Gov. Ron DeSantis is preaching a doctrine that many believe he will soon run for the presidency on — and it’s in large measure a stand against the so-called “woke mob.” As DeSantis envisions it, initiatives like DEI — diversity, equity, inclusion — in business and education are destroying meritocracy and creating discrimination, rather than upending it.
In a newly released video roundtable, DeSantis aims his rhetoric at DEI implementation in higher education, vowing that Florida won’t “back down” in its fight against the alleged indoctrination of university students by an elite that won’t tolerate, in his view, true diversity of opinion or “dissent.”
“Receiving an education from a university should not involve political indoctrination,” he writes in text accompanying the video. (Note: DeSantis has taken steps to eliminate what he calls “ideological” classes and to target professors who teach them.)[Get the shirts: FREEDOM BABY and SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE]
In Florida, we will not back down from the woke mob that is attempting to promote discrimination in our universities.— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) March 13, 2023
Receiving an education from a university should not involve political indoctrination. pic.twitter.com/IyCY2DotYP
“Diversity,” the Governor says “kind of actually sounds, you know, very harmless to say, you know, of course you want to have diversity…diversity of viewpoints, right? We want to have robust debate…inclusion, making sure people from all walks of life are able to participate. But I think in reality it’s been anything but those things.”
DeSantis asserts that DEI has instead been used “to impose not diversity of thought but uniformity of thought” — an Orwellian turn of phrase. DeSantis says the people who “dissent from this orthodoxy are actually excluded and marginalized.”
Reactions tend to fall into two categories, represented by the comments below.
In one group there is the blanket condemnation of GOP politicians like DeSantis allegedly stoking fear in the base by repeated “woke mob” references, illustrated by the following comment:
“GOP @GOPHouse#Republicans would have NOTHING to talk about if it wasn’t for the word #woke.” Another writes: “DeSantis stirs the pot to satisfy agitators & create more supporters. This will backfire when it gets out of hand.”
The opposing view, expressed succinctly, reads like this: “DEI, where reason and merit go to die.”
A third type of comment knocks the style, if not the substance, of DeSantis’s roundtable presentation, saying “Welcome to the Info Bores.”
DeSantis isn’t just trying to sway public opinion on higher education in his state with social media videos, he is using his legislative and executive levers to change how Florida colleges are administered.
A New Yorker article in February exploring these moves has the subtitle: “DeSantis is not simply inveighing against progressive control of institutions. He is using his powers as governor to remake them.“
In a late January press release, the Governor’s office positions the changes this way: “Governor DeSantis Elevates Civil Discourse and Intellectual Freedom in Higher Education.”
Critics were quick to use the same words DeSantis chose: That “actually sounds, you know, very harmless to say.”