Seeing Red: Florida's governor boldly takes on a nonexistent communist threat.

AuthorForesta, Mathew

Sea levels are rising, the poor are struggling, and an epidemic of mass shootings continues to claim lives across the country. But rather than making any of these issues a top priority, Florida officials have decided to open up yet another front in the culture wars. This time they're playing an old card: the Red Scare.

On May 9, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed House Bill 395, which requires public schools to observe "Victims of Communism Day" each year on November 9. It also mandates that high school students learn about the abuses of leftwing dictators for at least forty-five minutes every year.

It would be a mistake to see this simply as an effort to educate young people about historical figures. Instead, it is an attempt to indoctrinate students into viewing all forms of socialism as inherendy totalitarian and dangerous. "[B]ased on the economic philosophies of Karl Marx," the law declares, "communism has proven incompatible with the ideals of liberty, prosperity, and dignity of human life."

This comes at a moment when socialist ideas are becoming increasingly popular among young people, something reactionary politicians clearly want to push back against. For instance, DeSantis recently castigated Gustavo Petro, Colombia's democratically elected leftist President, and criticized unnamed college students who he thinks have an affinity for communist symbols. Likewise, Republican state Representative David Borrero, a co-sponsor of HB 395, cited polling data on the growing affinity for leftist ideas among younger generations.

This new anti-communism law is part of a broader crusade to censure members of the LGBTQ+ community and prevent anti-racist education from being taught in public schools. In an apparent effort to gin up his rightwing base, DeSantis has been laser-focused on hot-button culture war issues lately. He is seeking re-election in November, but also is a strong contender for the Republican presidential ticket in 2024.

HB 395 was preceded in Florida by the "Stop WOKE Act," which bans schools and workplaces from talking about racism in any way that makes others "uncomfortable," and the "Don't Say Gay" bill, which outlaws the discussion of gender or sexual identity in elementary school classrooms. DeSantis also signed into law a fifteen-week abortion ban last April.

In Florida, it seems, history is repeating itself. In the 1950s, anti-communist rhetoric was an important element of...

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