“No governor should have his own handpicked secret police.” ~ Charlie Crist
As a country, Florida would be in the middle of the pack if ranked by population alone – about 65th, or a bit smaller than Australia. Throw in Florida’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and it would rise to the top 15, or almost that of Mexico. That’s not bad for a single state in a big, productive country where it ranks 3rd in population and 4th in GDP, and doesn’t have to pay for a lot of things the federal government handles, like defense, Social Security, Medicare, air traffic control, and the like.
But now Ron DeSantis wants his own army, too, and he doesn’t want to have to be elected president to get it.
According to the Guardian, his proposed budget creates a state paramilitary unit that he, rather than the federal government, would control, as they do the National Guard. He argues that it would assist with “state specific emergencies” and “would not be encumbered by the federal government.” He said that the Florida State Guard would be deployed to deal with the aftermath of natural disasters but could be put to other uses as well.
It’s not much of a leap to imagine what some of those “other uses” might be for a force under the control of this governor. This is the guy who sent 114 Florida state troopers to the Mexican border in Texas to “assist” the Border Patrol in apprehending those crossing illegally, and who championed an “anti-riot” bill to crush the first amendment rights of peaceful protestors in the wake of the George Floyd murder, and who has enacted and encouraged countless voter suppression measures in Florida. Just picture a state-sanctioned militia under DeSantis’ control stationed at polling places in selected neighborhoods to “keep order.” Democracy is an alien and repulsive concept to the governor, especially as enshrined in the Constitution of the United States.
Surely, this Trump wannabe can’t get away with his scheme to create an armed militia under his control, can he? Unfortunately, he might.
Florida and U.S law allow for the creation of a state guard. In fact, such a unit existed from 1941 until 1947 to replace the Florida National Guard that had been federalized and activated for overseas service in World War 2. Made up of volunteers and organized by county, their duties consisted of guarding infrastructure, protecting against sabotage, calming riots, or aiding law enforcement. They were authorized to be issued state-supplied or military surplus weapons or, in some cases, to use their own. Florida’s 1940s state guard even had an air force. "Calming riots" and "aiding law enforcement" sound particularly ominous in the hands of this radical right-wing governor.
The Legislature still must appropriate the $3.5 million DeSantis has proposed as a “start up,” so it’s not too late to contact your representatives to get them to block this power grab. Most of all, his proposal makes clear that DeSantis and the GOP-controlled Legislature are genuine threats to democracy in Florida – and they cannot be trusted to act either in the best interests of the people or to uphold the principles on which this nation was founded. It’s time for unity and for a big change – starting with a new governor and a lot of new, Democratic legislators in 2022.