I’m a 5th generation Florida man. My people (as we say down here in the Deepest of the Deep South, ironically the most northern part of Florida) are colorful. We’re some Red Hills, cracker-ass, hog-farming, shark-fishing, citrus-growing deep-fried weirdos. We’re the spiritual children of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings and H.P. Lovecraft.
I’m so much of a Florida man you might expect someday to see police helicopter footage of me running naked down a highway median with the family pet alligator over one shoulder as I flee the detonated ruins of the family compound’s meth lab trailer, pursued by my common-law 4th wife, who also happens to be a first cousin, my parole officer, and a Santeria priestess.
I love this place, though. Yes, it’s grown all out of proportion to its carrying capacity. Development is paving the magic into a kind of shitbird Generica of strip malls, crappy condos, hand-job massage parlors (paging Jason Miller), and Medicare fraud pain clinics. However, the beautiful parts of this improbably beautiful place and its sometimes remarkably good-natured people are still there if you know where to look.
We’ve always been a state that welcomes every lost soul, defrocked priest, busted con man, speculator, mobster (first Cubans, then Italians, then more Cubans, then Columbians, now Russians), war criminal, crackpot spiritualist, and exile. It’s part of the brand; if America loves a redemption story, Florida loves a slightly darker redemption story where the guy who just gave a couple of million dollars to the local symphony might also have a place out near Yulee where he runs bodies through a wood-chipper.
From the 1920s boom to the massive early-2000s hyper-expansion, people wanted to leave their cold, expensive, and highly-taxed lives in the North and Midwest and die somewhere sunny, beautiful, and cheap. For generations, a combination of quality of life and economic motivations drew people to Florida.
Today, it’s political.
And it sucks.
The MAGA “elite” -- a term that needs more air quotes than the English keyboard allows -- are moving here in droves, mostly to South Florida. Hundreds of them. The Trump government-in-exile, his campaign-in-waiting, and his courtiers were one thing. Trump’s Douchebag In His Labyrinth years would be tiresome enough, but he’s running again, so the spotlight on Mar-A-Lago will shine on. But with the rise of Florida as elite MAGA’s go-to bolthole from Washington and elsewhere, they’re really lowering the standard.
Steve Bannon plots world revolution (and hides from the law) in Sarasota. Don Jr., Kimberley Guilfoyle, and their independent pharma rep Skeeter moved to Jupiter. Newt Gingrich is down in Naples. Rudy has a place in Palm Beach. Noted former Met Gala non-attendees Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump are building a post-modern pile in Miami. Tucker Carlson lives in and often broadcasts from his home near Gasparilla. Mike Flynn is near the center of Florida’s conspiracy culture in the Tampa Area, as is plagiarist and MAGA scamfluencer Benny Johnson. This list goes on and on and on...
Patient Zero was Rush Limbaugh, but the Palm Beach and Ft. Lauderdale area sported Chris Ruddy’s Newsmax, the Kochs, the degenerate fop Roger Stone, Ann Coulter, and others as far back as the Bush years. The MAGA media infrastructure may be centered on the Fox News studio in Manhattan, but the talent, particularly down the media food chain, lives here now. The number of MAGA/populist social media influencers who migrated here is staggering.
Today, Ron DeSantis is the face of Floridumb’s culture war mania, but it didn’t start there. The strange latent atmosphere of a state that always has either a life form or weather phenomena trying to kill you leads to this ineffable erosion of at edges and margins of reason and logic. The crazy has always been here; now it has an army.
Florida’s West Coast and Panhandle is a madness-magnet, driven by MAGA base voters moving to Florida by the hundreds of thousands a year. They’re much more likely to settle on the more affordable West Coast from Tampa-St. Petersburg running up to the Northwest Frontier Province of Gaetzistan in Pensacola.
You can’t miss them.
Their brand-new Ford F-250s or Dodge RAMs, tricked out will bull bars, lights, and lifts for mud-bogging (which they will never, ever do on their trips to Walmart or Cracker Barrel) are adorned with the required “FJB,” “Trump 2024,” and Trump-as-the-Punisher stickers. Their late-1990s-built tract houses in deep-red counties are in mildewy developments with names like The Villas of Cypress Eagle Creek Ranch Manor Acres VII, and my God, do they love three things in this world; Donald Fucking Trump, a Karl Hungusian commitment to political nihilism, and lurid, elaborate conspiracy theories.
If you were looking for the white-hot, humid center of the QAnon cult, look no further than Florida. I wish I were exaggerating when I tell you that people in my state are likelier to believe that Klaus Schwab of the World Economic Forum is evil than Vladimir Putin. Imagine a place populated by people who think Glenn Beck and Alex Jones have sold out and softened their message because of the Man.
If you want the highest per-capita number of arrests for the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol, we have you covered in the Sunshine State. Want racial hate groups? Well, in South Florida, we’re a hotbed for the Proud Boys, and in North Florida, the Klan, the League of the South, and a host of others are here in droves to fill your cabinet of nightmares.
What was once a kind of genial live-and-let-live Southern conservatism is gone. Now, the political structure here is driven by people with almost no knowledge of the world beyond what is vomited forth in their Facebook groups, confidently asserting that the COVID vaccine’s 5G chips got their pit-bull Yorkie cross pregnant with alien DNA. Do you wonder why DeSantis won by 19? Crazy people, that’s why.
Florida Man is one thing. Florida MAGA Man is quite another. These were two streams that should have never been crossed, and the outcomes can only lead to more weirdness, more misery, and more national mockery.
To quote a disgraced former President and (of course) Florida resident, I’m calling for a total and complete shutdown of MAGAs entering Florida until our country's representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.