Alarm bells should ring as DeSantis sends State Guard to the border

PantherNOW Editorial Board

Governor Ron DeSantis has resurrected an ancient armed group that was disbanded after World War two. Its core purpose is to serve as the state’s very own rescue entity in case of a natural disaster, but its recent deployment to the southern border ignites a backlash questioning the perverted political intent behind it. 

The State Guard, which is an entity funded by the state, and whose sphere of operation should remain in the state, is now being used as an instrument to stir the pot in one of the most heated issues of modern American politics. 

At PantherNOW, we denounce the ill-use of state funds which does nothing but promote the Governor’s divisive plans. 

Bent on responding to the crisis at the border at all costs, Tallahassee passed HB 1551 which gave DeSantis the power to deploy the state guard outside of the state. This effectively makes it his private army to wield as he pleases. 

If you were wondering who is funding the governor’s distorted political agenda, you must know that the people of Florida who are enduring an economic malaise are footing the bill. 

After sending migrants to Martha’s Vineyard during the fall of 2022, this deployment seems like the new episode of a sordid political saga. This continued madness is proof that the governor’s intentions would not end after the suspension of his presidential campaign, proving that he was serious about complicating an issue that requires delicacy, “humanity”, and seriousness.  

Though the mercurial situation at the border cannot be overstated, the governor could have chosen a more diplomatic way to contribute to a solution. 

As the senate worked on the ill-fated bipartisan bill to address several ailing aspects of the US immigration system, the governor’s input was nowhere to be found. Rather, he chose the option that would undeniably exacerbate the situation at the border and might even encourage vigilantism. 

The State Guard will likely provide support to Texas’ national guard in its efforts to brazenly defy a ruling from the highest court in the land. In a country where the state of the institutions is a tad fragile, this is woefully dangerous. 

Conservative politicians often rave about the necessity to bow before the sacredness of American institutions. Yet, again, they have no problem opposing the dictates of the country’s most esteemed judicial institution. 

The Supreme Court has no mechanism of enforcement at its disposal. It mainly relies on the reverence the people have for it, if its dictates are to have any bearing at all. It also depends on responsible chief executives, be they presidents or governors, to see that the law is being followed. 

That task is at risk when the rule of law falls on the deaf ears of politicians who staunchly advance their own interests and ignore the will of that court. 

Last year, when the governor signed a bill expanding the state guard’s funding from $10 million to $107 million, fears of having an armed entity accountable to DeSantis alone were high; now such fears have materialized. 

As is widely known, Florida is acutely prone to ravaging hurricanes whose memories evoke terrible images in our communities. Having the State Guard would be critical to our efforts in helping vulnerable communities in the aftermath of a disaster. 

Changing the focus of that entity for the pursuit of personal gains is nothing short of an outrage. 

This also raises concerns about the prospects of having DeSantis in command of a guard that  is under “the final command and control of the Governor”. The governor has shown his authoritarian inclinations on numerous occasions and this prompts us to wonder whether during one of his bouts of overzealousness, he won’t weaponize it against his rivals. 

And once he vacates the governor’s mansion, how do we know his successors will not yield to similar temptations?

Protesting is an established American staple, and lately, we have made extensive use of it to express our dissatisfaction with several aspects of society. Can we be sure that the state guard won’t one day be deployed during a protest under the guise of restoring “law and order”?

We may scoff at this idea, and dismiss it as something that may never happen in a country with reasonable rights to freedom of assembly. But over the past three years, we witnessed some unprecedented events that were never before seen in this country, such as the attempt of a presidential candidate to steal the elections. Therefore, it would not be too shocking if that happens. 

By several accounts, authoritarianism is creeping in American democracy. As students, we should be sharply aware of the many maneuvers that can be used to create an autocratic state and we must oppose such efforts wherever they may arise. We can’t fail to keep a watchful eye on the excesses of our government, and that begins at the state level. 

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