Florida Republicans are trading in democracy for a budding dictatorship in the name of political convenience.
On Monday, leaders of the state's GOP-led Legislature announced they had caved to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ redistricting demands. The lawmakers will effectively allow DeSantis to draw congressional maps that create a stronger advantage for him and other Republicans.
The announcement followed a monthslong debate between Republican leadership, which had already drawn a map that benefited the GOP, and DeSantis, who proposed an even more intense gerrymander that dissolved two Black districts and redrew them as Republican strongholds.
“We are awaiting a communication from the Governor’s Office with a map that he will support," House Speaker Chris Sprowls and Senate President Wilton Simpson said in a memo to members shared with NBC News. "Our intention is to provide the Governor’s Office opportunities to present that information before House and Senate redistricting committees."
In short: The two Republicans are vowing to bend the knee to their leader and allow him to shape Florida’s political landscape to his heart’s desire. And for DeSantis, a potential 2024 presidential candidate, that means virtually no political autonomy for Black Floridians.
DeSantis vetoed maps proposed by the Legislature last month, arguing their compliance with a state law that seeks to ensure nonwhite voters can elect candidates of their choice violated the U.S. Constitution. That state law, known as Florida’s “Fair Districts” amendment, was written into the state's constitution more than a decade ago. But DeSantis has argued the Florida law violates the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause, which allows map-drawers to consider race as they draw districts. Those claims rest on the radical conservative argument — struck down by the Supreme Court — that the 14th Amendment’s protections against racist gerrymandering are unconstitutional.
The maps DeSantis proposed seem to clearly violate Florida law, demonstrating his desire for a legal fight that may ultimately reach the U.S. Supreme Court. With the court’s present conservative tilt, it’s entirely possible a majority of justices agree with DeSantis and reinterpret the 14th Amendment to suggest it bars laws like Florida’s, which protect minority voters.
Either way, the Florida GOP’s submission to DeSantis on this issue is noteworthy — albeit unsurprising — and reiterates that the party sees multiracial democracy as a greater threat to its worldview than a racist megalomaniac's thirst for total control.