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Will Comrade DeSantis Succeed in Destroying the Constitution?
The GOP's naked appeals to racism, bigotry, and hate are as destructive to a nation founded on an idea as is their defiance of our Constitution
So now Ron DeSantis gets to trash Disney, claim the title of Chief Culture Warrior in an election year, and even raise taxes on one of the few Blue counties in Florida, all in one stroke.
But his behavior is a lot more dangerous than just a political stunt.
From their naked attempt to overthrow our government on January 6th, to Florida’s recent unconstitutional legislation punishing Disney for engaging in First Amendment-protected free speech, it’s becoming clear that Republicans are working to fundamentally change America by destroying our Constitution.
The Constitution is the basic operating system for our democratic republic: without it, America becomes a jumble of regional and local interests with no unifying principle, just as it was when we were operating (unsuccessfully) under the Articles of Confederation after the end of the Revolutionary War and before the Constitution was ratified and George Washington was elected president in 1789.
To say that America is the first nation in history “based on ideas, rather than blood and soil” is an understatement. At the time the Constitution was ratified it had been over 3000 years since a literate “civilized” nation had made a serious run at a constitutional republican government.
This is why the oath of office in America is so specific. Article 2, which creates and specifies the office of the President, says:
“Before he enters on the Execution of his Office, he shall take the following Oath or Affirmation: – I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
It doesn’t require the president to protect the country, the citizens of the country, or even the symbols of the country like the flag or the Capitol. It only requires the president to protect, preserve and defend the Constitution.
Because the Founders and Framers knew that if you’re going to have a country based on an idea, that idea must be sacrosanct.
Every time it collides with local, temporary, or political considerations it must prevail.
Without it, the idea is gone; without the idea, the country is dead.
It’s also why Article 6 applies that oath to everybody else who wants to participate in our government, from federal to state elected officials to appointed officers; all must also swear their loyalty to the Constitution, and the Constitution alone.
They must swear to place the Constitution above family, friends, community, party, and even their loyalty to their gods or religions:
“The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”
Like most people my age, I learned this in 4th or 5th grade civics; we went to school before Reagan gutted civics education in America to lay the foundation for privatizing our public school systems, along with most other government functions.
The fact that there’s not a louder outcry against Republican efforts to undermine the Constitution demonstrates the sad state of civics education in America today.
Teachers are government employees, so Republicans in Florida are within their rights to punish or even fire them with their “Don’t Say Gay” law if they allow a discussion in class of little Jimmy’s two mommies.
It’s disgusting, un-American, bigoted and a crass political stunt, but it does fall within the powers granted legislatures by the Constitution.
But when Disney — a corporate “person” the Supreme Court says is protected by the Bill of Rights (even if I do disagree with their logic) — publicly protests the legislation, and Republicans openly and proudly punish Disney for taking a stand about government behavior (“petitioning for redress”), they’re spitting on the very Constitution they swore to protect and defend.
The First Amendment to the Constitution — the most important of the Bill of Rights, which is why it was placed first — guarantees that government cannot deny any American (or, by SCOTUS logic, American corporation) their free speech rights, including the right to openly challenge government policies:
“Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
Article 6 of the Constitution also contains the “Supremacy Clause,” which puts federal law and the Constitution above all state laws. When Comrade DeSantis declares he’s signing the legislation because, like a mob boss or tinpot dictator, he wants to punish them for their speech, he’s breaking the law.
He came right out and said it, after all:
“You’re a corporation based in Burbank, Calif., and you’re gonna marshal your economic might to attack the parents of my state? We view that as a provocation, and we’re going to fight back against that.”
DeSantis’ spokesperson, Christina Pushaw, tried to apply a layer of fog over the strongman autocrat’s actions, saying, “It is not ‘retaliatory’ to pass legislation that gets rid of carve-outs and promotes a fairer environment for all companies to do business.”
And, indeed, if that’s all that had happened, she’d be right. But DeSantis’ own words put the lie to her efforts to sanitize his obvious dislike of our constitutional republic and its First Amendment.
In this, DeSantis is simply following in Trump’s footsteps.
Trump’s trashing the press — also protected by the First Amendment — and attacking the right to protest (most visibly with his assault on protestors in Lafayette Square and sending anonymized federal kidnappers into Portland) has established a new fascist baseline for Republican politicians.
They can now tear apart the Constitution with glee and in the open, and will continue to do so until they’re held accountable by the courts or defeated at the ballot box.
As DeSantis toady and state Representative Randy Fine, who introduced the “Punish Disney” legislation, said, they had passed that legislation exclusively and specifically “because of the way Disney has behaved…”
Orange County Florida, where most of Disney’s property is located, will have to pick up tens of millions of dollars in new and additional property taxes because of the Republican legislation.
Given that Orange County is one of the few in the state that reliably votes Blue, 60.9% Democrats to 37.8% Republicans, that may be a feature of the new legislation rather than a bug.
Using the power of the state to reward friends and punish enemies is a form of corruption that was normal across the world when our “Great Experiment” in republican democracy was first begun. The Framers of our Constitution thought they could overcome that type of corruption, as laid out in these quotes from the Constitution.
But repeated assaults against our Constitution by wannabee dictators like Trump and DeSantis have put our nation’s founding principles to their most severe test since the Civil War.
Their naked appeals to racism, bigotry, and hate are as destructive to a nation founded on an idea as is their defiance of our Constitution.
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