Why Florida Is Ground Zero For America’s ‘Culture War’


He tried to convince the GOP-led Senate to weaken the bill, officially called the “Parental rights in educationwhich explicitly prohibits teachers from giving lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity to students in kindergarten through third grade. But his words did not sway lawmakers, who on Tuesday approved the measure amid widespread opposition from LGBTQ supporters, including President Joe Biden.

The passage of the bill was, in many ways, the culmination of a legislative session in the nation’s third-largest state, unprecedented in recent memory. It was a session in which the GOP-led Legislature’s constant focus on “culture war” issues led lawmakers to approve policies aimed at giving parents more power over what their children learn, strengthen control of instruction and school books, and ensure turnover. among local school boards, which have been frequent targets of the state GOP.

Together, the proposals, billed as banner legislation, give Gov. Ron DeSantis and other Republicans fuel for the 2022 midterm elections, when education has been in the spotlight from the start. of the Covid-19 pandemic and helped spark a backlash in suburban and swing states.

The GOP has also adopted a strict prohibition of all abortions after 15 weeksapproved a immigration measure which prohibits state entities from doing business with companies that transport undocumented migrant children to Florida, and created a new electoral police unit which DeSantis touted amid an effort by some Republicans to do a comprehensive audit of the 2020 election. Every step of the way was a raw and emotional debate that featured harrowing accounts from members of both parties.

“I look forward to the time when we can start fighting again for the real issues facing Floridians instead of these ridiculous culture war distractions that do nothing to meet the needs of everyday people,” Lauren Book said. , the Democratic leader of the Senate. .

The long list of laws shows that Republicans in the nation’s largest battleground state are primarily focused on appealing to the GOP base in a crucial election when the governor’s mansion, three Cabinet seats and all 160 Florida Legislature seats are up for grabs. The action in Tallahassee is likely an early demonstration of the Republican Party’s strategy to win back the White House by focusing on some of the most controversial and tough bills the nation has faced in recent times.

For GOP loyalists in the state, the legislative action marks a moment they have long been looking forward to. They say it explains why DeSantis has burst into the national consciousness as a potential 2024 presidential candidate and potential heir to the populism that propelled former President Donald Trump to power.

“Governor DeSantis not only campaigned and paid lip service on issues important to conservatives, but he led and delivered on those important issues, and along the way showed a backbone of principled steel that conservatives begged to see from all of our local, state and national elected officials,” said Christian Ziegler, Vice Chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, whose wife was one of the founders of Moms for Liberty. “It’s not only refreshing, but it sets the pattern that all Conservative elected officials – present and future – across the country should follow.”

And the wave of criticism directed at Florida has not intimidated Republicans. Instead, led by DeSantis, who has repeatedly vowed not to back down from “corporate media” and “woke corporations,” GOP politicians in the Sunshine State are proud to have stood up for policies, especially the ‘Don’t Say ‘Gay’ Bill.

“When you drop your kids off in the morning like I do, and they go to school, do my rights as a parent come to an end?” GOP House Speaker Chris Sprows told reporters this week. “Have I ceded all my authority to the school district so they can teach our kids what they want when they want it? And I think the conversation you’ve seen us having in the House this year is that we don’t believe it.

Florida’s state government has been under tight Republican control for nearly 25 years, and most of the time that has meant lower taxes, looser business regulations or clashes with unions. teachers about vouchers and charter schools. It was the state that implemented one of the nation’s first ‘hold tight’ laws. Lawmakers and Governor Jeb Bush captured national attention when they engaged in the fierce legal tussle against Terri Schiavo, a woman who was in a persistent vegetative state.

Some of the “culture war” clashes on display this year have already unfolded in other states. But the condensed nature of Florida’s 60-day session has the nation’s politics boiling in the halls of the Capitol.

Democrats see all of this as another sign that Florida is steadily trending right.

“It means Florida Republicans are banking on DeSantis being re-elected in 2022 and that DeSantis himself sees the clearest and surest path to the 2024 Republican presidential nomination as he becomes the MAGA Supreme Commander of the Wars. cultural,” said Fernand. Amandi, pollster and Democratic consultant.

The bills considered this session were not all at the request of DeSantis. House Republicans helped craft some of the proposals, including legislation banning the teaching of sexual orientation or gender identity in the lower grades of elementary school.

But DeSantis passed the legislation, even delivering a full-throated whistleblower on Disney this week after Bob Chapek, the company’s CEO, told shareholders he wanted to meet with the governor to discuss why the company was opposed to the bill being directed to her desk.

“The odds of me backing out of my commitment to students and my commitment to parents’ rights simply because of fraudulent media accounts or woke corporate pressure, the odds of that are zero,” DeSantis said in a campaign video released on Friday.

GOP leaders in recent weeks have blamed the media for the poor reception of the proposals received and claimed that the “Don’t Say Gay” bill was being misinterpreted and misreported nationally.

Democrats and LGTBQ advocates, however, argue that the measure represents a broader attack on the LGTBQ community rooted in homophobia and transphobia. They say this will only further marginalize students, exposing them to bullying and even driving children to suicide.

A Republican Florida lawmaker, Senator Ileana Garcia of Miami, drew a backlash over her comments on the bill when she claimed being gay is not “permanent”.

Statements by Garcia, who has also come under fire from LGBTQ advocates for referring to a transgender personal friend by the incorrect pronouns, led to a protest outside her local legislative office.

“Gay is not a permanent thing, LGBT is not a permanent thing — and that’s not a bad thing,” Garcia told the Senate this week. “It’s not about targeting at all. I think it may be a question of redirecting the responsibilities to the parents. Scientific studies suggest that people don’t choose to be gay.

The intense debate in Florida was not limited to a single bill.

Lawmakers approved on Thursday a measurement it would expand Florida’s anti-discrimination laws to prohibit schools and businesses from blaming or blaming students and employees based on race or gender, targeting lessons on issues such as ‘white privilege’ .

Senator Kelli Stargel (R-Lakeland) defended the need for the bill by explaining that her grandfather, a former Sumter County sheriff more than 100 years ago, sacrificed his political career to ensure that a black man receives a fair trial and avoids a lynching. She said her actions cost her re-election and the local courthouse was eventually burned down.

“I agree…we all have a stain on our history for the actions of some,” Stargel said. “But I would really struggle if my children were to sit in a classroom and be told that they must feel guilt and shame for what happened, because I think my children have the ability to stand tall and proud of their grandfather’s behavior and what he did – and what he sacrificed for another man and another race.

In his own remarks to the Senate, State Senator Bobby Powell also told lawmakers that “slavery happened, hangings happened…Jim Crow happened, George Floyd happened.”

Powell, a black Democrat from Palm Beach County, began repeating that America is “the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

His last words then were: “The land of the free, but still the house of the slave.”


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