School is out, summer is here and the state capitol is empty.
Florida’s political world is taking a breath after legislative sessions and before months of non-stop campaigning for the November election.
But make no mistake. The damage Gov. Ron DeSantis is inflicting upon Florida continues to impact us all as he keeps consolidating power and punishing anyone who disagrees with him. And the repercussions of the governor’s extremism are just beginning to play out.
Across the state, women are hurt and terrified as they wait for this governor, who praised the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, to completely strip them of their right to choose.
In Orlando, The Walt Disney Company postponed plans to bring 2,000 jobs from California to Florida. The announcement comes after DeSantis punished Disney for criticizing his discriminatory “Don’t Say Gay’’ law and abolished its special governing district – leaving taxpayers on the hook for $1.7 billion in debt.
The lawsuits challenging the governor’s assault on our freedoms are also piling up. Last week, a Tallahassee circuit judge thankfully ruled against the governor’s cruel abortion ban that offers no exceptions in the case of rape or incest. But with his promise to appeal all the way to the Supreme Court, there’s still a tough fight ahead.
Other lawsuits challenge DeSantis’ “Don’t Say Gay’’ law that discriminates against LGBTQ students and his “Stop WOKE Act’’ that could silence civil rights teaching and training at schools, universities and businesses.
And lawsuits challenging a DeSantis law that makes it harder to vote, and his gerrymandered map for congressional districts that eliminated Black representation in Congress.
The ridiculous legal fees DeSantis is forcing taxpayers to pay to defend the indefensible: More than $4.4 million and rising.
And now, DeSantis is seeking to take over local school boards by coaching and electing like-minded supporters. He also is trying to take control of the state Senate by endorsing candidates in Republican primaries who are not backed by Senate Republican leaders – a tactic out of the Trump playbook that no other Florida governor has so brazenly pursued.
Meanwhile, he’s recruiting members for an elections police force and a state militia only he will control.
The governor’s thirst for absolute power knows no boundaries.
In normal times, Floridians could count on checks and balances woven into the fabric of our state to limit an authoritarian-minded, power-hungry governor.
The legislative branch is subservient to DeSantis. The judicial branch is stacked with his right-wing ideologues, the news media has been demonized and shut out of his press conferences, and local governments have been stripped of their powers to act.
This regime is not a Florida I recognize, but it is one imagined by the likes of dictators. They seek total control, tolerate no dissent and silence those who disagree.
So take a breath and enjoy your summer. But be prepared to engage during election season and to vote in the Aug. 23 primary and Nov. 8 elections. Our freedoms, our institutions and the very future of our state are at stake.
U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist is a Democrat from St. Petersburg. He served as governor from 2007-11 as a Republican and is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor.