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Progressive Democrats Introduce First Bill to Tighten Rail Safety Regulations Since Ohio Disaster

The bill, introduced by Ro Khanna and Chris Deluzio, would expand the definition of what is considered a “high-hazard flammable train.”

US Environmental Protection Agency/Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Officials in East Palestine, Ohio, inspect the area on February 17 after the train derailment.

Progressive Democratic Representatives Chris Deluzio of Pennsylvania and Ro Khanna of California have challenged the rest of Congress to put their actions where their words are. On Tuesday, the duo introduced the Decreasing Emergency Railroad Accident Instances Locally (DERAIL) Act to tighten rail safety regulations by expanding the definition of what classifies as a “high-hazard flammable train,” or HHFT.

“For too long, railroads have prioritized profit ahead of public safety and their workers,” Deluzio said in a statement. “And it is time to regulate the railroads.”

The bill would deem trains carrying so-called Class 2 flammable gases, such as vinyl chloride, to qualify for HHFT classification, and would give the transportation secretary the authority to designate other materials warranting classification as well. The Department of Transportation currently considers an HHFT to be a train carrying hazardous materials in at least 20 consecutive cars, or 35 cars total. The bill would lower that threshold to at least one railcar carrying a Class 3 flammable liquid or Class 2 flammable gas, or again, any other material the secretary may deem especially hazardous.

The first bill on the matter introduced this Congress is also the first of Deluzio’s career.

In expanding the definition of what qualifies as a high-hazard flammable train, Congress would also expand which trains warrant higher safety standards. After the disastrous train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, earlier this month, there has been a lot of focus on former President Donald Trump’s decision to overturn an Obama-era rule that mandated updated electronic braking systems for trains carrying hazardous materials. In reality, however, the Obama-era rule would not have applied to the train in East Palestine, as Obama regulators acquiesced to lobbying interests that sought to limit the definition of HHFTs. Had the East Palestine train had updated brakes, it might have been able to stop much quicker and cause less damage.

With Deluzio and Khanna’s bill, those errors would be remedied; the bill would ensure trains like the one in East Palestine would be held to higher safety standards and qualify for changes like updated rail cars and braking equipment, as well as stronger audits and cargo reporting. It would be an essential foundation before any of the necessary reforms to hopefully follow. The bill also pushes for stronger information-sharing, requiring carriers to report to the National Response Center and state, local, and tribal officials within 24 hours after a train carrying toxic chemicals derails.

Members of both parties have expressed concern for the train derailment; while they rightly call on the federal government to act, they now also have the chance to take action themselves. Deluzio and Khanna’s bill holds necessary provisions for an actually coherent regulatory framework to oversee the rail industry. So if Congress is going to do anything, it starts with this bill.

“This is a moment where we need political leaders from all parties and from across the country to speak out loudly for better safety regulations and to acknowledge what so many Americans are going through,” said Khanna.

Rupert Murdoch Admits Under Oath That Fox News Hosts Were Lying About the Stolen Election

Murdoch acknowledged in a deposition that Fox News hosts were “endorsing” the false notion of a stolen election.

Rupert Murdoch close-up

Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch admitted he knew his organization was spreading lies about the 2020 election results in a deposition for a lawsuit filed by Dominion Voting Systems made public Monday.

Dominion sued Fox News Networks and parent company Fox Corp in 2021 for $1.6 billion for defamation. The electronic voting system company accused the television network of spreading lies that Dominion machines were used to rig the 2020 election against Donald Trump.

Court documents released Monday revealed that not only did Murdoch know his network was spreading falsehoods, but he also continued to allow the hosts and guest speakers to appear on screen.

Murdoch acknowledged that multiple popular Fox News hosts such as Sean Hannity, Maria Bartiromo, Lou Dobbs, and Jeanine Pirro were “endorsing” the conspiracy that the election had been stolen.

He also said he knew regular guests such as Trump lawyers Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani and My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell were spreading the election lies, but he continued to allow them on air. His reason, as he explained in Lindell’s case, was that “it is not red or blue, it is green.” What is democracy compared to dollars, apparently?

On January 5, 2021, Murdoch considered releasing a joint statement with Hannity, Tucker Carlson, and Laura Ingraham saying some variation of “The election is over, and Joe Biden won.” They didn’t, and the next day, hundreds of Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol to try to stop the certification of votes and potentially to capture and kill lawmakers.

