Finally Friday Reads: Republican Freak Shows Mussolini-style

Frederick Carl Frieseke – On the Beach (Girl in Blue), 1913

Good Day Sky Dancers!

Well, we knew they’d let their freak flags fly even though they squeaked through the last elections, but wow, not only have they upped the freaks’ volume, the messages would make Goebbels proud. Florida is the new fascist state.  Ron DeSantis needs to be educated in American history and the US Constitution, which is odd to say about someone who lands squarely in the over-educated Ivy League wastoid category. His initiatives would make Mussolini proud.

This is from Kathryn Joyce at Vanity Fair. ““THE FLORIDA OF TODAY IS THE AMERICA OF TOMORROW”: RON DESANTIS’S NEW COLLEGE TAKEOVER IS JUST THE BEGINNING OF THE RIGHT’S HIGHER ED CRUSADE. Republican politicians and right-wing activists are transforming one of the Sunshine State’s liberal arts schools into the “Hillsdale of the south,” a strategy that could be replicated across the country. One New College alum tells Vanity Fair, “I weep for our nation if DeSantis wins a presidential bid.”

It took New College president Patricia Okker three attempts to deliver her farewell remarks. She kept being interrupted during last week’s board meeting in Sarasota, Florida, including once by a member of the school’s board of trustees, making a motion to terminate her without cause. Okker had been addressing the dozens of students, faculty, and parents who’d come to defend her record—and the hundreds more outside who weren’t admitted—saying she was sorry to disappoint them, but she couldn’t represent the mandate New College was being given through this “hostile takeover.” And she refused to support the claims of right-wing critics that the school had been indoctrinating its students.

In the audience, supporters hugged one another and students left in tears. The trustees moved on, voting to replace Okker with interim president Richard Corcoran, Florida’s recently departed education commissioner who, in a 2021 speech at Michigan’s right-wing Hillsdale College, came close to calling for the collapse of the public school system through student attrition and said the political war “will be won in education.” The trustees replaced the board chair too, made plans to replace the general counsel, and instructed administrators to start preparing to dismantle the college’s diversity offices.

It was hard to imagine a starker change in leadership for New College, the small, nontraditional honors college of the Florida public university system, known for its lack of grades, individualized majors, and leftist student body, but which has also been eyed skeptically for years by Florida’s conservative-dominated legislature for its low enrollment and graduation rates. But that was exactly the transformation intended when Governor Ron DeSantis last month appointed six new trustees to the school’s 13-member board, in hopes they would remake New College into a right-leaning “classical college, more along the lines of a Hillsdale of the south,” as his education commissioner Manny Diaz put it.

After the Republican-controlled Board of Governors appointed a seventh trustee, the new majority represented a team uniquely qualified to carry out DeSantis’s scorched-earth, right-wing education wars. There was Manhattan Institute fellow and anti-critical race theory hype man Christopher Rufo, who has most recently turned his efforts to laying “siege” to diversity, equity, and inclusion programs; one of Hillsdale’s graduate school deans, Matthew Spalding, who also helped lead Donald Trump’s short-lived 1776 Commission; Charles Kesler of the right-wing Claremont Institute, which spent the Trump years retconning an intellectual platform for the MAGA movement; a senior editor at a religious right magazine; the Catholic author of a book accused of “fram[ing] LGBTQ+ identity as a mental illness”; and a private Christian school cofounder with a penchant for Covid disinformation.

Slim Aarons, Private Island, Philippines, 2020

I cannot imagine teaching or living in such an oppressive and controlling environment.  You have to deny reality and research to buy any of this. But, that’s not the only institution where rabid Right Wingers are trying to turn back time to Fascist Europe in the 30s.  I’m still guffawing over the idea of “an intellectual platform for the MAGA movement” concept.  They only thing these folks have is the lizard brain. Jeff Vander Meer–writing for Esquire–has this to say. Ron DeSantis Is a Man Of No Qualities. As Ron DeSantis provides safe harbor for oppression in Florida and exports bad policy across the country, it’s clear that he represents an existential threat to American democracy—even if he fails to become president.”

After four years of punishing the people of Florida with actions largely meant to increase his personal power, Governor Ron DeSantis appears to be bringing his corrosive brand of politics to a presidential run. But DeSantis only looks like an even remotely reasonable or centrist candidate when viewed in a line-up between his gubernatorial predecessor Rick Scott and ex-U.S. catastrophe Donald Trump. That he sits comfortably between the two, accompanied by a host of extremists, should be cause for alarm, not suggestions that he is anything other than an authoritarian.

