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Florida’s DeSantis crushes the wokesters


The writer is in Australia

CAST a weary eye over what passes for today’s supposedly conservative politicians and you could be forgiven for thinking that the lot of them make Paul Keating or Bob Hawke look like conservative icons. Or that by some cosmic fluke all of these ‘Libs in name only’ were born with that rare condition spina absentia – the complete and total lack of any backbone, giving rise to an inability to stand up for any principles whatsoever. On occasion this ailment can even progress to the stage where the sufferer holds no core principles at all, certainly no conservative ones. Sadly, the result might be that the victim does not believe in the presumption of innocence, say, and thereby feels inclined to comment willy-nilly at the first hint of a Twitter-induced bit of outrage. Or it might lead the patient to find big spending and big government much more appetising than small government and individual choice. Any commitment to free speech will likely go too. The sufferer probably won’t even be able to condemn those who impose the worst inroads on our civil liberties in over two hundred years. Heck, he might even congratulate them on a job well done and write them untold numbers of cheques to help them along. And as for fighting the culture wars and taking on wokesters and militant progressives in the universities, on the corporate boards and throughout the public service and public broadcaster, well, you can’t fight without a backbone, can you?

Still, readers who are feeling dispirited about the way in which this horrible affliction spina absentia has swept through the ranks of Australia’s (and indeed most of the Anglosphere’s) right-of-centre politicians can take heart. A sort of natural immunity to it has been found in the US state of Florida. Go and watch the video clip from last week of Governor Ron DeSantis defending a piece of legislation winding its way through the Florida legislature which he intends to sign into law. In essence this new law will prevent all public schools in the state from teaching young kids about anything to do with sexuality (so yes, including transgenderism and homosexuality) from kindergarten through grade or year 3.

On seeing the Bill’s progress the various lobbies of the progressive American Left, ones beloved by the vast preponderance of the legacy media, went into overdrive attacking Governor DeSantis. Now as readers well know, your typical sufferer of spina absentia folds like a wet noodle at the first hint of disapproval from Twitter or the Guardian or the combined forces of the human rights lobby (which, strangely, has been completely mute these past two years during the biggest government illiberalism, heavy-handedness and over-reach in this country ever, but maybe many were on paternity leave who knows?).  At any rate, these forces mobilised their troops against Governor DeSantis. They nicknamed the new Bill the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Bill. They mischaracterised it and did their usual shtick of calling Mr DeSantis a racist, misogynist, homophobe, Islamaphobe, and every other ‘phobe’ going. (Confession: Those would be why I would vote for Mr DeSantis but I’m pretty sure they’re not why 23million Floridians will re-elect him in a landslide later this year.)

You see as someone with natural immunity to spina absentia Governor DeSantis called a press conference and let rip. Questioned by your typical reporter with a university degree in journalism about this ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Bill of his, DeSantis hit back. Nowhere does this new law say anything in particular about that. No sexuality is to be taught, full stop. And then the Governor went through the fact that this reporter, like most of the legacy press and the Democrats (I repeat myself for effect), was/were intentionally mischaracterising the Bill. They were deliberately omitting to mention that the Bill applied only to very young kids, those aged five, six and seven. And no, Mr DeSantis did not think parents wanted the public schools teaching any sort of sex education to kids that young. ‘This legislative Bill will give parents the autonomy to teach their children about sex education.’ Not the massed forces of wokedom.

It was a splendid performance. DeSantis knew what he believed in. He knew his facts. He did not back down, however much this made him unpopular with the chardonnay-sipping Guardianistas. In a later press conference he went after the über-woke CEO of the Disney corporation, for the hypocrisy involved in making a fortune on the back of family values and now attacking this Bill all while not whispering one word of criticism against the despotism in China. And as it happened, this was precisely how Governor DeSantis performed during the pandemic. He knew his data. He had core commitments to freedom and individual autonomy and against despotic lockdowns and rule by a coterie of public health modellers. And DeSantis was smart enough to take on the reporters at the regular press conferences. His popularity rocketed. The rate of Americans moving to Florida in the last year and half was the highest ever. Ditto this recent performance of his defending this ‘teacher, leave those five, six and seven-year-old kids alone’ Bill. DeSantis is on the side of far more voters than is the teachers’ union and the massed Twitterati forces of wokedom.

So why then is it nearly impossible to imagine a single high level Liberal politician doing what DeSantis did? Really, you can’t imagine it, can you? Even though what DeSantis did and what he stands for are immensely popular with the punters and will win him a huge re-election victory later this year in the face of concerted mainstream media attacks on him, we here in Australia haven’t seen a politician immune to spina absentia since Mr Abbott was defenestrated by the preponderance of his own party room. And that means that after nine years of Coalition government what has it delivered us since the boats were stopped? The universities where I work are worse than they were nine years ago in terms of the dearth of conservative academics, self-censorship, lowered standards, uni bureaucracy and centralisation; the list goes on. The Coalition has spent more than I believe even Labor would have had it been in office (because Labor would have had a Coalition opposition, think about it). Our debt is increasing the fastest in the democratic world. We’ve seen nothing on the free speech front, zero. The Libs virtue-signal about ‘net zero in Australia’ that will do nothing about lowering the world’s temperatures but will impoverish us.

And the Libs keep expanding the world’s biggest per capita immigration Ponzi scheme, so they can say GDP is going up nicely. (If reducing our carbon footprint as a country is really the be all and end all, why are we running this immigration Ponzi Scheme?) It all comes back to the pernicious effects of spina absentia. But now that we know there is natural immunity, at least there is hope that it might soon spread from Florida to Australia. Wouldn’t that be terrific?  Wouldn’t that be a vote-winner?

This appeared in the Spectator Australia on March 19, 2022, and is republished by kind permission.

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James Allan
James Allan
James Allan is Garrick professor of law at the University of Queensland.

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