How 'authoritarian' Ron DeSantis has made Florida a 'laboratory of fascist politics': scholar
The MAGA movement suffered a long list of disappointments in the 2022 midterms, which found Donald Trump-backed candidates losing statewide gubernatorial or U.S. Senate races in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Arizona, Georgia and other swing states. But one MAGA candidate who performed extremely well in the midterms was Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, and he did it without Trump campaigning for him.
DeSantis ran a far-right reelection campaign, defeating Democratic nominee Charlie Crist (a former Republican and ex-Florida governor) by 19 percent. Florida, in fact, is the one place where Republicans really did enjoy a major red wave in the 2022 midterms. And some right-wing pundits, including author Ann Coulter, are urging the GOP to nominate DeSantis, not Trump, in the 2024 presidential election — assuming that DeSantis decides to run.
DeSantis doesn’t pretend to be moderate; being a far-right culture warrior is his brand. Journalist/author and scholar Henry A. Giroux analyzes DeSantis’ appeal in a scathing article published by Truthout on December 16, and he doesn’t sugarcoat anything. DeSantis, Giroux warns, is “fueling the emergence of fascist politics in the United States.”
“While some pundits have connected DeSantis’ politics to an emerging authoritarianism,” Giroux explains, “they still fail both to name the ongoing development of fascism in the U.S. and to recognize that it takes different forms in different societies and historical formations. They dismiss any talk of fascism by suggesting that its unique historical attributes, such as the genocidal use of concentration camps, have to be repeated precisely in order to assign the term fascism to present events. Fascism is never entirely interred in the past; it is a dangerous ideology that may go into remission but never disappears.”
Giroux continues, “Fascism is a recurrent and infinitely translatable phenomenon and often takes on the cultural and political attributes of the societies in which it appears. The refusal to acknowledge that fascism can appear in many forms, often lying dormant in a society until the emergence of certain forces unleash it, reinforces the willingness of many to retreat into silence or ignore the seriousness of the emerging fascist threat. Expressing ourselves in words, learning from history and making connections among disparate events all matter in the age of fascism.”
Giroux stresses that when one is analyzing fascism, it’s important to recognize patterns and understand how individual events fit into the big picture — events like DeSantis sending migrants to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts or Trump having dinner with white nationalist and Holocaust denier Nick Fuentes at Mar-a-Lago.
“Fascist politics saturate U.S. society,” Giroux warns. “Ultranationalism, the calls for racial purity, voter suppression, hyper-militarism, required loyalty oaths from higher education faculty, rampant censorship, a ubiquitous anti-intellectualism, and a full-fledged attack on social provisions and public goods make clear that democracy is in crisis. Yet, in too many cases, the larger significance of these incendiary calamities is missed because they are treated as separate from each other…. DeSantis’ publicity stunt of using migrants as political pawns was also disconnected in the mainstream and liberal media from his attempt to erase the history of the Jim Crow era as part of his larger project of a politics of disposability.”
Giroux continues, “For instance, little was said connecting this racist policy to DeSantis’ passing laws banning books about Black history and racial narratives from schools and libraries, along with limiting what teachers can teach about racism — a policy that clearly indicates how DeSantis is following in the footsteps of the Nazification of education in Hitler’s Germany.”
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, a far-right authoritarian, has drawn a great deal of admiration among MAGA Republicans — including Fox News’ Tucker Carlson. And Giroux outlines some parallels between DeSantis and Orbán.
“Following in the footsteps of Viktor Orbán, the authoritarian leader who has turned Hungary into a fascist country, DeSantis has waged a war on immigrants, targeted gay and transgender youth, purged voters, banned books in Florida schools, limited what teachers can say about racism and other critical elements of American history, and used state power to punish businesses, evident in his ruthless and vindictive attack on Disney,” Giroux observes. “He has also used policing to punish Black voters who disagree with his policies, courted Christian nationalists, supported a white nationalist agenda and waged a war on higher education. There is little doubt that DeSantis has turned Florida into a laboratory of fascist politics.”
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