How Florida progressives plan to shift the narrative around DeSantis’s crusade against “wokeism”
A new grassroots movement hopes to on the real-world harms of the governor’s agenda as he prepares to fulfill his legislative wish list ahead of a potential White House bid.
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FIRST THINGS FIRST
FIRST IN SUPERCREATOR: On the heels of a new 10-week session starts that will see Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida fulfill his legislative wish list as he lays the foundation for a potential presidential campaign, a coalition of progressive groups led by Florida Rising on Wednesday will launch Wake-Up Wednesdays, an initiative it hopes will sound the alarm on the former Congressman’s extreme policies.
Each Wednesday during Florida’s legislative session — starting tomorrow on International Women’s Day at 11 a.m. local time — the coalition will host a series of in-personal and digital programming to create a counternarrative to the Republicans criticisms of “woke politics” that DeSantis has used to rally conservatives and win over independents on various issues, from education to education to health care and the economy.
Andrea Mercado, executive director of Florida Rising, said in an exclusive interview with Supercreator that Wake-Up Wednesdays was inspired by Moral Mondays, a grassroots social justice movement launched against the North Carolina government and former Gov. Pat McCrory in 2013.
“Just given everything that we are facing in Florida with the attacks on immigrants and the attacks on the LGBTQ community and the attacks on women and Black communities, we just anticipate that there’s going to be ongoing, relentless attacks on our communities,” Mercado said. “So how do we create a space to celebrate and be unapologetically pro-Black, pro-immigrant, pro-queer, and in defense of our ancestors, our future and a vision of the fact that freedom lives in all of us?”
By the end of the current legislative session, DeSantis, who has said Florida is “where woke goes to die,” could sign into law legislation banning preferred pronouns, prohibiting majors in gender studies, preventing teachers union dues from being automatically deducted from paychecks and prohibiting universities from spending funds on programs linked to diversity, equity and inclusion programs. The legislature will also consider giving university trustee boards the power to launch a tenure review at any time, authorizing Floridians to carry concealed weapons without a permit or training and allowing a death sentence without a unanimous jury and expanding abortion restrictions.
And although these laws and proposals are often characterized as flags planted in the so-called culture wars, they have real-world consequences for the people and communities who are underrepresented in the legislative process and overlooked by corporate media organizations.
“We’re living the reality of his policies every day when they take Roberto Clemente, Celia Cruz and Toni Morrison out of our schools, when they literally change who’s in charge of colleges and universities in our state, when they erase Black congressional districts just with a stroke of a pen, or say that if you have an undocumented person in your car, you can be charged with human trafficking. Those are the very real laws that he is passing in our state legislature that impacts all of us.”
DeSantis cruised to reelection in 2022 by a landslide and former President Donald Trump won the state in 2016 and 2020 after Barack Obama secured Florida’s 30 electoral votes in 2008 and 2012, outcomes that have diminished the its standing as a bonafide battleground in national politics.
This is no reason, Mercado warns, to disengage from what’s happening in Florida because it often portends what’s to come in other conservative states.
“We can’t give up on the third largest state in the country or give up on the promise of a multiracial democracy. And what happens if you close your eyes and ignore what’s happening in Florida, in Mississippi, and in other parts of the country, it will impact our nation,” she said. ”And their forces are organizing. And so we have to too and so that's why this is really a call to to wake up for us to act.”
And despite DeSantis’s ambitions on the national stage, Mercado said Wake-Up Wednesdays is less about the presidential politics and more about raising awareness of the harms groups like Florida Rising believe his statewide authority is causing the communities they serve.
“We’re focused on making sure that the country knows that there are people here in Florida who oppose what he is doing and that we will not be silent,” she said. “We will be vocal and visible in our celebration of Blackness and queerness of migration and of democracy where all of us can thrive.”
Related: “Ron DeSantis: Last Week Tonight with Jon Oliver”
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IN THE KNOW
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Ahead of President Biden’s release of his 2024 budget in Philadelphia on Thursday, the White House has launched a strategic rollout of some of the key proposals.
First up: A plan to extend the life of Medicare by at least 25 years without any cuts to beneficiaries as the administration continues to play offense against Republicans when it comes to the program reserved for older adults and other earned benefits like Social Security.
Biden’s budget pays for the extension by raising the Medicare tax rate for people earning over $400,000 from 3.8 percent to five percent, closing existing tax loopholes and investing savings from prescription drug reforms in the Inflation Reduction Act into the Medicare Trust Fund.