Fox News has long been accused of peddling Trump’s falsehoods and toadying to the former president. Hannity and Carlson have appeared at Trump rallies and acted as unofficial advisers. In further proof that Fox and Trump were unethical bedfellows, Murdoch also said that he gave Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and chief adviser, private access to supposedly confidential information about Biden’s campaign ads before it was published.

This isn’t the first bombshell Dominion has dropped regarding its lawsuit, which is expected to go to trial in April. Earlier this month, the company released a trove of messages and deposition excerpts from Fox News hosts, including Carlson and Ingraham, in which they admitted they knew the election conspiracies were false and the Trumpist lawyers spouting them weren’t credible. But they continued to have these guests on their shows anyway.

Fox has gone mum about the Dominion lawsuit since that initial court document release, even prohibiting its media correspondent, Howard Kurtz, from covering the case.

Fox has argued that its post-2020 election coverage was newsworthy and thus protected by the First Amendment. But Murdoch’s deposition just further drives home the fact that they knew what they were doing, and it wasn’t journalism.

A New Idaho Bill Would Ban Drag Performances and Target Pride Celebrations

The bill would also allow parents to sue event organizers.

Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post

Idaho conservatives introduced a bill Monday that would ban drag performances from public places and target Pride celebrations, making it the latest in a long line of states trying to limit LGBTQ rights.

The president of the Idaho Family Policy Center, a conservative Christian organization, introduced the bill, which would allow parents to sue event organizers and promoters who allow minors to be present at shows that feature “sexual conduct.” It would also prohibit such shows from taking place in public spaces like parks.

Blaine Conzatti said the bill had been prompted by the 2022 Pride Month celebrations in Idaho. “It does not matter whether we’re talking about a sexually explicit striptease or a sexually explicit drag show,” he told the House State Affairs Committee Monday. “Neither belongs in a public park, a public facility, or other places where children are present.”

The bill defines sexual conduct as dances or movements with “accessories that exaggerate” sexual characteristics and acts.

Conzatti has previously called homosexuality “sinful,” “an abomination,” and “immoral.” He issued a statement in September urging Idaho lawmakers to ban drag in public, calling the performances “appalling displays of sexual deviancy” and comparing them to strip clubs or adult movie stores.

Idaho has now joined the list of more than 20 bills nationwide that are seeking to ban drag performances in public, ostensibly to protect children from being exposed to obscene material. These laws could be challenged in court on the grounds they violate the First Amendment. Marjorie Heins, a First Amendment lawyer, told Middle Tennessee State University’s First Amendment Encyclopedia that a law that bans both protected expression, such as drag, and unprotected expression, such as obscenity, is too broad and therefore unconstitutional.

While proponents of these bills say they are trying to protect children, it’s becoming increasingly clear they are really just targeting LGBTQ people. The Idaho House passed another bill targeting Pride last week. The bill would restrict state agencies from sponsoring nongovernmental organizations and events such as Boise Pride. Instead, state agencies would have to get approval from the governor to give financial support to a nonprofit or NGO.

Tennessee became the first state earlier this month to pass a drag ban bill, also prompting concerns about an attack on trans people and Pride celebrations more generally. Governor Bill Lee has yet to sign or veto it.

“Discriminating against drag performances based on the content of their expression is a direct contradiction of a fundamental principle of our democracy: our First Amendment right to express ourselves on and off the stage,” the ACLU of Tennessee said the day the bill passed. “So, let’s call this what it is—a malicious attempt to remove LGBTQ people from public life.”

GOP Rep. Andy Ogles Said He’s an Economist, but He Barely Passed His One Econ Class in College

A Tennessee outlet published a copy of Ogles’s college transcript, revealing that the lawmaker lied about his major.

Representative Andy Ogles
Al Drago/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Tennessee Representative Andy Ogles appears to have lied about his background, making him the latest freshman member of Congress to come under fire for apparently fabricating parts of his résumé.

The Republican says he studied “policy and economics” at Middle Tennessee State University, but an investigation by NewsChannel 5 has found that may not be the case at all.

The Nashville outlet found a copy of Ogles’s college transcript that he submitted as part of a job application 10 years ago. They also found a résumé from 2009, on which Ogles said he majored in international relations, not economics.

