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Ron DeSantis, Right Wing Censorship Efforts, & the Rotting of the Conservative Mind

As we have noted before in these pages, younger and more educated voters are abandoning the GOP in droves. Gen Z is the most educated age cohort in history and their views are largely driven by science and research. They understand evolution, the big bang theory, and the causes of climate change and other environmental challenges. They support women's and LGBT rights. They are aware of the nation's long history of racism and support efforts to address systemic racism in the criminal justice system. And, very few supported Donald Trump.

Many GOP activists and white evangelical leaders see all this as signs of the apocalypse, young folks abandoning good old fashioned conservative Christian values, in search of objective truth. And Republicans generally understand that there is a demographic cliff approaching as older white Boomers are replaced in the electorate by highly educated and racially diverse Millennial and Gen Z voters.

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Florida legislature think they have an answer. DeSantis signed legislation this week mandating that public universities survey students and faculty about their political beliefs. The idea seems to be that Florida's Republican legislature should control what's taught in the state's colleges. "House Bill 233 requires state colleges and universities to conduct annual assessments of the viewpoint diversity and intellectual freedom at their institutions to ensure that Florida’s postsecondary students will be shown diverse ideas and opinions, including those that they may disagree with or find uncomfortable [or offensive]."

Opponents of the bill were quick to point out that the legislation offers no assurances that the survey’s answers will be anonymous or that the results wouldn't be used to fire faculty or to prevent them from gaining tenure. And, the Miami Herald reported that both DeSantis and State Sen. Ray Rodrigues, the bill’s GOP sponsor, suggested that the survey results could lead to budget cuts at some universities.

In addition to the survey, the bill also prevents officials from limiting campus speech that "may be uncomfortable, disagreeable or offensive," wording that suggests that Republicans are eager to allow white Christian nationalist groups back on campuses. Many such groups had been prevented from holding rallies because they had engaged in what many consider hate speech.

In signing the legislation, DeSantis says his intent is to assure “intellectual diversity,” but critics were quick to point out that American universities are generally acknowledged to be the best in the world because they are driven by science, research, and intellectual curiosity, not by government edict, especially when elected officials have a specific agenda.

Salon: "In a conversation with the Miami Herald this April, Barney Bishop, one of the top lobbyists pushing the bill in Florida's state legislature over the past year, shone a light on the justifications behind such measures — which he said were less about "intellectual diversity" and more concerned with maintaining the country's conservative Christian identity in the face of younger, more diverse generations that share a dimmer view of religious right-wing orthodoxy."
Bishop: "I think that those of us who have diverse thinking and look at both sides of the issue, see that the way the cards are stacked in the education system, is toward the left and toward the liberal ideology and also secularism — and those were not the values that our country was founded on. Those are the values that we need to get our country back to."

Educators in Florida have good reason to be concerned, but, in the end, DeSantis's effort to censure "liberal ideology and ... secularism" will fail not because of "lefty professors," but because college campuses are true meritocracies where good ideas flourish and bad ideas get pummeled by evidence and facts. I have been teaching for 31 years and have watched the rise and fall of "creation science," the war on drugs, anti-Obamacare hysteria, "clean" coal, abstinence-only sex-ed programs, neoconservatism, and supply-side "trickle down" economics. Liberals didn't kill them; facts did.

And, more importantly, GOP efforts in Florida reveal a Party without any new ideas. If they want to challenge "liberal ideology," history suggests they should come up with better solutions, better policies, not try to stifle progressive policy prescriptions. Americans are still waiting for a viable Republican healthcare plan to replace Obamacare, a conservative plan to battle climate change, and the GOP's solution to the nation's growing income inequality. They don't even pretend to address such issues anymore, focusing their attention instead on a ever-growing list of culture war conspiracy theories [trans-athletes, CRT, wokeness].

If Republicans like DeSantis really want to recapture the attention of young, college educated voters, they may want to get back to formulating innovative public policy prescriptions and stop waving their canes around, ranting about the good old days.

#news #politics

By: Don Lam & Curated Content

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