While the slogan “Make America Florida” gains traction on bumper stickers and pundits debate DeSantis’ electability, DeSantis continues to plunge ahead with culture wars in schools that sunder communities, gaslight Floridians about the environment, and implement anti-scientific policies across life-or-death situations. But there is still—even after three years of a badly mishandled pandemic—nothing to apologize for, nothing to be accountable for, and nothing to be transparent about, to anyone.

A Florida political system that has over the course of several Republican governors maximized voter suppression and gerrymandering has contributed to DeSantis’ unprecedented ability to centralize power in Florida and muffled most effective opposition. It is in this context of restricting voting rights, too, that disastrous policy decisions opposed by millions of Floridians have been portrayed as somehow not subpar, but superlative. In certain quarters, these policies are bally-hoo’d as a form of “freedom” and “liberty.”

Just like destructive Republican governors before him feathered the nest for DeSantis’s success by destroying safeguards and institutions—making it possible for DeSantis to become more predatory and authoritarian—Trump has set the table for DeSantis at the national level. Trump’s coalition of white nationalists, conspiracy theorists, disgruntled rightwing journalists, and evangelicals now becomes how DeSantis, who otherwise might be unelectable, can see a path to the White House.

With DeSantis’ explicit approval, the Republican-led Florida legislature has stamped out as much home rule as possible, continuing Scott’s legacy, and rendered cities and counties less able to govern effectively. This helps the special interests that fuel DeSantis’ campaigns, but does nothing for ordinary citizens.

DeSantis’ unchecked power in the state is reflected in his ability to bully that same legislature into a redistricting that removed traditionally Black voting blocs, despite the legislature preferring a more moderate plan. Thathe worked with national operatives to push this effort to completion hints at the networks DeSantis already has access to, even before formally announcing a run for president.

The Welcome, Scenes from Late Paradise (2006 – 2007) Eric Fischl

There’s much rejoicing in The Villages where greed is still good and vanilla is the only flavor of the month. Believe me when I say, I will never visit Florida again not that I like it much before.  DeSantis still has declared war on Disney World and the legislature has enabled him. This is from CNN: “Florida House approves plan to give DeSantis new power over Disney.”  They are even killing the one goose that lays golden eggs there.

Florida lawmakers voted Thursday to give Gov. Ron DeSantis new power over the state’s most iconic theme parks amid his ongoing feud with Disney.

Under a fast-tracked bill that could be headed to the Republican governor’s desk by the end of the week, the state would take over the Reedy Creek Improvement District, the 55-year-old government body that has effectively given Disney control over the land around its Orlando-area theme parks. The district’s existing board, made up of individuals with close ties to Disney, would be replaced by a five-member board hand-picked by DeSantis.

The state House, where Republicans hold a supermajority, passed the measure on an 82-31 vote. The GOP-led state Senate is expected to take up the bill within the next 36 hours. If the measure passes the chamber, it will go to DeSantis for final approval. He is expected to sign it.

“There’s a new sheriff in town, and that’s just the way it’s going to be,” DeSantis said at Wednesday news conference.

Democrats on Thursday warned that DeSantis could wield his board picks over Disney executives if he clashes again with the entertainment giant as he continues his crackdown on “wokeness.”

State Rep. Rita Harris pointed to Disney recently changing its Splash Mountain ride to remove references to racist themes, a move that sparked some conservative backlash. It will become Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, a ride celebrating Disney’s first Black princess.

“What if the governor didn’t like that?” Harris asked during debate. “Would the board then be able to push a company into changing their business model just so that they don’t misalign them? This is not the free markets.”

And here’s the plan to take this crap to the entire country.  This is from Reuters: “DeSantis seeks wins on guns, abortion before facing Trump in 2024.” 

When a newly elected Florida legislator endorsed a bill allowing residents to carry a concealed firearm without a permit, he was both demonstrating his fealty to Ron DeSantis and helping to burnish the governor’s conservative credentials for a possible White House run in 2024.

State Senator Jay Collins’ support for the concealed-carry bill was key to DeSantis’ efforts to secure a suite of legislative victories this spring ahead of an anticipated announcement that he is seeking the Republican Party nomination, according to interviews with nearly a dozen lobbyists, lawmakers and strategists in Tallahassee.

Those efforts include installing hand-picked loyalists like Collins in the Republican-controlled state legislature who could then help ensure passage of proposals on guns, abortion and other Republican red-meat issues, they told Reuters, providing DeSantis with a strong record of conservative wins.

Former President Donald Trump, who is leading in national opinion polls nearly a year ahead of the first primary contests, has targeted DeSantis as a “RINO,” a Republican in name only.