According to the transcript, Ogles enrolled in the university in 1990 and finally graduated in 2007. During that time, he took only one economics class, in which he got a C. He also got a C in American history, and he flat-out failed the nine political science courses he took during his college career. Ogles did get an A in theater appreciation, though, which could explain his apparent penchant for dramatic embellishment.

When he finally graduated, it was with a bachelor’s in liberal studies, a generalized degree for people who do not pick a specialized major.

Last week, a NewsChannel 5 investigation cast doubt on other aspects of Ogles’s résumé, revealing that he exaggerated a career in law enforcement and as an expert on international sex crimes. Ogles claimed that he worked with anti–human trafficking group Abolition International in 12 countries. But Abolition International did not have operations in 12 countries during his time working for them.

Ogles released a statement Sunday night saying that he thought he had fulfilled a political science and international relations major, and it wasn’t until he saw his official transcript last week that he realized he had majored in liberal studies.

But Randy Stamps, the former political director for the Tennessee Republican Party, slammed Ogles for the “level of deception” the congressman was willing to go to.

“If he is willing to run around and say, ‘Hey, I’m an economist,’ who knows what else he is going to tell you that is not true,” Stamps told NewsChannel 5. Stamps had broken with his party and endorsed the Democratic candidate during the 2022 midterms because he said he found Ogles so untrustworthy.

Ogles isn’t the first—or frankly, even the most out-there—instance of a member of Congress seemingly making up parts of their background. By this point, everyone has heard about George Santos and his web of falsehoods, from saying his mother survived 9/11 (she was not even in the country) to seemingly lying that his grandparents fled the Holocaust and four of his employees were killed in the Pulse nightclub shooting. Florida Representative Anna Paulina Luna has also claimed Jewish heritage, but not only does she appear to have no ties to Judaism, her grandfather may have served in the Nazi army.

Moderate Democrat Elissa Slotkin Enters Race for Michigan Senate Seat

Slotkin is seeking to replace outgoing Senator Debbie Stabenow, as Democrats try to defend their seat in the battleground state.

Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images

On Monday, Democratic Representative Elissa Slotkin announced her candidacy for outgoing Senator Debbie Stabenow’s Michigan seat. Slotkin is the first Democrat to enter what may be among the most highly contested and expensive Senate races in 2024.

In her announcement video, Slotkin highlights working for the Central Intelligence Agency and her experience working in the White House under both the Bush and Obama administrations.

One primary focus of Slotkin’s announcement video was the tragic loss of her mother to ovarian cancer; the loss came following financial pang after pang, her mother grappling with the diagnosis without health insurance and even being forced to declare bankruptcy.

“We seem to be living crisis to crisis,” Slotkin said. “But there are certain things that should be really simple,” she continued, listing things like increasing domestic production, protecting children from gun violence, and protecting democracy.

Slotkin first entered Congress in 2019, riding the Democratic wave spurred in backlash to Donald Trump. She narrowly won, becoming the first Democrat to represent Michigan’s eighth district since 2001, when the seat was held by Stabenow herself. Slotkin was again narrowly reelected in 2020, after becoming one of the forefront voices to call for Trump’s impeachment. And in 2022, Slotkin ran in the seventh district, in what was among the most expensive House races of the year; in this race, Slotkin became the first ever Democrat endorsed by Liz Cheney.

The Michigan Senate seat is part of a larger challenging map for the Democrats. They’re defending 23 of the 33 seats up for reelection. Some, like Montana, Ohio, and West Virginia, are ones that Trump won by no small margins; others, like Michigan, Arizona, Nevada, and Wisconsin, are pivotal swing states whose results will reveal how strong a message the party really has.

But the moment is more than just about tough political races; it’s the consequences of the races that matter the most, of course. And the times—of cross-partisan-tolerated corporate greed leading to disaster, of mass shooting after mass shooting, of conservative attacks on everything from the basic humanity of LGBTQ people and migrant workers to Social Security and Medicare—require Democrats willing to go up to bat on each and every one of those battles.

While Slotkin has positioned herself to be a liberal in good standing (she has voted 100 percent of the time with Biden, was a leading voice on Trump’s impeachment, and has won close races while standing true to basic liberal ideals around abortion and health care), she also embodies parts of the Democratic establishment wedded to conservative impulses.

