had little to do with Fiona, his people, or the dragon, and everything to do with his lust for power, extracted from his citizens at little cost to himself.

As humorous and pathetic a villain as John Lithgow's Farquaad was, it took the combined effort of Shrek, Donkey, Fiona, and a timely entrance of a love-struck dragon to finally best Farquaad, save the kingdom of Dulac and allow the Fairy people to go back to just being left the **** alone.

Meme from Shrek with DeSantis' face 'shopped over Farquaad that says, "Some of you may die, but that is a sacrifice I'm willing to make." The text of the tweet, which is dated 29 Aug 21, reads, "Ideally you would want Florida's deadliest serial killer and its governor to be two different people."

If it isn't obvious, the similarities between Lord Farquaad and Governor DeSantis finally occurred to me recently. I swear I don't recall having seen the comparison before, but it has been around for a while.  

Gif of Farquaad strutting embedded in a tweet that reads, "People calling Ron DeSantis Lord Farquaad is a triumph of collective observation.

Though some people are convinced DeSantis is unelectable, I promise you, he has no intention of winning the popular vote in America--no Republican can or is hoping to. Also, despite news of Republicans endorsing Trump over DeSantis, five important people in Trump land have recently switched to DeSantis--clearly they think DeSantis can win. DeSantis does not plan to win your vote. He hopes to get the Electoral College close enough the laws passed since Biden won in 2020 to flip an election that is close in the EC or undecided (meaning fewer than 270 votes to either candidate) to the Republican. Failing that, he is counting on the Supreme Court to rule in the pending case Moore v. Harper that state legislatures can determine who wins the election using something called the "independent state legislature" theory.  Though it may be true he cannot beat Trump if the election were today (he does have a $200m plan to beat Trump), there is more than a year before the 2024 primaries end, fifteen months until the actual nominating convention. A lot can and will change in that time.

Consider for a moment what would happen if neither candidate reached 270 Electoral College votes. The election would be sent to the House of Representatives to break the loggerhead, just like in the Election of 1800, which is featured towards the end of the musical Hamilton. From our National Archives website the official answer:

What happens if no presidential candidate gets 270 electoral votes?
If no candidate receives a majority of electoral votes, the Presidential election leaves the Electoral College process and moves to Congress.
The House of Representatives elects the President from the 3 Presidential candidates who received the most electoral votes. Each State delegation has one vote and it is up to the individual States to determine how to vote. (Since the District of Columbia is not a State, it has no State delegation in the House and cannot vote).  A candidate must receive at least 26 votes (a majority of the States) to be elected.
The Senate elects the Vice President from the 2 Vice Presidential candidates with the most electoral votes. Each Senator casts one vote for Vice President. (Since the District of Columbia is has no Senators and is not represented in the vote).  A candidate must receive at least 51 votes (a majority of Senators) to be elected.
If the House of Representatives fails to elect a President by Inauguration Day, the Vice-President Elect serves as acting President until the deadlock is resolved in the House.

The key passage is, "Each State delegation has one vote and it is up to the individual States to determine how to vote... A candidate must receive at least 26 votes (a majority of the States) to be elected." In other words, each state gets one vote. One House member from each state gets that honor. Right now, the Republicans control more states than the Democrats. This is how a Republican wins in 2024, having won neither the popular vote nor the Electoral College vote. I would say this scenario is more likely to happen than a blowout in either direction at this point.

Of course, none of this is news. But, I am building to something.

This month while passing a law that allows him to run for President while governor (it was illegal up until that moment), Ron DeSantis also increased the degree of voter suppression and intimidation his government can wield.

And according to Judd Lugam of Popular Information, Ron DeSantis is about to make a mockery of campaign finance law to help him win:

"Last Friday, DeSantis formally disassociated with "Friends of Ron DeSantis." He filed a notice with the state that he was “no longer associated with the political committee” and is no longer raising money directly or indirectly for "Friends of Ron DeSantis."
On Tuesday, the Friends of Ron DeSantis website was updated to list Florida State Senator Blaise Ingoglia (R), one of DeSantis' closest political allies, as the "Associated Person."
The idea that Ron DeSantis is no longer controlling or associated with "Friends of Ron DeSantis" is absurd. And the notion that the money held by Friends of Ron DeSantis will decide to transfer its funds to Never Back Down independent of DeSantis is not credible.
It is probable that, after the transfer occurs, the scheme will draw an FEC complaint. Nevertheless, there will likely be few consequences for DeSantis' evasion of campaign finance laws.
The FEC is comprised of six members, evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans. Since the mid-2000s, Republicans "have worked to ensure that people opposed to the agency’s core mission occupy three of those seats." In recent years, Republicans at the FEC have steadfastly refused to enforce even the most obvious violations of the campaign finance laws.

