Ron DeSantis Wants to Make America Operate Like Florida. Here's How That Would Look.
Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Ron DeSantis Wants to Make America Operate Like Florida. Here's How That Would Look.

Dreams of a dictator

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has been campaigning for the Republican presidential nomination based on the premise he would "Make America Florida!" It's time to consider what that might look like in practice.

DeSantis is a petty dictator with no concern for the Constitution, low-income people, minorities, or the LGBTQIA+ community. Part of his alleged appeal is that he will provide Trump policies without the Trump baggage. Setting aside for a moment the fact that Trump had no actual policies of his own—he mostly did what the Federalist Society, Heritage Foundation, and polling numbers told him to do—DeSantis does have policies and the wherewithal to get them implemented.

As president, DeSantis would surround himself only with those willing to do his bidding. He would attempt to destroy anyone who goes against him, in thought or deed. In Florida, he has now removed two elected State Attorneys in Hillsborough County (Tampa) and Orange/Osceola County (Orlando) who refused to adopt his stance on the death penalty and abortion. After removing Andrew Warren in Tampa, courts found DeSantis didn't have the legal power to do so, but they had no mechanism to reinstate him. This occurred before he removed the second State Attorney, Monique Worrell.

Related: America’s Unhealthy Relationship With Religion

Florida has one of the most strict abortion bans in the nation. In 2022, Florida passed a 15-week abortion ban. Then, in the 2023 legislative session, DeSantis banned abortions that take place after six weeks of pregnancy—a period during which most women don't even realize they're with child. There are exceptions for rape and incest up to 15 weeks, provided the victim documents their appeal with police reports, restraining orders, or other documentation. The six-week ban will only go into effect if the 15-week ban passes muster with the Supreme Court.

Related: American Women’s Bodies Are Under Attack. Here’s How You Can Help.

In Florida, Ron DeSantis has a personal army that is subject to his whims and not those of the federal government. His Florida State Guard is different than the Florida National Guard. The National Guard can be federalized and ultimately could be made to take orders from the federal government. When Alabama integrated Little Rock High School in 1957, Governor Orval Faustus stood at the school's steps, accompanied by the Arkansas National Guard, and initially turned away the Little Rock Nine. President Eisenhower federalized the National Guard and ordered them to escort the Black students and ensure their safety.

DeSantis discovered the limits to his control over the Florida National Guard when the federal government required guard members to get vaccinated for Covid-19. After his wealthy donors got vaccinated, DeSantis began equating not getting vaccinations with "freedom" and opposed any effort to require vaccinations. He went after schools, cities, counties, cruise lines, restaurants, and other private businesses that wanted to protect their customers, employees, or citizens because DeSantis felt it was "bad for business."

As of April 2023, Florida ranked 45th of 50 states in the percentage of citizens who completed the initial two-shot vaccination regimen. DeSantis reinstituted the Florida State Guard and has used it to support his immigration policies, helping guard the Texas border and shipping asylum seekers to Democratic-controlled cities. Florida is about to lease a $10 million facility to support the Florida State Guard.

You can expect to know next to nothing about how a DeSantis administration would operate. He has passed legislation to exclude himself from many Sunshine Laws requiring politicians to conduct business openly. DeSantis has claimed "executive privilege" to hide his travel records, prevent releasing information about candidates for college and university presidents, and fail to disclose some official meetings. What didn't pass was a requirement that any blogger (like myself) who wrote about some state officials (like DeSantis) have to register with the state and disclose any source of income so DeSantis can see.

There is no mention of executive privilege in the Florida Constitution.

You may have heard about DeSantis and his dictating what is and isn't Black history. DeSantis forced the AP College Board to change their standards, claiming Black history has "no educational merit." The 2023 Florida Guidelines describe some slaves benefiting from slavery and the forced breeding and rape of enslaved people as "natural reproduction." Florida is currently questioning AP Psychology because it discussed LGBTQIA+ people—a continuation of his "Don't Say Gay" philosophy.

Related: Florida Teaching Middle Schoolers That Slavery Benefited the Enslaved Is Wicked

DeSantis doesn't make clear who he hates most, between immigrants, minorities, and LGBTQIA+. Three groups have issued travel advisories about visiting Florida. The NAACP warned potential tourists about coming to Florida, claiming it's "openly hostile toward African-Americans, people of color, and LGBTQ+ individuals." They followed two other groups—the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), a Latino civil rights organization, and Equality Florida, a gay rights advocacy group—in issuing travel advisories. DeSantis has already cost Florida thousands of visitors and millions of dollars.

DeSantis keeps saying, "freedom," but what he offers America is a dictatorship. Try using your First Amendment rights to speak out against his policies; DeSantis has attempted to take down the largest employer in the state, Walt Disney World, who belatedly stood up against his anti-LGBTQIA+ policies. Disney has pulled a planned $1 billion development as a result.

Related: The Downside of Ron DeSantis’ Flailing, Failing Presidential Campaign

DeSantis has appointed a quack as Florida's surgeon general—a Covid-19 skeptic who personally altered the results of a study to comply with DeSantis' requests. Despite being caught changing records, Joseph Ladapo remains in office.

Florida is suffering from an outbreak of leprosy; homeowners are increasingly unable to afford homeowners insurance as insurers are leaving the state. Florida allows concealed carry without permits and no training or proficiency.

Why in the world would anyone want America to become Florida?

Americans in Iowa, New Hampshire, and other early Republican primary and caucus states have met Ron DeSantis and aren't impressed. He follows a thrice-indicted, twice-impeached, misogynist cheater by 37 points in recent polls. DeSantis has fired 40 percent of his campaign staff and replaced the head of his campaign because of DeSantis' poor showing.

Hopefully, America will never discover how bad a DeSantis presidency would be. Heaven help us if we do.

This post originally appeared on Medium and is edited and republished with author's permission. Read more of William Spivey's work on Medium. And if you dig his words, buy the man a coffee.