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On Memorial Day, Gov. DeSantis reminds Americans he’ll suck the life out of democracy | Opinion

On Memorial Day, Florida governor and presidential contender Ron DeSantis forgot that the job he’s applying for is to lead a democratic country.

Last time I checked the U.S. Constitution, Americans were allowed to be of whatever political persuasion they wish to be, be it left, right or anywhere in between. There’s no amendment prohibiting liberalism.

In Vietnam, our veterans fought against the spread of communism.

In Europe, our soldiers — “The Greatest Generation” — fought against the fascist genocide of a people and the Nazi attempt to erase from society not only Jews but also gay men and homosexuality. Between 1933 and 1945, “the Nazi regime closed gay bars and meeting places, dissolved gay associations and shuttered gay presses,” the United States Holocaust Museum reminds us.

Yet, speaking on “Fox & Friends” on Memorial Day, DeSantis was so eager to push his “anti-woke” agenda that he must have forgotten what the soldiers to who DeSantis paid lip service in Jacksonville fought and died for.

I’m pretty sure it wasn’t for DeSantis, during two legislative terms, to create such an anti-gay circus and sign into law enough anti-gay measures that homophobes felt entitled to attack staff at stores and bully Target into taking LGBTQ Pride Month merchandise off the shelves.

I doubt war heroes of yesteryear — nor, hopefully, those of today — put their lives on the line for DeSantis to suck the life out of democracy if he were to win the 2024 election. But that’s essentially what DeSantis said he would do when a “Fox & Friends” interviewer asked him: Why is now the time for him to run for president?

Why he’s running

Why not let former President Trump serve another term — and then run?

Of all the answers he could’ve given to this question, this is what DeSantis chose: “Because everyone knows if I’m the nominee I will beat Biden and I will serve two terms, and I will be able to destroy leftism in this country and leave woke ideology in the dustbin of history.”

Even Never Trump Republicans are afraid of DeSantis’ Trumpian instincts on steroids. He not only wants to win, no sin in that, but to annihilate the opinions and lifestyles of people who aren’t like him and may not agree with him.

And here he is in Jacksonville, confessing his intent, cool as the spring morning on the St. John’s River, as if furthering the undemocratic turn Trump took is what uplifts the history of a country admired around the world for its plurality and democratic institutions.

No, under DeSantis, Florida isn’t even allowed one solemn day of commemoration without stoking the flames of division.

He shames his own military service by publicly persecuting and attempting to silence gay and trans people.

Democracy — in all of its hues and lifestyles — is still what the men and women who serve are willing to die for. The military isn’t only the purview of straight men, but also of dedicated men and women who are part of the LGBTQ community.

As a transgender Californian, 67, who transitioned at 50, wrote me recently: “We live in the United States where we value freedom. Why can’t people leave us alone to be ourselves? Who are we hurting? No one. I served for 30 years in the U.S. Navy to protect everyone’s right to freedom.”

She should be honored, too, Gov. Desantis.

Rejuvenate morale?

Yet, DeSantis said Monday he’ll bring to the military the same anti-gay and anti-trans policies he has installed in Florida to “rejuvenate morale” if he becomes commander-in-chief.

“I see a lot of emphasis now on political ideologies, things like gender pronouns. I see a lot about things like [diversity, equity and inclusion]. And I think that that’s caused recruiting to plummet. I think it’s driven off a lot of warriors, and I think morale is low.”

This isn’t true — and fact-checkers called him out when he made similar misleading statements on his 20 minutes of malfunctioning Twitter exchange with Elon Musk.

Military leaders who have testified before Congress said the reasons for the armed forces not meeting recruitment targets include an increasing number of young Americans who’ve failed entrance exams or fitness or mental health tests. Also, in a survey, people ages 16-28 gave as the No. 1 reason why they’re not signing up is fear of injury or death. They also don’t want to deal with the stresses of military life or put their lives on hold.

Any concern about what DeSantis — whose candidate for Jacksonville mayor lost the election with the help of sane Republicans — calls “wokeness,” like gender identity and COVID vaccine mandates, was low on potential recruits’ list. However, what does concern military women in this post Roe v. Wade world, is the lack of access to abortion in states such as Florida that have a large military presence. Especially now that North Carolina, the closest state where it would have been available, also has taken similar anti-abortion measures.

READ MORE: U.S. military women aren’t dying in combat to surrender equal rights to you, Republicans | Opinion

But misleading statements and the infusion of prejudice was all in a day’s work for Florida’s governor.