Conservatives seem conflicted about whether they want northerners to flock to Florida or stay away.
Gov. Ron DeSantis has advertised Florida as being “open for business” during the COVID-19 pandemic, touting the state's rejection of the mask and vaccination mandates implemented in Democratic-led locales. His re-election campaign is now selling “Escape to Florida” T-shirts, featuring a list of liberal politicians who have vacationed in the Sunshine State during the pandemic.
But some conservatives seem more inclined to slam the door on visitors, especially those with different political views. A few weeks ago, someone placed fliers on New York-licensed cars parked in Palm Beach, which read, “If you are one of those ‘woke’ people --- leave Florida. You will be happier elsewhere, as will we.”
The reaction to Carl Ramey’s latest column in The Sun showed me these views are prevalent beyond Palm Beach. The column was critical of DeSantis’ authoritarian governing style, including the governor's support of laws that crack down on protests and put new restrictions on voting.
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The column was picked up by Yahoo News, leading me to receive an avalanche of email messages from readers across the state and country. Many were vulgar and otherwise nasty, with a consistent theme emerging from them.
“Governor Ron Desantis is doing an excellent job for Florida, if you don’t like it or him, MOVE, go to New York or California,” one respondent wrote.
“Can I suggest you move to New York or perhaps California where they probably meet your standards of corruption, unethical politics, (and) catering to illegal immigration,” wrote another.
Others took note of Ramey’s past work as a communications attorney in Washington, D.C.: “Go back to Washington and stop spreading lies. You don’t even know the definition of authoritarianism. Bet you enjoy living here in FL but you chose to bash it. Another hypocrite lefty.”
And this one: “There is a reason people are flooding to Florida and Texas and not to Washington. Your liberal tag is showing. Please move back to Washington”
As someone who moved to Florida after living up north myself, such criticism seems silly to me. Like many people, I moved here for a job. The allure of better weather played a larger contributing factor than anything having to do with the state’s politics. And I’ve always thought trying to improve the place where you live is part of being a good citizen, no matter when you arrived.
Florida's population wouldn’t have grown to the third-largest in the country without plenty of transplants. In fact, more Floridians died last year than were born in the state, with the population only increasing due to hundreds of thousands of people moving here from other states and countries.
But there is particular hostility toward people who move to Florida and other Republican-led states from places where Democrats are in charge. U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Georgia, has even called for a “cooling-off” period in which people who move to red states from blue states are temporarily barred from voting.
I’ve now lived in Florida for nearly 17 years, but have no desire to keep more recent transplants from voting whether they lean left or right. But perhaps that’s the difference between me and the conservatives who took issue with Ramey’s column: I actually want more people to vote, rather than being OK with voter suppression if it keeps people who disagree with me away from the polls.
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This article originally appeared on The Gainesville Sun: Nathan Crabbe: Conservatives calling for liberals to leave Florida