Protecting Florida From the Voters

Source: The American Conservative

Last week, Thomas Edsall argued in the New York Times that the coming Florida gubernatorial election would be “a referendum on democracy.” Given incumbent Ron DeSantis’s relative popularity, Edsall fretted that “the odds do not look good” for democracy.

The fact that a popular incumbent is likely to win reelection would, in simpler times, be considered a sign of democratic health. But Edsall is not concerned about electoral majorities when he refers to “democracy,” but support for what he calls “democratic institutions and values.” Those “values” amount, in effect, to the substantive commitments of the Democratic Party. Proof: Edsall cites DeSantis’s removal of Andrew Warren, the Hillsborough prosecutor who declined to prosecute violations of the state’s abortion laws, as an example of the governor’s “abuse” of democratic norms. But Florida’s abortion laws were drafted, passed, and signed by the people of Florida’s elected representatives. The threat to “democracy” comes not from DeSantis but the rogue prosecutor categorically declining to enforce laws he does not like.

Other examples of DeSantis’s supposedly “domineering” behavior include his barring public schools from using of math textbooks that deploy “social-emotional learning content,” vetoing a $35 million budget item to build a new training facility for the Tampa Bay Rays after the team donated to a gun-grabbing nonprofit, and his having asked for “a binder of all the authorities of the governor” telling him what he could do “as a matter of constitutional right.”

Joe Biden just canceled hundreds of billions of dollars of student-loan debt without Congressional approval and months earlier tried to prevent landlords from evicting derelict tenants. Barack Obama sicced his Justice department on Catholic nuns. Democrats are not opposed in principle to executive power. They oppose the use of executive power by Republicans.

Edsall and other progressives think “democracy” is a ratchet that moves in one direction. Any reversion from course is evidence of anti-democratic “backsliding.” Maybe so. But as Edsall himself admits, DeSantis’s popularity proves that the “hostility of many mainstream voters to controversial liberal initiatives on social and cultural issues is strong enough to generate formidable backlash.” And the backlash continues to grow.