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Deciphering DeSantism

Dan Moynihan takes a look at a potential future for the Republican Party by deciphering DeSantism in his Can We Still Govern Substack.

In his article, Moynihan makes the important point that the loss of our democracy happens in ways besides our elections. That is a reason why it is vital we examine how people like Governor DeSantis are manipulating government systems in ways that harm democratic values and norms.

As someone who studies public administration, I think about democratic backsliding as about more than just elections, but also about how government operates, how it uses its power, and the degree to which it is accountable to the public. Here, again, DeSantis has established his anti-democratic credentials. His is a record of culture war battles that are not just symbolic, but aggressively use state power to erode individual rights and freedoms, often in obviously unconstitutional ways.

Moynihan provides several examples about how DeSantis is turning Florida government into a state that supports not the people but his power. One glaring example is the treatment of felons seeking to regain their voting rights after the passage of a referendum in 2020.

Even if DeSantis insisted that former felons had to repay fines and fees before voting, the DeSantis administration failed to provide the most basic information to allow them to do so — what was owed, and to who. Instead, DeSantis invested state resources in stoking confusion, intimidation and fear. DeSantis recently went on a media blitz after 20 former felons were sent back to jail for voting. It seems clear that these citizens were not engaged in some conspiracy to engage in fraud: at least some genuinely believed that they were eligible to vote because public officials had told them that they were eligible when they approved their voter registration.

This is a preview of what a President DeSantis (or other MAGA Republicans) would do at the national level if they win the upcoming elections. They are turning the government against their political opponents. History demonstrates that this is a process that does not end in freedom.

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