Slotkin opposed student debt assistance on a vote supported by 93 percent of the caucus, voted against 85 percent of her caucus on whether the United States should even study the impact of its sanctions on other countries, voted to overturn locally enacted criminal justice and voting rights reforms in Washington, D.C., and even voted against 94 percent of her caucus to bar security clearance from anyone who has used cannabis.

Slotkin also does not openly support Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, or abolishing the death penalty.

Primaries are meant for debate and for candidates to earn the support of their parties. Slotkin has led impressive wins before; while some candidates have bowed out of running, the party would do best to welcome, and not discourage competition. Previous attempts to anoint moderates in consequential races—from Kyrsten Sinema to Hilary Clinton—have not gone well.

Other potential candidates, like Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, Representative Debbie Dingell, and former Representative Andy Levin, have not outwardly indicated their intentions yet. Slotkin is a proven formidable candidate. May she will have to continue proving herself—and whether her politics are the ones for this moment—against a field of candidates, rather than an open path.

Paul Ryan Says He’ll Skip the 2024 RNC if Trump Is the Nominee: “We’re Going to Lose With Him”

The former House speaker endorsed Donald Trump in 2016.

Paul Ryan
Mateusz Wlodarczyk/NurPhoto/Getty Images

Former House Speaker Paul Ryan said he won’t attend the Republican National Convention if Donald Trump is the presidential nominee, a lackluster and pretty on-brand rebuke.

Speaking to a local Milwaukee news station Sunday, Ryan said that even though the 2024 convention will be held in his home state of Wisconsin, his attendance “depends on who the nominee is.”

“I’ll be here if it’s somebody not named Trump,” Ryan said. “I’m not interested in participating” if Trump does become the GOP presidential nominee.

Ryan argued Trump has been bad for the party, noting the former president “cost us the House in ’18, he lost the White House in ’20, he cost us the Senate in ’20, he cost us the Senate again in 2022, and he cost us probably a good dozen House seats in 2022.”

It’s not entirely clear, though, what Ryan thinks his tepid protest will accomplish. It’s been a while since he had any real political influence. He was Mitt Romney’s running mate in 2012 and then served as House speaker for four years, leaving behind a chaotic legacy.

Ryan repeatedly criticized Trump’s actions during the 2016 presidential campaign but always stopped just short of actually taking a stand against him. He ultimately endorsed Trump in June that year.

In the two years he served as speaker under Trump, Ryan took advantage of Republican control of the White House and Congress to help push through his own agenda. Since leaving office, having gotten what he wanted, he has become more outspoken against Trump, previously calling him a “proven loser.”

But Ryan has stayed true to his lukewarm brand of criticism. As a result of his unwillingness to stand up to Trump, Ryan briefly landed on Wikipedia’s list of invertebrates in 2017.

Trump hit back at Ryan on Truth Social, also taking the opportunity to plug his lie that he won the 2020 election. “Paul Ryan is a loser, Mitt Romney could have won without him. I won twice, did much better the second time, and was 233 Wins out of 253 Races in the Midterms. Paul Ryan is destroying Fox, and couldn’t get elected dogcatcher in the Republican Party!” he said.

Ex-Senator Jim Inhofe Retired Due to Long Covid, Says at Least Five Other Congress Members Also Have It

The Oklahoma Republican called out his colleagues.

Stefani Reynolds/Pool/Getty Images
Senator Jim Inhofe

Former Senator Jim Inhofe revealed that he suffers from long-term effects of Covid-19, which played a part in his decision to retire from Congress, and at least five other members of Congress suffer from the same thing.

The Oklahoma Republican announced last February he planned to retire after almost 40 years on Capitol Hill. During the same press conference, his chief of staff announced that Inhofe had contracted a “very mild” case of Covid-19. But clearly, the effects of the virus have been much longer-lasting. And he’s not the only one.

“Five or six others have (long Covid), but I’m the only one who admits it,” Inhofe told Tulsa World in a recent interview.

He did not say what symptoms of long Covid he suffers from, nor which other members of Congress are struggling with long Covid. But Democratic Senator Tim Kaine has been open about his mild long Covid symptoms.

Inhofe struck a highly contradictory tone during the start of the coronavirus pandemic. He warned people to take the virus seriously, telling Tulsa World in a March 2020 interview, “You know I’d be the first to say we’re overreacting because that’s kind of how I am, but we’re not. By people not believing, by not taking precautions, they’re making it more likely to spread.”

