Senate Dem: Gov. DeSantis’ ‘fanatical agenda’ is at odds with spirit of Christmas

By: - December 22, 2021 1:37 pm

Gov. Ron DeSantis at Wildwood news conference on Dec. 15, 2021. Source: Ron DeSantis Facebook page

A leading Florida Senate Democrat is calling upon Gov. Ron DeSantis to get with the Christmas spirit and knock it off with the culture-war rhetoric.

“As we prepare to celebrate Christmas, I strongly urge Gov. DeSantis to reflect on the fanatical agenda he is endorsing for the coming year, and its stark contrast with the true meaning of the season,” Sen. Bobby Powell of Palm Beach County, the upper chamber’s No. 2 Democrat, said in a written statement released Wednesday.

“Sadly, here in Florida, the words ‘peace, good will toward men’ are absent from this governor’s message, especially in his reelection drive. For Floridians who look like me, or shades thereof, his agenda is decidedly unwelcome and anything but peaceful. It’s about locking us up and locking us out, all while selectively plucking the words of Martin Luther King to somehow make this racist targeting okay,” Powell continued.

FL Sen. Bobby Powell. Credit:

“It’s not okay. It’s not okay to push what he calls ‘anti-woke legislation’ that’s a smoke screen for sanitizing history and erasing the lessons of the past. It’s not okay to threaten teachers with litigation for simply teaching. It’s not okay to muzzle those whose heritage was defined by Jim Crow or unleash those who have never moved beyond its hateful intent.”

Powell referred to the governor’s crusade, as he runs for reelection next year, against what DeSantis calls “woke” culture, including the teaching of “critical race theory” in public schools and corporate anti-discrimination policies.

DeSantis has already ordered the Florida Department of Education to bar “CRT” from the schools, and last week asked the Legislature to allow parents to sue schools over such instruction.

Critical race theory posits that structural racism pervades American society to the disadvantage of minorities in the criminal justice system, lending, educational opportunities, and other facets of life. DeSantis and other critics of the theory argue it makes white kids feel bad about themselves.

“I think what you see now with the rise of this woke ideology is an attempt to really delegitimize our history and to delegitimize our institutions,” the governor said last week in Wildwood. “And I view the wokeness as a form of cultural Marxism.”

Powell decried such talk.

“Just as kindness, compassion, and hope embody the spirit of Christmas, so, too, should Florida’s top executive emulate these same qualities. The governor of the third largest state in the union should have more to offer Floridians than his attempts to re-ignite the American Civil War,” he said.

DeSantis Press Secretary Christina Pushaw pushed back in an email to the Phoenix.

“The assertion that Gov. DeSantis’ ban on CRT is ‘sanitizing history,’ ‘erasing the lessons of the past,’ or promoting racism in any way is patently false. Most who push this narrative are unfamiliar with Florida law, which requires the instruction of history, culture, experiences, and contributions of African Americans in all Florida school districts,” Pushaw wrote.

She cited the Department of Education rule: “Instruction on the required topics must be factual and objective and may not suppress or distort significant historical events.”

The legislation the governor sees, Pushaw wrote, presumes certain teachings are discriminatory, including that “members of one race are morally superior to members of another race” or “an individual, by virtue of his or her race, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive.”

“We can be proud of our country and our history, while acknowledging the evils of slavery and racial discrimination. Educating students on the good and the bad in American history is required in Florida public schools, and Governor DeSantis fully supports factual historical education, as Florida law requires,” she wrote.

“By contrast, ‘critical race theory’ is not factual. It is an ideologically driven construct, which promotes unsubstantiated and divisive narratives that have no place in our classrooms. CRT originated in law schools decades ago, and it is rooted in Marxist theory. The phenomenon of CRT in elementary and secondary education is very recent.”

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Michael Moline
Michael Moline

Michael Moline has covered politics and the legal system for more than 30 years. He is a former managing editor of the San Francisco Daily Journal and former assistant managing editor of The National Law Journal. He began his career covering the Florida Capitol for United Press International. More recently, he wrote for Florida Politics.