It's been pretty obvious since trump's fall after the 2020 election results that some of the more ambitious Republicans are positioning themselves to run in 2024 (hoping that trump - who still rules the GOP voting base - will be sidelined with court trials and prison time).
The worst of the lot is my own state's governor, Ron "Let COVID Kill You" DeSantis, whose pandering to the Fox Not-News audiences is starting to exceed the trump himself. DeSantis has been eagerly playing to the anti-vaxxer crowds - hiring every cop or firefighter or city worker who quit their jobs in places mandating vaccines, for example - and demonstrating all of the virulent hatred that trump deployed but with more political savvy.
Which brings us to his latest political move, one that should be setting off every alarm in the system: DeSantis wants his own damn army. Via Steve Contorno at CNN:
DeSantis pitched the idea Thursday as a way to further support the Florida National Guard during emergencies, like hurricanes. The Florida National Guard has also played a vital role during the pandemic in administering Covid-19 tests and distributing vaccines.
But in a nod to the growing tension between Republican states and the Biden administration over the National Guard, DeSantis also said this unit, called the Florida State Guard, would be "not encumbered by the federal government." He said this force would give him "the flexibility and the ability needed to respond to events in our state in the most effective way possible." DeSantis is proposing bringing it back with a volunteer force of 200 civilians, and he is seeking $3.5 million from the state legislature in startup costs to train and equip them.
States have the power to create defense forces separate from the national guard, though not all of them use it. If Florida moves ahead with DeSantis' plan to reestablish the civilian force, it would become the 23rd active state guard in the country, DeSantis' office said in a press release, joining California, Texas and New York. These guards are little-known auxiliary forces with origins dating back to the advent of state militias in the 18th century. While states and the Department of Defense share control of the National Guard, state guards are solely in the power of a governor.
The proposal from DeSantis comes on the heels of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin's directive warning that National Guard members who refuse to get vaccinated against the coronavirus will have their pay withheld and barred from training. Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, a Republican, had requested an exemption for guard members in his state, which Austin denied...
I can immediately point out a flaw in DeSantis' reasoning: If he wants to supplement the state's standing National Guard, he could just simply recruit more volunteers to the Guard. He's playing this as wanting to forge a home guard that won't be encumbered by federal vaccination rules, but he could play obstructionist over the pandemic without this kind of power grab. He wants something more, which begs the question:
Q: Why the hell else create a free-standing military unit answerable only to him?
A: Because it'll answer to him and not to the United States' military chain of command that the National Guard has to answer to. This is DeSantis' chance to make himself into a wannabe field general with his own tin soldiers - brought in without any outside review or oversight, meaning they could be the Goddamn KKK for all we know - to do his dirty work.
Ja'Han Jones at MSNBC has his concerns, mainly that DeSantis can't be trusted:
States technically have the power to establish defense forces that are independent from the National Guard, and 22 states currently do. That’s an issue worth discussing and debating, but the most pressing issue right now is that the right-wing governor of Florida can’t be trusted with a military force of his own.
DeSantis said re-establishing the state guard would “make sure that we have the flexibility and the ability needed to respond to events in our state in the most effective way possible.”
“Some of that will require us to be able to have access and use support in ways that are not encumbered by the federal government, that don’t require the federal government,” he added.
Don’t let that hodgepodge of political jargon fool you: There’s no reason whatsoever to believe Ron DeSantis would use his army of militarized volunteers to do anything but wreak havoc on vulnerable people.
This is the same person who hastily deployed the Florida National Guard to patrol anti-racist protesters demonstrating in response to George Floyd’s murder last year. This is the person who championed an “anti-riot” law struck down by a federal judge this year after plaintiffs claimed it was “designed to target those who protest police violence...”
Jones doesn't mention it but DeSantis has been waging a war against his media and pandemic critics, a fight that can easily escalate if he's got 200
Minute Men Brown Shirts Florida Men at his beck and call with the power to detain people and use firearms with little or no provocation from others.
Because abuse of power like this happens. We've seen it repeatedly under trump and other bullies in office.
This is straight out of the playbook used by the fascist villains of Upton Sinclair's It Can't Happen Here. Christ. We're replaying the same goddamn nightmare of having trump in the White House calling on his Oath Keepers and Proud Boys to "Stand Back and Stand By," which we saw come to fruition during the January 6th Insurrection to subvert the 2020 election results.
What DeSantis is doing here can well be replicated by other Republican governors across the nation, and the ones who already have a state-controlled militia to start thinking about how they can turn those troops into their own personal praetorian guards. They can turn these militias into private police rounding up and harassing anybody opposed to the party in any way, from public stances over abortion and police brutality all the way down to refusing to wear those damn MAGA hats.
Think I'm joking? Think back to all the sh-t happening for COINTELPRO... and that was illegal. What's being asked here will be legal, governor-seal-of-approval, all out in the open (just not broadcast on Fox Not-News for public consumption) and nobody will be able to challenge it until too much damage and suffering has happened.
It can happen here, and it's escalating.
Gods help us.