Florida Lite

by | Aug 23, 2023 | Politics | 2 comments

The United States of America is transforming into 25 Californias and 25 Floridas. In the context of this dichotomy, reactionary purism is the more potent force. Red-state America has, over the past five years, transmogrified from a conservative outpost of the Western world into an entity that increasingly resembles an autocratic hellscape. Individual rights, personal freedom, and other fundamental liberal birthrights are dissipating in the hands of a few far-right governors.

Ten years ago, North Carolina carried the mantle of right-wing political retrogression. We passed voter-suppression laws unparalleled in their ferocity. Our abortion policy, once far more liberal than the standard Southern misogyny, became draconian in such a clownish manner that jokes about “motorcycle vaginas” became customary. The bathroom bill originated in the Valley of Humility, and hell rained down on the state’s economy in retaliation against Pat McCrory’s attack on trans Carolinians. For all this, the New York Times scorned North Carolina as a “pioneer in bigotry.”

But now, these “bathroom bills” have passed in at least five states, and it’s gone almost unnoticed except among the most assiduous observers. The latest toilet crusade came about in Florida, a state that has surpassed North Carolina as the paradigm of a reactionary hothouse. Led by Governor Ron DeSantis, Florida is setting the pace of regression among its red-state peers. While the earliest round of counter-revolutionary conservatism emanated from Raleigh, Tallahassee has become the nerve center of a book-banning, trans-bashing cultural backlash. Florida has suffered a severe degradation of citizen rights to public accommodations, library knowledge, and even the very right of free thought on college campuses.

Our state is Florida Lite. Following DeSantis’s lead, North Carolina Republicans have forcefully imposed a hefty slew of conservative policies on this somewhat purple state. They seem to have moderated only in comparison to the fire-eating heyday of 2013. If you are a member of a marginalized group, your sense of vulnerability is likely to be more acute in North Carolina than at any time since the darkest days of HB2. Trans youth are even being driven to a heightened risk of suicide by the fierce regressivity of the NCGA.

Will North Carolina, then, go all the way down Florida’s road to authoritarian rule? It’s a plausible outcome, and the we’re not far from the brink. The most likely catalyst would be a victory by gubernatorial candidate Mark Robinson. Robinson is, in the words of a British newspaper so struck by Mark’s virulence that it took note of a state’s lieutenant governor, “ultra-extreme” and capable of inflaming hate unseen for generations. But he may recall, less DeSantis, than the wishful-thinking version of Donald Trump: a vicious carnival barker so unserious that more temperate forces could contain him. The problem with this optimistic prognosis is that N.C. Republican leaders have never exuded even a shadow of moderation, so Robinson’s potential to make us the next Sunshine dystopia is likely to be unconstrained.


  1. walter rand

    Mark Robinson is awful, yet he won the Lt Governor’s seat. We’ll face the persistent problem again in 2024: how to get out the vote.
    Will some people vote for Robinson just because he’s black, not looking at the rubbish Robinson spouts?

  2. Laura Reich

    Mark Robinson absolutely cannot become our governor!

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