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On Thursday, The Intelligencer author Jonathan Chait claimed that no matter how “illiberal” the left has gotten, it will never be as authoritarian as Florida under Governor Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., has become.
In his piece, titled, “Ron DeSantis’s Florida Is Where Free Speech Goes to Die,” Chait acknowledged that there is “spread of a strain of reductive, hypermoralized left-wing discourse on race and gender” but argued voting Republican to combat it will make it worse.
He began by admitting some rhetoric and behavior on the far-left had gone too far: “And while I do not think the rise of post-liberal progressivism represents anything close to the biggest problem facing America, I do believe it is a problem that has anathematized dissent at many elite universities, private schools, media and entertainment organizations, nonprofits, and other progressive spaces.”
Though he also claimed that some intense behavior on the illiberal left was prompted by former President Donald Trump. “it seems fairly clear that the explosion of reductive left-wing identity discourse was in no small part a response to Trump’s provocations,” he wrote.
“The fact that the most powerful and famous man in America was a gigantic racist (by the confession of many of his own allies) surely made the critical race theorists’ job much easier,” Chait insisted.
And before really laying into DeSantis, he propped up President Biden as the man who “has tried to heal the social cleavages. His affect and rhetoric are designed to soothe rather than inflame. He speaks in old-fashioned terms and invokes Americans’ common humanity,” Chait waxed.
The point was, Biden has the best approach for dealing with the “illiberal left.” Because of Biden, “It’s no coincidence that, over the past year, many liberals at progressive institutions have begun to push back against the illiberal excesses of recent years,” the author argued.
On the other hand, DeSantis, and the “Republican Party’s strategy is precisely the opposite.” Chait observed, “Where Biden seeks to conciliate, the Republicans revel in stoking cultural conflict.”
“The Republican method is the mirror image of the far left’s: to define the terms of the debate as a binary choice between extremes and, thus, to negate the possibility of any moderate position between them,” he claimed.
Pointing to DeSantis as an example of this, Chait’s piece stated, “In his speech, DeSantis demanded that the party ‘needs to be all in’ for candidates like Kari Lake, whom some Republicans have hesitated to openly embrace on account of her fervent endorsement of Trump’s election-conspiracy theories.” The article also referenced the governor’s endorsement of Pennsylvania Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano, writing, “DeSantis has lived this ethos, campaigning with the Christian nationalist and January 6 participant Doug Mastriano.”
Chait continued, “If you listen to even his own account of his agenda, it is clear DeSantis’s method is not to depoliticize the schools but to replace what he sees as left-wing propaganda with right-wing propaganda.” He also knocked DeSantis for focusing on teaching the evils of communism in the classroom.
“He boasted of requiring schools to devote a day to instructing children about the evils of communism. Notably, he does not see any need to teach them about the history of right-wing authoritarian regimes, only left-wing ones,” Chait lamented, summing it up as “his intention to use school instruction to inculcate children in his own partisan conception of the ideological divide.”
Chait also mentioned DeSantis’ plan to eliminate “tenure protections for university faculty in his state,” and his recent boasts about “bullying” Disney, “punishing the company in retaliation for its criticism of his anti-gay legislation.”
As such, Chait declared, “DeSantis has no principled objection to blacklisting, censorship, or propagandistic indoctrination. All he wants is for the whip to be in his own hand.”
The author concluded his piece with the assertion that no matter how radical the left has become, it is nothing compared to the danger posed by the radical right. “The key thing to understand is that the illiberalism of the left is a subcultural phenomenon while the illiberalism of the right has state power within its grasp. There is no failure of liberal norms on the left that the Republican Party cannot make immeasurably more dire.”