In the same interview, however, he said he had tried to annoy a reporter by saying he wasn’t doing anything to protect himself against Covid and then trying to shake hands.

Inhofe also voted against several key Covid relief bills, including the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which required employers to give employees paid sick leave or expanded medical and family leave for Covid-related reasons. That bill had enormous bipartisan support, with 90 senators voting for it.

Inhofe also voted against the American Rescue Plan, which was aimed at providing economic relief due to the crisis caused by the pandemic. The bill included funding for the national vaccination program, the stimulus checks, and the expanded unemployment benefits.

Republicans Suddenly Pretend to Care About Infrastructure, Just to Criticize U.S. Aid to Ukraine

Well, that’s a new one.

Josh Hawley bends down to talk to Ted Cruz, seated, who holds up a clenched fist
Win McNamee/Getty Images
Senators Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz

Republicans who have spent years blocking critical infrastructure spending suddenly seem incensed at the idea that we are not spending money on critical infrastructure.

Friday marked one year since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and throughout the week, Republicans increasingly and in larger numbers criticized the Biden administration’s support of the attacked nation. And they’ve been using the disastrous Norfolk Southern train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, as fodder for their complaints.

Regardless of one’s specific views on sustained military support for Ukraine, the argument is rich coming from conservatives, who have fought tooth and nail to water down massive infrastructure investments over the past few years, especially in Biden’s Build Back Better effort.

Tucker Carlson, for example, has dedicated countless hours on his program to bullying Republicans for supporting infrastructure spending, only to suddenly change tune when he could then blame it all on Ukraine.

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act was first introduced by the Biden administration as a $2.3 trillion appendage of the larger investment effort. After conservative stonewalling, the bill was cut to $1.2 trillion in what was then called the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. About $14 billion of rail modernization dollars were cut out in the watered-down framework. Such is the cost of “bipartisan” collaboration with intransigent Republicans, it seems. And this was just one of many losses incurred after conservatives—including Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema—hamstrung Democratic efforts to deliver on the infrastructure-building agenda they were elected to carry out.

Two years ago, Senator Ted Cruz bragged about standing strong alongside Senators Ron Johnson and Mike Lee against any Republicans expressing a willingness to work with Democrats.

And now Cruz, who cosplayed as an ally to rail workers asking for more industry regulation, is in fact holding his tune for deregulation:

And while celebrating more deregulation, Cruz also spent his week podcasting to complain about Biden visiting Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Johnson is busy fundraising off the East Palestine derailment, complaining that “the media is barely covering this.” Beyond taking money from Norfolk Southern and fighting against infrastructure spending alongside Cruz, one of the only rail-related bills Johnson has signed off on was one backed by the Association of American Railroads. It sought to delay the industry-wide implementation of a monitoring system to help prevent train collisions and derailments. Norfolk Southern is among the companies represented by the association.

Senator Josh Hawley is also now pitting spending on Ukraine and East Palestine against each other, but years ago, he complained about the proposed infrastructure bill. He took specific issue with the bill’s environmental investments. (Conservatives now feign concern for the kinds of environmental issues in East Palestine that plague communities all across the country, ones that would in fact have been addressed by Green New Deal–esque investment).

It is reasonable to question how long the United States may stay involved in Ukraine—or any affairs elsewhere, given our track record. But it’s unserious for conservatives who have already dedicated much of their careers to fighting against government investment to now posture as eager proponents of mass infrastructure projects. But, hey, if it’s sincere, be our guest: We’ll be waiting for the legislation!

Georgia Republicans Want to Charge People Who Get Abortions With Homicide

Meanwhile, the majority of Georgians say they want to keep the procedure legal.

Sign reads: "The Land of the free? Choice = freedom"
Megan Varner/Getty Images
A protester holds a sign while marching and chanting through Downtown Atlanta on July 23.

Georgia Republican lawmakers have introduced a bill that would classify abortion as a homicide, despite their own constituents’ widespread opposition to banning the procedure.

The bill, introduced Thursday, would classify a human as an “unborn child at every stage of development from fertilization until birth.” As a result, terminating a pregnancy could be considered and prosecuted as a homicide. Writer Jessica Valenti noted that since the bill says life begins at fertilization, people who use IUDs or emergency contraception—both of which prevent fertilized eggs from implanting—could be charged with murder.

