Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has a reputation as a political opportunist whose positions play far to the right. His COVID-19 response (or lack thereof) was more Trumpian than scientific. His support of a critical race theory ban in Florida schools is a solution in search of a problem (and that problem is how to whip up his base, since critical race theory isn't taught in Florida schools). After seventeen people were killed in a shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida in 2018, DeSantis eschewed modest gun control in favor of arming teachers — earning himself an endorsement from the NRA in that year's election. His next move, however, would make even the most authoritarian state governor proud.
On Thursday, tucked into a budget proposal of more than $100 million for Florida's National Guard, DeSantis requested $3.5 million to dust off and re-establish something called the Florida State Guard. The force, which was created in 1941 to compensate for National Guard members deployed during the Second World War, has been disbanded since 1947. Florida will join twenty-two other states with independent guard units.
DeSantis is proposing an initial group of 200 volunteers that will answer to him and only him. The whole point, he says, is that the unit would "not be encumbered by the federal government," which — in light of his active courting of Christian nationalists and other far-right forces — is downright ominous.