In the last gasps of his presidential campaign, Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis continues to brag that he made his state the place where “woke goes to die.” He has made his war on woke a central plank in his ongoing effort to secure the Republican nomination.

There has been nothing subtle about DeSantis’ effort to promote himself as a leading culture warrior or to take credit for slaying the woke dragons. That self-promotion was quickly put on display in his victory speech after he was re-elected governor in a 2022 landslide. Standing behind a banner with an image of Florida and the words “Freedom Lives here,” DeSantis proudly proclaimed, “We reject woke ideology.” He then listed in his ongoing battles against that ideology: “We fight the woke in the legislature. We fight the woke in the schools. We fight the woke in the corporations. We will never ever surrender to the woke mob.”

He repeated these lines in his second-term inaugural address and has used them throughout his effort to win the Oval Office. In debate after debate over the last several months, DeSantis has faulted his rivals for being unwilling to “stand up and fight back against what the left is doing to this country” and boasted of many victories over the woke mob.

Among them, DeSantis lists wins over the teachers union on school choice, over Dr. Anthony Fauci on COVID policies, and over George Soros after the Sunshine State governor “removed two of his radical district attorneys.”

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On Wednesday, DeSantis suffered a stinging defeat when a three-judge panel of the notoriously conservative 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Andrew Warren, one of those district attorneys in a suit he filed last year. That suit alleged that DeSantis had suspended him “in retaliation for exercising his right of free speech….” and asked “the court to declare the suspension unconstitutional and require that DeSantis reinstate him.’

The court agreed.

DeSantis’ war on woke has no room for the exercise of freedom from people who have not signed on as soldiers in the governor’s crusade.

It turns out that elected public officials, like Warren, who have the temerity not to fall in faithfully with the party line, still have free speech rights even in Ron DeSantis’ Florida.

Warren, a Democrat, was elected Hillsborough County state attorney in 2016 and re-elected in 2020 with the support of 53% of his constituents. He ran as a progressive and promised to reform criminal justice policies in the state attorney’s office.“In the realm of criminal justice,” Warren told voters, “we have problems that we need to address. How do we reduce gun violence? How do we make our system more efficient and keep our neighborhoods safe?”

In his campaigns Warren says he may have benefited from Soros’ largess, but at best indirectly. “We understand,” Warren noted, that Soros “gave money to the state (Democratic) party. And the state party money ... went to support different candidates. And I have very little insight into the amount of money he gave, who it went to, etc.”

Warren drew the ire of DeSantis when he publicly voiced his opposition to the governor’s efforts to limit the rights of transgendered people and of women seeking abortions.

As Judge Jill Pryor recounts in her 11th Circuit opinion, “In the summer of 2021, Warren signed… (a statement) expressing concern about ‘bills targeting the transgender community,’ especially transgender youth access to gender affirming care…’” and pledging “‘ to use their settled discretion and limited resources on enforcement of laws that will not erode the safety and well-being of their community.’”

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A year later, Pryor says, Warren “joined nearly 70 elected prosecutors nationwide in signing… (a statement) addressing the criminalization of abortion after the Supreme Court decided Dobbs vs Jackson Women’s Health Organization.” That statement included an acknowledgment that prosecutors have a responsibility “to refrain from using limited criminal justice system resources to criminalize personal medical decisions.”

As the New York Times reports, an investigation of the circumstances surrounding DeSantis’ suspension of Warren, revealed that the governor’s office “seemed driven by a preconceived political narrative, bent on a predetermined outcome, content with a flimsy investigation and focused on maximizing media attention for Mr. DeSantis.”

Judge Pryor reached a similar conclusion. She highlighted the fact that one of the early drafts of the suspension order “introduced five paragraphs describing Warren’s affiliation with Soros and the Democratic Party. Those paragraphs explained that Warren… Subordinated the people of the 13th judicial circuit (to) entities associated with activist George Soros.”

While she acknowledged that existing law says that “when a citizen enters government service, the citizen by necessity must accept certain limitations on his or her freedom,” she noted that Warren was serving elective office and that “the role that elected officials plan our society makes it all the more imperative that they be allowed freely to express themselves.”

When Warren signed the statements on transgender and abortion rights, the judge said, he “spoke as a private citizen.” His “speech occurred outside the workplace, and he never distributed the advocacy statements inside the workplace or included them in internal materials or training sessions. He employed no workplace resources and never marshaled the statements through his process for creating policies.”

Moreover, Pryor noted that “neither statement referenced any Florida law that would go on unenforced.”

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Contrary to what DeSantis contended, the statements that Warren made in no way “impeded the government’s ability to perform its duties effectively.” And, invoking familiar language from long-standing Supreme Court precedent, she said that there was no evidence to suggest that “the statements’ time, place, manner, or context disrupted Warren’s office.”

She scolded the governor for punishing Warren for purely partisan reasons. She called him out for seeking political benefit from “bringing down a reform prosecutor,” and reminded DeSantis that “the First Amendment protects government employees from adverse employment actions based on partisan considerations.”

The judge also noted that despite the governor’s imperial pretensions, “Voters elected Warren; DeSantis did not appoint him.” She explained that “If alignment with DeSantis’s political preferences were an appropriate requirement to perform the state attorney’s duties, there would be little point in local elections open to candidates across the political spectrum.”

And, in language that has particular resonance in 2024, Judge Pryor wrote, “Elections mean something. Majorities bestow mandates.” In a democracy, the job of elected officials, including prosecutors, is to translate those mandates into policy.

Democracy can only work when candidates or incumbent officeholders are free to speak about what they will do if they are elected or how they will act in the discharge of their office. Apparently, DeSantis’ war on woke has no room for the exercise of freedom from people who have not signed on as soldiers in the governor’s crusade.

At the time he was suspended, Warren got it right when he labeled what DeSantis had done as “part of the authoritarian playbook,” and “something you’d expect to see in Russia. Not in the United States.” He was right again this week when he called the 11th Circuit’s free speech decision crucial to “the protection of democracy.”

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Ron DeSantis suffers a stinging defeat in his war on woke

8 31
12.01.2024

In the last gasps of his presidential campaign, Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis continues to brag that he made his state the place where “woke goes to die.” He has made his war on woke a central plank in his ongoing effort to secure the Republican nomination.

There has been nothing subtle about DeSantis’ effort to promote himself as a leading culture warrior or to take credit for slaying the woke dragons. That self-promotion was quickly put on display in his victory speech after he was re-elected governor in a 2022 landslide. Standing behind a banner with an image of Florida and the words “Freedom Lives here,” DeSantis proudly proclaimed, “We reject woke ideology.” He then listed in his ongoing battles against that ideology: “We fight the woke in the legislature. We fight the woke in the schools. We fight the woke in the corporations. We will never ever surrender to the woke mob.”

He repeated these lines in his second-term inaugural address and has used them throughout his effort to win the Oval Office. In debate after debate over the last several months, DeSantis has faulted his rivals for being unwilling to “stand up and fight back against what the left is doing to this country” and boasted of many victories over the woke mob.

Among them, DeSantis lists wins over the teachers union on school choice, over Dr. Anthony Fauci on COVID policies, and over George Soros after the Sunshine State governor “removed two of his radical district attorneys.”

Related

On Wednesday, DeSantis suffered a stinging defeat when a three-judge panel of the notoriously conservative 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Andrew Warren, one of those district attorneys in a suit he filed last year. That suit alleged that DeSantis had suspended him “in retaliation for exercising his right of free speech….” and asked “the court to declare the suspension unconstitutional and require that DeSantis........

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