The legislation makes exceptions for medical procedures carried out to save the life of the pregnant person, done because there were no viable other options to save the fetus, or that resulted in an accidental miscarriage. People who got abortions would be found not guilty of homicide if they could prove they were coerced or misled into getting the procedure.

If it passes, this bill would both fly in the face of what people actually want when it comes to abortion legislation and be incredibly dangerous for people’s health and well-being.

The majority of Americans, 64 percent to be exact, support legalizing abortion, which made the Supreme Court’s overturning Roe v. Wade all the more bitter a pill to swallow. A new study by the Public Religion Research Institute looked at levels of support at the state level and found that 57 percent of Georgians think abortion should be legal in all or most cases. Currently, abortion in Georgia is banned after six weeks, before most people even know they are pregnant, with exceptions for rape, incest, or to save the pregnant person’s life.

Clamping down on abortions would also cause far more harm than good. A study published in November by researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder found that if Georgia bans abortion, maternal mortality will increase 29 percent. Georgia already has the second-highest rate of maternal mortality in the United States, which has the highest rate of maternal mortality among developed nations, according to the World Population Review.

Classifying abortion as a homicide would significantly deter people from seeking the procedure, even if they need it, and could put their health at risk.

Unfortunately, Georgia is not alone in seeking to criminalize people who get abortions. Republican lawmakers in Kentucky, where 50 percent of residents support legalizing abortion, and Alabama, where 55 percent of residents support abortion, have also debated bills that would classify abortion as a homicide in the past week. Representatives in South Carolina, where 50 percent of residents back abortion access, introduced a bill Wednesday that would make abortion punishable by the death penalty.

Not only do these bills go against the will of the people, some lawmakers are actively trying to circumvent what their constituents want. Kentucky was one of five states that voted to protect abortion access during the midterm elections. In Kansas, lawmakers are trying to let cities and counties ban abortion after residents overwhelmingly voted to keep abortion protections in the state constitution.

Florida Republicans’ New Bill May Be the Biggest Attack on Academic Freedom Yet

The bill, backed by Governor Ron DeSantis, goes after degrees, tenured professors, and more.

Ron DeSantis
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

After Ron DeSantis’s months of attacks on colleges, schools, teachers, librarians, and students, the Florida governor is now pushing a sweeping legislation package that further threatens academic freedom at Florida universities.

House Bill 999 presents radical concentrations of power, taking liberties away from students and teachers and instead subjecting them to constant surveillance and paranoia for simply trying to embrace a fulsome education.

The bill calls for the removal of degrees in gender studies and critical race theory (or “any derivative major or minor of these belief systems,” perhaps left intentionally ambiguous) and bars anything else that promotes diversity, equity, and inclusion. The bill also prohibits universities from promoting, supporting, or maintaining any program or campus activities that “espouse diversity, equity, and inclusion or Critical Race Theory rhetoric.”

The bill additionally directs university boards of trustees to be responsible for faculty hiring, and reads that a faculty member’s tenure could be reviewed “at any time.” In a vacuum, that may not seem inherently bad; given the chiling nature of the rest of the bill (and the broader Florida academic context), such a note suggests a regime eager to threaten tenure loss for those who step out of bounds.

If that all wasn’t enough, the bill also says that general education courses may not “suppress or distort significant historical events or include a curriculum that teaches identity politics, such as Critical Race Theory, or defines American history as contrary to the creation of a new nation based on universal principles stated in the Declaration of Independence.” And they ought to “promote the philosophical underpinnings of Western civilization.”

These general education courses further must “promote the values necessary to preserve the constitutional republic through traditional, historically accurate, and high-quality coursework,” and cannot be “based on unproven, theoretical, or exploratory content.”

The standards are largely to be overseen by the state Board of Education and Board of Governors—bodies whose members are appointed by the governor. And so determinations of what does and does not constitute “diversity, equity, and inclusion,” or “values necessary to preserve the constitutional republic,” or even “accurate” are all ill-defined, amorphous, and ambiguous enough for Governor DeSantis’s authoritarian regime to carry out its desire to carve away any chance for Florida students to maintain a holistic and open-minded education.

House Bill 999 is indeed a focused continuation of DeSantis’s assault against academic freedom. But it is also a broader test: about how much power an aspirational fascist state executive can openly accumulate in America.