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DeSantis targets critical race theory, echoes Texas' abortion ban

Texas Republicans created a bounty system as part of an abortion ban. Florida's Ron DeSantis wants to apply the same model to ban critical race theory.

After Texas' abortion ban took effect, it wasn't long before copycats emerged. As of this week, four states are weighing Republican proposals to adopt bounty systems that effectively deputize random citizens, empowering them to file lawsuits to go after those who perform or receive abortions.

But there are different ways to utilize the "private right of action" model. As we discussed earlier this week, Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom of California, for example, announced plans to borrow Texas' statutory chassis to target assault rifles. The Golden State could, in other words, effectively deputize random citizens, empowering them to use the courts to go after those who buy or sell illegal weapons.

Yesterday, as NBC News reported, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis unveiled a proposal, which the Republican is calling the "Stop the Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees Act" — or the "Stop WOKE Act" — using the model of Texas' abortion ban to go after lessons on critical race theory.

Under the proposed measure, parents would be granted a "private right of action" to enforce the state's ban on critical race theory in schools. The bill also takes aim at such training in companies, allowing individuals the right to sue businesses if they are forced to learn critical race theory.... The bill would also let parents collect attorneys fees if they are successful with their lawsuits, DeSantis said.

To be sure, it's probably best to see this as a little political stunt from a Republican eager to score cheap points with far-right activists. There is, in reality, little to suggest critical race theory is being taught in Florida schools. The field of study was banned by state officials over the summer, so DeSantis' plan to create anti-CRT bounty hunters is largely pointless.

The governor apparently wants to be able to thump his chest during his next conservative media appearance, boasting that he's going even further than his like-minded GOP contemporaries.

Going after private businesses is even more ambitious, and not entirely consistent with the right's free-market principles. In Florida, however, it doesn't matter whether job creators want to offer CRT-related employee training; DeSantis intends to use the courts and bounty hunters to shut that training down.

Race, history, power, and institutions will be discussed the way Republicans like — or else.

But what I find especially interesting about all of this is the sudden GOP support for trial litigation.

Democrats have tried to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, for example, which is intended to address the gender pay gap. Republicans have refused to support the bill and have killed it, more than once, with Senate filibusters. When pressed, GOP lawmakers have long argued that they're not opponents of equal pay for equal work; they're simply opposed to measures that reward trial attorneys, clog the courts, and put private businesses on the defensive.

And yet, it's against this backdrop that Republicans have become enthusiastic proponents of rewarding trial attorneys, clogging the courts, and putting private businesses on the defensive, just so long as the litigation relates to the far-right culture war.