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Florida GOP’s priority list of fear, hatred and resentment



The Republican Party of Florida’s list of 10 legislative priorities amounts to a tacit declaration of its moral and political bankruptcy.

Not one of them has anything to do with making Florida a better place. Several would make it worse.

None confront the crushing costs of housing and homeowners’ insurance or any other issue, such as health care, that concerns Floridians daily.

But several cater to the bigotries of the minority among us who hate or fear LGBTQ people. These bills would bar their preferred pronouns(HB 599, SB 1382), limit drivers’ licenses to the holder’s gender at birth (HB 1639) and forbid schools and other government buildings from displaying flags that “represent a political viewpoint” (HB 901, SB 1120). All three proudly are atop the GOP’s must-pass list.

Probably unconstitutional, too

The wish list expresses its own political viewpoint: “ending rainbow flags on government buildings.” The dim lights who wrote it must have realized that it could also apply to the American flag, since the language specifically protects Old Glory. But in so saying, it clashes with the settled federal constitutional principle that any restriction on speech must be content-neutral.

None of the 10 subjects lays so bare how the party has gone off track as those involving “protection of historic monuments and memorials.”

This list of the Republican Party of Florida's 10 legislative priorities was circulated at a recent party meeting in Wesley Chapel. (handout)
This list of the Republican Party of Florida’s 10 legislative priorities was circulated at a recent party meeting in Wesley Chapel. (handout)

They’re actually about extolling the sin of slavery and sanitizing the catastrophe precipitated by Southern secession. They’re about protecting a legacy of racism and treason.

The monument bills were sprung on the Legislature after Jacksonville Mayor Donna Deegan ordered the removal of a statue dedicated to the women of the Southern Confederacy. It had stood in a park since 1915. The bills bar anything a local government, school or university might do to remove such a “historic” monument, calls for fining those responsible, and requires replacing the object.

Two principal sponsors, Rep. Dean Black and Sen. Clay Yarborough, are from Jacksonville, where the Republican-dominated City Council has clashed with Deegan over her action.

All about white supremacy

The Senate version was chugging along until some citizens supporting it admitted at a public meeting that it was about “white supremacy” and “white culture.” Several senators professed shock and Senate President Kathleen Passidomo then put the abhorrent bill on hold; it’s likely dead.

To her credit, Passidomo told reporters that “our bill process is not the Republican Party of Florida,” POLITICO Florida reported.

For any legislator to be surprised by what those bills really stand for recalls that famous scene in Casablanca when a corrupt police officer orders Rick’s nightclub closed, saying “I am shocked — shocked! — to find that gambling is going on here.”

Anybody who has learned history honestly — that is, not how it was taught in the South for nearly a century — knows the truth about such monuments.

Vestiges of Jim Crow

The website of the Atlanta History Center tells it concisely:

“While many Confederate memorials of the 1860s through 1880s were erected to mourn and honor Confederate dead, most Confederate monuments were created during the Jim Crow era beginning in the 1890s. White peoples in power, including former Confederates, enacted racial segregation laws to create a society based on white supremacy — one that mimicked the Southern social, political, and economic order of slavery prior to the Civil War and emancipation. These laws were reinforced by social practices as well as race-based violence.”

That Jacksonville monument served the same revisionist propaganda. So did the city’s 1959 decision to name a high school after Nathan Bedford Forrest. A Southern general and slave trader, he ordered the massacre of Black Union prisoners in Tennessee and founded the murderous Ku Klux Klan to subvert the newly won civil rights of former slaves. The high school’s nickname? Rebels, naturally.

The Forrest naming was proposed by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, who had successfully purged Southern schools and white culture of any truths about the Civil War and slavery. Their influence lingers in the Florida school standards that gloss over slavery as having taught some Blacks useful trades.

Recalling Jacksonville’s history

Forrest High School represented defiance of a U.S. Supreme Court that four years earlier declared school segregation unconstitutional.

Forrest High was intended for whites only. Not until 2013 did the School Board rename the school, many years after it had been desegregated. That renaming conceivably could have been illegal under the pending legislation.

A white riot in 1960 in Jacksonville, remembered as “Ax Handle Saturday,” attacked Black civil rights demonstrators. Today’s legislators presumably know that history. If they don’t, that’s bad, but to not care is worse.

Other bills on the party wish list include term limits for county commissioners, making gold and silver legal tender (a fantasy of the far right nationally); lowering the age for rifle purchases from 21 back to 18, which dishonors the 17 lives lost in Parkland; banning public camping or sleeping; and calling for conventions to propose constitutional amendments for a balanced federal budget and congressional term limits.

All told, they make the Florida GOP attractive to people whose lives are defined by their hatreds, fears, insecurities and resentments. But they also make the party relevant to no one else.

The Sun Sentinel Editorial Board consists of Opinion Editor Steve Bousquet, Deputy Opinion Editor Dan Sweeney, editorial writer Martin Dyckman and Editor-in-Chief Julie Anderson. Editorials are the opinion of the Board and written by one of its members or a designee. To contact us, email at

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