The proposal will be rejected en masse by congressional Republicans who find raising taxes on the wealthy intolerable and opposed the IRA when Congress passed it last year. But until they come up with a coherent alternative, Biden will continue to promote his ideas as viable no matter whether he has the votes now to make them happen.
Editor’s note: Paid subscribers will receive an exclusive post with original analysis of the president’s budget, comments from members of Congress on noteworthy policy proposals and what it all means for the debt ceiling and government funding negotiations in the months ahead. Upgrade to paid to get it delivered straight to your inbox.
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An issue the White House and congressional Democrats are on defense is crime, the politics of which have been complicated even more after Biden said he would sign a resolution to override controversial reforms to the DC criminal code if it passes the Senate as early as Wednesday.
House Democrats are fuming at the president for not announcing his intentions before several members voted against the override resolution after the White House indicated Biden would oppose it. Now that the threat of a veto is off the table, as many as 20 Senate Democrats could join Republicans to pass it. (Senate Democratic leadership isn’t actively whipping against the bill; Chuck Schumer and Dick Durbin have yet to say if they’ll support the resolution.)
It’s worth watching in the near term how President Biden and House Democrats play in public as he’s expected to announce his reelection soon and will look to do so with the support of a unified party. The White House, as is often the case when it’s mired in controversy, has expressed defiance as critics accuse the president of prioritizing politics over principle: Biden says he supports DC statehood and respects DC’s ability to govern their local affairs, though his decision is a poor demonstration of it.
ICYMI: “‘Don’t pick out DC’: Holmes Norton reflects on Biden’s support for GOP-backed crime bill”
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The House Education and Workforce Committee announced it would mark up a bill on Wednesday that would make it a Title IX violation for recipients of federal funding to allow transgender girls or women to participate in girls’ and women’s athletic programs. Critics of the legislation are calling it a federal trans sports ban.
Mark Pocan, chair of the Equality Caucus, said in a statement that teacher shortages, poor pay, lack of resources and sexual harassment are among the pressing issues facing both the nation’s education system and girls’ women’s sports and this markup makes no effort to address any of them.
“This is not about girls’ and women’s sports; it’s about attacking trans kids,” Pocan added. “This sports ban is just the opening salvo in their larger efforts to limit the rights of and demonize the LGBTQI+ community.”
“We will not let anti-LGBTQI+ Republicans — who have refused to work with us on addressing real gender equity issues — use ‘protecting women’ as an excuse to attack trans youth, Democratic Women’s Caucus Chair Lois Frankel said in a statement. “When my Republican colleagues want to join with us to address the actual pressing issues impacting girls’ and women’s sports, I stand ready to work with them.”
From the Supercreator archive: “What state lawmakers think of the anti-LGBTQ laws popping up in their legislatures”
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Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio last Friday led 17 Senate committee chairs and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer in a letter to President Biden calling on him to mobilize a whole-of-government approach to address the nation’s affordable housing crisis.
Specifically, the senators are looking for the administration to do more to accelerate production and modernize housing stock to lower the cost of housing.
In other news, Democratic Rep. Nydia Velázquez of New York has her sights on landlords, whom she says are exploiting the crisis, with a new bill today that Gothamist reports would amend the Fair Housing Act to ban discrimination against people with rental assistance vouchers and fine property owners $100,000 every month that they are found to “deliberately” leave an apartment empty.
The White House did not respond when asked to confirm it received Brown’s letter.
Related: “It’s time for Biden to prioritize the affordable housing shortage” (Rachel M. Cohen/Vox)
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Marianne Williamson announced a primary challenge to President Biden last weekend in what’s viewed as a self-serving exercise to secure another book deal and grow her personal fortune.
In a new Morning Consult poll, just four percent of Democratic primary voters support Williamson’s campaign. For context on how uninterested voters are in a Biden primary challenge: Twice as many people opted for “someone else” over Williamson.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Monday dismissed the idea of Williamson as a serious contender for the nomination while poking fun at the author’s reputation as a “new-age guru” and “spiritual leader,” labels she reportedly resents.
“If I could feel her aura,” Jean-Pierre said to laughs from the White House press corps.
Related: “My humble proposal for how to handle Marianne Williamson this time around” (Christina Cauterucci / Slate)
READ ALL ABOUT IT
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