With Ron DeSantis and conservatism all the rage at the moment, the AP was interested in the question of what life is like for the average Floridian. So it assigned one of its reporters, Brendan Farrington, who lives there and who has reported on the state's politics since 1997, to take a look. Here is a summary of his report.
Surprise, Floridians are worried about the cost of living and getting property insurance, which has gone through the roof. They are considerably less concerned about who uses which bathroom. People have also noted an uptick in hate-related issues, including the anti-Semitic messages projected onto the Jacksonville Jaguars' stadium last year and a rise in people having Nazi flags and signs at events.
Teachers are afraid of doing anything that might violate the new anti-LGBTQ+ laws, even straight teachers. And gay teachers are all back in the closet and don't dare have photos of their partners on their desks for fear a student might ask who that is. Parents who agree with DeSantis are happy about the changes, but those who don't are certainly not happy with them. The result is that parents who used to be concerned about education in school are now concerned about politics in school. And school board meetings, which used to be about helping kids to read, have become very political and it is dividing people.
Librarians and media specialists are very worried about what books and media materials are legal. Can a book in which a minor character is gay be allowed on the shelf? What if some characters aren't explicitly gay, but some people think they might be? What about Bert and Ernie in a book published by the Sesame Street team? What about X-men comics? They're superheroes and the kiddies love 'em, but they are also about people who were born "different," who eventually have to reveal that to their parents, and who are usually pushed by those parents to live their lives like "normal" people. The allegory for LGBTQ+ acceptance really couldn't be clearer. The new laws make investigations of books much easier and force librarians to justify why some book was allowed when angry parents want to ban it. Who said being a librarian was for the timid?
LGBTQ+ people in general feel endangered and have sometimes been the subjects of hate attacks. With laws like the ones DeSantis signed, people who are homophobic feel they can act on their feelings and the state has their backs. That even applies to gay members of the state legislature, who feel they are back in the 1970s. Gay employees at the Walt Disney Corporation are maybe a bit less afraid because they know the company is on their side, but gay employees at other companies have more to worry about.
Democrats pine for the days when their party ran the state. As recently as 1992, Democrats held the trifecta in state government. In 1999, they lost the last leg of it and Republicans have held it ever since. They also see that DeSantis has more power over the legislature than any governor of either party in memory. He is a very polarizing figure and the polarization is seeping down to levels where it hasn't been before, like schools and libraries, and many people don't like the new polarization. (V)