Florida socialists blast Florida Sen. Rick Scott’s anti-socialist travel advisory

Former Florida Governor and sitting U.S. Sen. Rick Scott said socialists aren’t welcome in Florida. That didn’t go over well.

click to enlarge Florida socialists blast Florida Sen. Rick Scott’s anti-socialist travel advisory
Photo courtesy Rick Scott/Senate.gov
Self-identified socialists in Florida blasted U.S. Senator Rick Scott’s travel advisory issued Tuesday on Twitter, warning socialists that Florida is "openly hostile to them."

The travel advisory is presumably meant as a mockery of earnest advisories recently issued by advocacy groups such as Equality Florida for LGBTQ+ people, and the NAACP for African Americans, people of color and LGBTQ+ people,  in "direct response to Gov. Ron DeSantis’s aggressive attempts to erase Black history and to restrict diversity, equity and inclusion programs in Florida schools."

Gov. DeSantis, who's expected to announce a 2024 bid for president today, championed what critics have dubbed a "slate of  hate" bills during this year's legislative session, under the guise of eradicating “wokeness” (a term first used by Black people to describe an alertness to racism and racial prejudice).

Scott, a Republican who formerly served as Florida Governor and who's associated with one of the largest cases of Medicare fraud in history, wrote that his travel advisory “comes in direct response to the Biden administration attempts to erase capitalism and the system that has brought prosperity to Florida and the United States.”

President Joe Biden has openly denounced socialism and embraced capitalism. That difference in ideology is part of what caused him to butt heads with actual self-described socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, during the 2020 election for U.S. president (the two have since made up, and Sanders has endorsed Biden's reelection bid in 2024).

But Scott evidently isn't deterred. His notice, shared Tuesday, states that Florida “is openly hostile to Socialists, Communists, and those who enable them.”

And this didn’t go unnoticed by, well, self-described socialists on Twitter — including Florida’s first open socialist elected to office in over a century.

Richie Floyd, a city council member in St. Petersburg who openly and successfully campaigned as a Democratic Socialist in 2021, quote-tweeted Scott’s announcement, sharing simply, “Wrong,” with a map of chapters of the Democratic Socialists of America (a group Floyd’s affiliated with) across the state, followed by a tweet with a link to join the DSA organization.

Floyd, a former teacher and aerospace engineer, has pushed for local policies in office such as guaranteed right to legal counsel during eviction proceedings for tenants, caps on rent hikes, and a resolution affirming city residents' reproductive healthcare rights.

He also advocated for, and has pushed to ensure proper funding for in office, a program within the St. Petersburg Police Department that deploys social service professionals (not cops) to respond to nonviolent 911 calls in the community, such as mental health crises, truancy, neighborhood disputes, and complaints about homeless people.

The Orlando chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America "fixed" Scott's advisory, and added in a separate tweet, "It makes sense the man who wants to privatize public education, ban abortion, abolish our voting rights, and cut Social Security and Medicare would issue a statement condemning us. Because we’re going to ensure he does none of that."

Others pointed out that Scott’s red-baiting reflects similar messaging shared by conservatives in the 20th century, who also used the bogeyman terms of “socialism” and “communism” (oh my!) to sow racial and class divides in the United States.

“Today’s conservatives are trying to revive the paranoia that prevailed during the 1950s and early 1960s, when supporters of Jim Crow insisted that Black protesters were being manipulated by communists as part of an elaborate conspiracy to destroy America,” wrote Matt Nichter, a professor of Rollins College in Winter Park who studies social movements, in an article he quote-tweeted in response to Scott’s announcement.

“These accusations were absurd,” Nichter continued, “but in the repressive political climate of the Cold War, civil rights activists with ties to the socialist movement were often inclined to hide or downplay them. This culture of secrecy has obscured the Old Left’s contributions to the civil rights movement, distorting both popular and scholarly understanding.”

Jacobin, a leftist publication, quote-tweeted Scott with a link to a recent article about working-class solidarity within Ybor City cigar factories. The Tampa neighborhood was once visited by former socialist presidential candidate Eugene Debs of the early 20th century, who made an appeal to socialists within the neighborhood, highly populated with immigrants, who were either sympathetic to or card-carrying members of the Socialist Party of America.

DeSantis, for the record, grew up not too far from Ybor City, which recently unveiled a new mural commemorating Tampa’s antifascist women’s march of 1937.

Verso Books, a publisher of leftists books on politics, labor and the like, also weighed in on Scott's advisory, offering to send a “package” of goods to Florida socialist organizations and unions.

Scott acknowledges in his "advisory" that authoritarian governments associated with socialism have stoked fear among many of socialist governments, and added that Florida "devalues" and "marginalizes" the contributions of socialists, and that they aren't welcome in the Sunshine State.

“Let me be clear — any attempts to spread the oppression and poverty that Socialism always brings will be rebuffed by the people of Florida,” Scott added. “Travelers should be aware that attempts to spread Socialism in north Florida will fail and be met with laughter and mockery.”

Yet, it seems like Scott’s not getting the last laugh. Or groan, for its performativity.

As Scott pulls this latest stunt, Florida ranks near dead last in average teacher pay, has booted over 250,000 Floridians off Medicaid in just the past month, and continues to grapple with an unaffordable housing crisis affecting not just socialists in Florida, but your everyday capitalists, too, with skyrocketing rent in recent years pricing Floridians (particularly those who are low-income, elderly or on a fixed income) out of their homes.