So, DeSantis's plan, out in the open, easy to see, is to cheat using Jim Crow voter suppression, voter intimidation and so-illegal-the-Florida-GOP-said-it-went-too-far gerrymandering to win in Florida and expects that pattern to work nationwide. What's more, he's openly cheating on campaign finance laws to build a $200m warchest to upend Donald Trump.

Is this just politics as usual? I suggest that it is not.

This is a sign that, according to Mother Jones Magazine, that "Ron DeSantis is all in--on creating an American autocracy." Salon magazine adds that "Florida is officially a laboratory for fascism in the United States." What is Fascism anyway? Award winning Boston College Historian Heather Cox Richardson gave us a great breakdown of what the US Army said to soldiers via a pamphlet in 1945:

Fascism, the U.S. government document explained, “is government by the few and for the few. The objective is seizure and control of the economic, political, social, and cultural life of the state.” “The people run democratic governments, but fascist governments run the people.”
Fascists “make their own rules and change them when they choose…. They maintain themselves in power by use of force combined with propaganda based on primitive ideas of ‘blood’ and ‘race,’ by skillful manipulation of fear and hate, and by false promise of security. The propaganda glorifies war and insists it is smart and ‘realistic’ to be pitiless and violent.”
An enormous portrait of George Washington hangs alongside swastika banners and American flags at New York's Madison Square Garden in 1939 during the German American Bund's Pro American Rally.

Examples of Florida fascism include Florida's altering of science itself when it comes to, well, just about everything. Scientific American Magazine took the incredible step of publishing a warning about DeSantis, titled, "Ron DeSantis Anti-science agenda is dangerous." It breaks down several ways that DeSantis' Florida is a threat to the people of Florida and the planet. Adding to that thinking, in a piece entitled, "How DeSantis and other GOP lawmakers are killing LGBTQ young people," former Secretary of Labor, Robert Reich writes:

In raging against gender-affirming care, DeSantis lied that “they’re literally chopping off the private parts of young kids.” In fact, genital surgery is rarely, if ever, done under the age of 18. It’s not even all that common for adults. DeSantis is lying about it to scare people...
My friends, these scare tactics are dangerous. Recent analysis found a 70% increase in hate crimes against LGBTQ Americans between 2020 and 2021, as the surge of these anti-LGBTQ bills began. And that’s only counting hate crimes that get reported. The years 2020 and 2021 each set a new record for the number of trans people murdered in America.
The cruelest irony is that these Republican bills pretending to protect children are putting our most vulnerable children at greater risk.
LGBTQ kids are more than four times likelier than non-LGBTQ kids to attempt suicide, especially transgender young people.
Gender-affirming care reduces that risk. That is why it is life-saving.
The tragic truth is that “Don’t Say Gay” laws and bans on gender-affirming care are causing more young lives to be needlessly lost.
Laws that threaten to take transgender minors away from their families if they are receiving gender-affirming care will cause these young people even more trauma.
If Republicans really cared about protecting kids, they’d focus on gun violence, now the leading cause of death for American children.
If they were really worried about children undergoing life-altering medical procedures, they wouldn’t pass abortion bans that force teens to give birth or risk back-alley procedures.
What the GOP’s vendetta against the LGBTQ community really is, is a classic authoritarian tactic to vilify already marginalized people.
This is how fascism takes root.

My therapist, who has asked me why I follow the news so closely the previous week and urged me to reduce my intake, found out real time just before my last session that his neck bearded, bald self is now legally required to use the women's restroom because the gender he was assigned at birth is female. I had no idea he was trans until that moment but Florida is set to arrest people in restrooms regardless of legal gender status.

DeSantis' autocratic, fascist takeover is going so far so fast that both of Florida's Senators, Republican stallworths Marco Rubio and Rick Scott took to the media circuit to tell DeSantis he was going too far: Florida's GOP Senators issue warnings to Ron DeSantis.

The 1945 US Army pamphlet on fascism mentioned above warns, "Fascism thrives on indifference and ignorance," while the American Association of University Professors warns, "Florida Higher Ed Faces an ideologically driven assault unparalleled in US history." Inside Higher Education notes "After DeSantis' Takeover, record funding for New College." I thought this piece would be about fundraising, but was about the $50 million the Florida state legislature awarded the school with 700 students and a falling enrollment. In contrast, the same state program has Florida International University and the University of Central Floirda splitting $5o million dollars. In other words, the school with 700 students that's being molded after a small conservative Christian school named Hillsdale College is receiving the same state funding as two universities with 127,000 students between them.  

As experts warn that DeSantis' book banning spreads across nation, book bans that include for my children who I just dropped off at Miami-Dade Schools, a ban on the poem read at President Biden's inauguration, because it was written by a Black woman.

This is one of the reasons the NAACP issues travel warning in Florida for Black Americans, joining LGBTQ and Immigrant advocacy groups in issuing a warning reserved for anti-democratic countries with no regard for human rights, such as North Korea.

