Ron DeSantis

Gov. Ron DeSantis

Republicans are heading into a 2024 election where their only policy is whatever Donald Trump said in his latest social media post. Being totally dependent on the passing whims of a single mercurial and vindictive leader is not a great position for any political party. But for Republicans, this might actually be a good development.

Not because Trump is anything less than a monster. But because, while Republicans do have ideas, they’re all terrible ideas.

No place illustrates that better than Florida, where Gov. Ron DeSantis is just starting to realize that his book bans are a total disaster. This cornerstone of anti-woke policies, which was eagerly adopted by Republicans in school districts nationwide, has led to such ridiculous levels of censorship that it’s now under attack by Ron DeSantis himself.

After DeSantis signed a bill that allowed anyone, even people from outside the state, to force schools and libraries to remove books or face criminal consequences, the state became America’s book-banning leader. By last fall, Sunshine State schools had more than double the bans of runner-up Texas and accounted for 40% of book bannings nationwide.

It’s become bad enough that DeSantis has finally recognized that those tagging books for removal were “intentionally depriving students of rightful education by politicizing this process.” But of course, it was an explicitly political process from the start.

DeSantis is speaking out against provisions of the bill he signed, like those that allow a single person to flag an unlimited number of books. But DeSantis is still insisting that many of those bans are “appropriate,” and he doesn’t seem to be talking about repealing the part of that same bill that made it a crime to use someone’s preferred pronouns.

Even if DeSantis gets Florida to back off slightly on the book bans, Republicans there are still hot to take up the critical issues of outlawing pride flags and preserving Confederate monuments. And if that’s not enough, the Florida commissioner of agriculture is attacking the United Nations for “woke” and “left-wing” policies that try to help the environment.

Republicans spent much of the last two years declaring themselves “anti-woke,” attacking trans people, and trying to chase down programs that encouraged diversity and protected the environment. But elections in both 2022 and 2023 have shown that voters don’t like these policies.

That even seems to be true of Republican voters, with poll results last fall showing that this was all a big meh, even on the right. The economy matters to Republican voters. National security matters. But “anti-woke” barely moves the needle.

The same has been true for corporations that tried to leverage anti-woke politics to ditch diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts or environmental policies. A study from November found that shareholder support for anti-ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) programs was “essentially nonexistent.” People don’t seem interested in investing in companies that are polluting, unfair, and out of control … which is nice.

But just because Republicans couldn't manage to make anti-woke happen, doesn't mean they don't have other policies that are just as bad. Or even that they’ve given up on woke. Because woke means anything they want it to mean.

For example, an Idaho state representative has declared that he is against federal funds for rural internet, because giving people in his state internet access is woke.

If they can't win on woke, Republicans can always go back to their sure winners, like the 14 states that refused money to feed hungry school children, the 26 states that refused additional federal unemployment benefits during the pandemic, a push to raise drug prices, and the brilliant idea to eliminate not student loan debt, but student loans.

Join Republicans in keeping Americans broke, hungry, uneducated, and unable to buy the medications they need! That’s a little long to fit on a yard sign, but they can workshop it. If that’s not too woke.

If none of that works, Fox News isn’t afraid to unlimber their anti-woke guns against the biggest target of all: Taylor Swift. According to Fox, Native American activists are worried that Swift could cost them a sacred part of their culture.

America’s most famous Chiefs fan right now, Taylor Swift, is being hailed by some as the great woke hope who can force the franchise to cave to charges of racism and end its "tomahawk chop" chant.

Republicans can surely put that near the top of the 2024 platform. Right above denying people the internet and right below “whatever Trump says.” Attacking Taylor Swift has been such a winning issue for them so far.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

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Koch Billionaire Network Secretly Funding Legal Scheme To Gut Government

Charles Koch

U.S. Supreme Court

Far-right judicial activist Leonard Leo, the force behind the Trump-packed Supreme Court, and billionaire megadonor Charles Koch have combined their networks to back yet another dark-money-fueled effort to gut the federal government. Bloomberg Law has uncovered their involvement in the New Civil Liberties Alliance, “a top US Supreme Court litigator” that’s behind the challenges the court heard last week to the federal government’s power to regulate corporate America.

The group’s purported goal is to protect individual rights from “the administrative state” which they see as “an especially serious threat to constitutional freedoms,” according to the group’s website. You know, that “deep state” that ensures we have clean water to drink and clean air to breathe, that ensures our food is safe to eat and our prescription medications won’t harm us.

Bloomberg notes that while the New Civil Liberties Alliance “identifies as nonpartisan,” it is “backed by groups tied to powerful sources of conservative funding, including billionaire Charles Koch and entities linked to legal activist Leonard Leo, who’s had direct influence over the court’s conservative makeup.”

The group received $2.06 million from Donors Trust Inc., a “community foundation for liberty,” from 2020 to 2022, according to Bloomberg. Donors Trust, in turn, received $175.6 million in those two years from The 85 Fund, yet another Leo group. In the same time period, the 85 Fund was also getting money back from Donors Trust “to help finance various conservative groups,” according to CNBC.

“The 85 Fund, which paid Leo’s public affairs firm CRC Advisors $21.4 million for services in 2022, is led by Carrie Severino, the president of the Judicial Crisis Network, which spent millions on ad campaigns to get Justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett confirmed to the bench,” Bloomberg reports.

That’s combined with the more than $5 million the New Civil Liberties Alliance has received since its beginning from the Charles Koch Institute and the Charles Koch Foundation. A nonprofit associated with the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity Foundation, the Cause of Action Institute, filed one of the challenges to federal rule-making, Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo. Cause of Action received $200,000 from Americans for Prosperity in 2022, according to records reviewed by Bloomberg.

This is all much less about individual rights than corporate rights. It’s about giving corporations free rein to gamble with public health and safety, dressed up as “liberty.” The New Civil Liberties Alliance’s efforts extend to bringing upcoming Supreme Court cases that would reverse the criminal ban on bump stocks—accessories that turn semi-automatic weapons into machine guns—and would prevent administration efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19 conspiracy theories and misinformation.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.