The government in Tallahassee has always been making legislation, pointing the state’s moral compass, sharpening its conscience or showing its lack thereof.
No more is it evident than under the direction of Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Since DeSantis took office in January, he tackled many issues that touch the lives of everyday Floridians, and that may be why he is already a household name to many – even if along the way he leaves you puzzled as to exactly what is he about.
Even before taking office he showed that he was going to flex his muscles, perhaps alienating some to appease others – most notably in the cases of the removal of Broward Supervisor of Election Brenda Snipes and Broward Sherriff Scott Israel.
Both sanctions were audacious. Outgoing Gov. Rick Scott removed Snipes; DeSantis concurred. DeSantis as governor removed Israel, a pre-installation pledge. He thus excised two duly elected officials, with the only similarities that he alleged they were both derelict in their posts. Snipes put up a valiant fight, until the Senate declined to even consider giving her her job back. Israel fought, lost a Senate vote and continues to seek redemption through the courts and the later the ballot box, as he is seeking reelection as sheriff. Now a Republican sits as supervisor of election in a county that is majority-Democrat. The new sheriff Gregory Tony, like Israel, has voted Republican but has registered as Democrat. The difference for Tony is that he was appointed by staunch Republican DeSantis, who Trump said during the election was his man.
Again, his actions seemingly make it unclear as to his motives.
Shortly after installation, DeSantis and his new Cabinet, meeting as the Clemency Board pardons the Groveland Four, four Black men wrongly accused of raping a white woman.
“I believe in the principles of the Constitution. I believe in getting a fair shake,” DeSantis said at the time. “I don’t think there any way that you can look at this case and see justice was carried out.”
DeSantis gave us a glimmer of hope that he would be a governor of everyone.
But his steady and merciless assault on Amendment 4 gives one pause. November 2018, the voters in Florida said a resounding yes to restoring felons’ right to vote after they have served the terms of their sentence. It would mean 1.4 million men and women would be eligible to vote in the next election. Supervisors of elections immediately started registering ex-felons and voter-registration drives were commenced statewide since eligibility and actual voting are two different things. But in a state like Florida, where 1 percent separates winners from losers, if a fraction of those people become new voters, election results could lean more in the Democratic Party’s favor.
Here it becomes more clear who is DeSantis.
DeSantis is Trump’s man. Trump delivered the state and now it’s DeSantis’ turn. So as righteous as DeSantis may want to appear – appointing eight Black judges to Florida’s benches, for instance – he cannot serve two masters: his conscience and the White House.
It is only too clear that the constant shifting and bombarding of Amendment 4 is leading up to the law being dismantled, trampled into nonexistence. All in time to disrupt the November 2020 election.
Using the Legislature and the courts, DeSantis has sought to weaken or make out of reach the benefit of the law to the people who have waited or want to be a part of the election process in the state.
Instituting an economic penalty on some of the most vulnerable was hitting below the belt. Even if felons serve their term, their records can be a pox mark, blemishing a properly adjusted adult in the working world. So, if felons have restrictions on income-making but the penalty is financial, it is bound to have a serious impact on those seeking to restore their rights.
That’s a sucker punch.
Who plays like that? Yes, you guessed it. Donald Trump.