As the International, Britian based newspaper The Guardian warns, Now is the time to think about just how bad a DeSantis presidency would be.

Jacksonville Mayor-elect Donna Deegan during a Sunday MSNBC segment.

But this is not a time to despair; there are reasons for hope. This month the people of Jacksonville, a city that voted for DeSantis by a whopping 12 point margin, voted in for the first time in decades, a Democrat mayor. A 4 point victory that marks a 16 point swing in voting since November.

Jacksonville was the largest city in America with a Republican Mayor.

According to Noah Berlatsky writing for Public Notice, "Democrats also scored a shocking win in Colorado Springs, where independent, Democrat-aligned Yemi Mobolade won the mayorship. Colorado Springs has had Republican mayors since residents began directly electing the office in 1979. Currently, Republicans hold the mayor’s office in only two of the thirty most populated cities in America."" Berlatsky continues:

Still, a lot of people live in cities. In fact, about 83 percent of the US population is urban. At some point, an electoral strategy focused on insulting cities is going to backfire. Sure enough, the GOP is starting to reap what they’ve sown, at least around the edges of the field.
In the 2022 Illinois governor’s race, GOP candidate Darren Bailey repeatedly referred to Chicago as a “hellhole.” It’s one thing for Republican candidates for national office to take potshots at cities in blue states they are never going to win anyway. It’s quite another for an Illinois Republican to write off a city which is home to roughly 25 percent of the state’s population. Incumbent Democrat J.B. Pritzker crushed Bailey 55 percent to 42 percent statewide, powered by a whopping 50-point lead in Chicago’s Cook County.
Republicans are also seeing significant erosion in suburbs adjacent to cities. In 2014, Republican Scott Walker won Wauwatosa, a Milwaukee suburb by 5 points; in 2018 he lost it by 16. Then in 2022 — an off-year election in which the Democrat in the White House was supposed to ensure GOP gains — Republican Tim Michaels lost Wauwatosa by 40 points on his way to a humiliating defeat.

This is huge! It brings us hope. But it also brings me to the point I said I was building to. I'm tired. I'm overwhelmed by the onslaught of fascist propaganda in Florida. I'm tired of casually mentioning that I lived in California to a Trader Joe's employee (we were talking about how California TJ's can sell distilled spirits, while Florida's cannot) and he said, "Oh wow, California, things are terrible there right now, right?" I pointed out that, no, things are not terrible in California, but in Florida where our life expectancy is shorter, our taxes are higher and our insurance rates our out of control, things are pretty bleak.

"We pay higher taxes than California?" a fellow TJ's employee who was nearby's eyes went wide and she concurred that Florida's taxes are indeed higher. This young kid thinks California is terrible while "Even a cursory dip into the statistics of social and economic well-being reveals that Florida falls short in almost any measure that matters to the lives of its citizens. More than four years into the DeSantis governorship, Florida continues to languish toward the bottom of state rankings assessing the quality of health care, school funding, long-term elder care, and other areas key to a successful society.

"Florida may be the place where “woke goes to die”—as DeSantis is fond of saying—but it is also where teachers’ salaries are among the lowest in the nation, unemployment benefits are stingier than in any other state, and wage theft flourishes with little interference from the DeSantis administration." This according to Time Magazine.

But while I'm tired of the fascist propaganda in Florida and seeking out stories about the rise of fascism in Florida I am reminded of why I started this blog in the first place.  When we moved here in 2021, I was busy yelling on Twitter that Ron DeSantis was a would-be autocrat and a threat to win the Presidency in 2024. In retrospect, I could see the signs, but he hadn't gone full autocrat yet until midway through the Covid-19 crisis. The aforementioned Mother Jones long form piece goes into this and is, frankly, the best piece on DeSantis I've seen. Still, what I wanted to do was give some on the ground perspective of what life is like in Florida, you know, stories not about DeSantis, while making sure people don't miss the big stories, the big signs that DeSantis is a fascist hell-bent on destroying American democracy. Since then, in large part because of his campaign strategy to control the new cycle, the onslaught of stories about DeSantis has taken the oxygen out of every thing else I've wanted to do, both on the blog and in my life.  Meanwhile, as I hope this week's post has shown, news organizations around the world are asking, like the Guardian did, for people to consider a DeSantis Presidency and the devastating consequences it would bring.

People are seeing the threat.

That new international focus on the possibility of a DeSantis Presidency, combined with demands from grad school, my bored (and thus zoomy) dog, my teenagers and life in general, is why I'm going to take a break on the news breakdown. I hope to restart the This Week in Florida History posts next week (though it may need to wait for my six week long "Summer A Term" class to end).

That's what I've been building to, my (temporary?) retirement of the News Breakdown. I appreciate your reading. I'll include some stories I think you should't miss in the history posts, but I've got to throw the ball for Bear.

Bear, the black and tan beagle mix, lies on the couch looking at me, wild eyed.