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With his 2024 effort over, DeSantis rethinks Florida’s ‘book ban’

Now that Gov. Ron DeSantis' presidential campaign is over, the Florida Republican is apparently rethinking “the whole ‘book ban’ thing.”

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Gov. Ron DeSantis believed his presidential campaign would benefit if he ran as a far-right culture warrior. With this dubious assumption in mind, the Florida Republican spent months crusading on social issues, imposing an abortion ban, targeting Disney, ending state diversity programs, signing the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” policy, and obsessively saying the word “woke” at every available opportunity.

But that’s really just a sampling of a broader agenda. The GOP governor also backed a policy that made it easier for parents to challenge books in school libraries, leading to what some referred to as Florida’s “book ban” policy.

DeSantis wasn’t altogether pleased with the rhetorical framing — when launching his presidential bid, the Republican called “the whole ‘book ban’ thing” a “hoax” — but as a New York Times report explained last year, there may not have been a statewide ban of a book, but individual school districts and libraries removed a great many books thanks to legislation the governor signed.

We now know, of course, that DeSantis’ strategy fell far short, and his presidential candidacy collapsed shortly after losing the Iowa caucuses by 30 points. Now that he’s back in the Sunshine State, he’s apparently rethinking some of his earlier steps. The NBC affiliate in Orlando reported:

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday supported a House proposal that he said is designed to limit “bad-faith objections” to school-library books and instructional materials, and called claims that Florida bans books a “false narrative.” During a news conference Thursday in Orlando, DeSantis said Florida doesn’t ban books but has allowed parents and others to object to certain material. But DeSantis said some have abused the process to “score cheap political points.”

As it turns out, the Florida Republican isn’t prepared to admit he was wrong. He also isn’t willing to say that his policy created adverse consequences. But DeSantis is apparently willing to reconsider the details of “the whole ‘book ban’ thing.”

As a TPM report added, the governor now believes the state law can be improved to prevent people from trying to “hijack the process.” He specifically pointed to a hypothetical Floridian objecting to 100 books despite not having a child in a local school. “No, I don’t think that’s appropriate,” DeSantis said.

The governor also reportedly directed the Department of Education “to take appropriate action to deal with some of the bad actors who are intentionally depriving students of rightful education by politicizing this process.”

Of course, given the Republican’s role in politicizing the process himself, the rhetoric seemed rather hypocritical, even if it was a step in the right direction.

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