Yet DeSantis, 44, remains wildly popular with voters in his state after winning re-election by the widest margin of any Florida governor in 40 years, giving him a solid platform from which to launch a presidential bid.

DeSantis has yet to make a final decision on a presidential run, those close to him told Reuters. But he is reaching out to potential staff and donors, raising money, and traveling around the country to raise his profile.

Side Stepping by Catherine G McElroy,2008

The national headlines have been focused on the subpoena handed to Pence from the DOJ’s special counsel, Jack Smith. ABC News was the first on this scoop yesterday.  “Mike Pence subpoenaed by special counsel overseeing Trump probes: Sources

Former Vice President Mike Pence has been subpoenaed by the special counsel overseeing probes into former President Donald Trump, according to multiple sources familiar with the matter.

Sources told ABC News that the subpoena from special counsel Jack Smith requests documents and testimony related to the failed attempt by Trump and his allies to overturn the 2020 election, which culminated in the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

The subpoena follows months of negotiations between federal prosecutors and Pence’s legal team.

CNN had this additional Scoop: “First on CNN: Trump’s former national security adviser subpoenaed in special counsel probes of classified documents, January 6.” 

Former national security adviser Robert O’Brien has been subpoenaed by special counsel Jack Smith in both his investigation into classified documents found at former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence and the probe related to efforts to overturn the 2020 election, according to a source familiar with the matter.

O’Brien has been asserting executive privilege in declining to provide some of the information that prosecutors are seeking from him, the source said.

CNN has reached out to O’Brien for comment.

O’Brien considered resigning from his post over Trump’s response to the violence on January 6, 2021, but ultimately decided to remain in the job, CNN previously reported. The National Security Council should have been involved in the handling of classified documents at end of the Trump presidency, and O’Brien may have knowledge of how those records ended up at Mar-a-Lago.

“Hunting Alligators, Pink Sea” (1926) by Frederick Carl Frieseke

The Freak Show Big Top was in a Congressional Committee hearing where Congressman Jamie Raskin had to give a Constitutional Law Lecture to the resident Republican Ignoramuses. This is from The Independent.   “Democrat Jamie Raskin blasts House GOP’s ‘weaponisation’ committee as a way to boost Trump’s 2024 run. The Maryland Democrat cites the words from Jim Jordan saying the hearings are a means to ‘frame up the 2024 race’.”

Democratic Representative Jamie Raskin of Maryland criticised House Republicans’ new subcommittee on the weaponisation of the government as a means to boost former president Donald Trump’s 2024 candidacy.

Mr Raskin made his opening remarks as a minority witness during the new House subcommittee’s inaugural hearing. Republican Senators Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin delivered their opening remarks accusing the government of suppressing their investigations into President Joe Biden’s family. Former Representative Tulsi Gabbard, who left the Democratic Party, also appeared as witness.

But Mr Raskin, who served as the lead impeachment manager of Mr Trump’s second impeachment trial, said the committee was about running interference for the former president.

“If these people break from the habit of lying, then lawlessness is defined by our culture,” he said in his opening remarks. “It’s all about restoring Donald Trump, the twice-impeached former president to the office he lost by 7 million votes in 2020 and tried to steal back in a political coup and violent insurrection against our constitutional order.”

Mr Raskin cited remarks from subcommittee Chairman Jim Jordan at a CPAC conference in Dallas before the midterm elections where Mr Jordan said that investigations were to “frame up the 2024 race when I hope and I think President Trump is going to run and we need to make sure that he wins.”

“Now of course, a serious bipartisan committee focused on weaponisation of the government would zero in quickly on the Trump administration itself, which brought weaponisation to frightening blue new levels across the board,” Mr Raskin said.

Doctor MacGibbon, our residential psychologist, will have to give us a small lecture on “projection”.  It’s every where in this committee.  This was the motley crew of witnesses for the Rethuglicans.   It’s basically the krewe of crackpots.

Mr Raskin made his opening remarks as a minority witness during the new House subcommittee’s inaugural hearing. Republican Senators Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin delivered their opening remarks accusing the government of suppressing their investigations into President Joe Biden’s family. Former Representative Tulsi Gabbard, who left the Democratic Party, also appeared as witness

Anyway, I hate to think of what the next two years are going to bring us. It’s just got that the Democratic Party is as united as I’ve ever seen it.  They also have strong leadership which is what we need to fight this crazy.  My spring project will be building a little Banned Book Library in front of my porch and ensuring every student in my economics and finance classes knows the structural inequalities of wealth, wages, and access to property.  Let them come for me.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

Disorder in the House!!