By Greg Heeter
Claiming that The Beacon is “publishing disinformation, distortions and outright lies” is a sad stretch at the very least, and is more accurately a collection of bias and hyperbole colored as “facts.” The contributor on Oct. 12-18 should look seriously at the underlying premises of his letter that attempt to convince that Gov. DeSantis is not authoritarian. He relies on phrases like “democratically elected Florida Legislature,” “good public policy” and “how democracy works,” as though they are accurate and true, and represent the real preferences of the people of our state.
Basically, 37% of Florida’s voters today are registered Republicans as of 2023. But that party has gerrymandered districts and manipulated election access such that the Florida Legislature is now composed of a whopping 70.3% Republicans.
How does that math work? Does that odd disparity really “reflect the will of most Florida citizens”? Nope. Gerrymandering — cheating to win elections — is not “how democracy works.” Instead, it is the essence of authoritarianism.
According to a Florida judge’s decision just last month, the current map of voting districts pushed by DeSantis is so gerrymandered that it violates the state constitution, and it is prohibited from being used for any future elections. The map, a product of clear authoritarian manipulation, has been sent back to the Legislature to be redrawn to comply with state law and to represent Floridians fairly.
In February of this year, Florida’s Republican legislators put forth bill SB1248 with language to officially remove or “cancel” the Democratic Party as a political party option, requiring voter re-registration to approved parties. Not authoritarian tactics?
Just five years ago, registered Democrats in Florida outnumbered Republicans by 257,175 voters. With a relatively recent majority, conservatives hurried to pack compatriots onto the Florida Supreme Court, take over college and university boards, and ally with extremist organizations to further degrade Florida education into a punchline for late-night talk shows. Floridians across the state are protesting DeSantis’ dictatorial maneuvers and attacks on businesses.
Today, DeSantis is chin-deep in illegitimate and unfair initiatives. He uses bona fide authoritarian practices and is a wannabe king. But he is a slicker one, more skilled at manipulating the tools and gray areas of government.
Before claiming the high ground and puffing about “principled public policy,” conservatives in Florida should return to fair, ethical and legal election and governing processes; stop cheating, dodging and digging for every trick in the book to solidify power. Only then can you preach to me about “good public policy.”
Let’s not be so naive as to think that the censoring of education options, the suppression of university curricula, and the attacks on teachers, minority communities, and corporations (e.g., Disney) are “democracy in action.” They are the most purely authoritarian manipulations by a Florida leader since I was a teenager in 1969. Yes, DeSantis is authoritarian — if it walks like a duck…
The only solution will be to overcome the new gerrymandering and voter suppression hurdles placed on voters, and to return to true and actual democracy via a fair and representative voting process. I trust the sense of fairness of citizens, not those of documented practitioners of authoritarianism.
— Greg Heeter worked globally in workplace performance and program management in tech industries. He is now retired in DeLand.