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Fake outrage over Florida driver's license law is nothing new
The REAL ID Act has been in effect for nearly 20 years, and critics are still finding reasons to complain but now only because of DeSantis. Where were they in 2005?
The fake outrage surrounding the recent Florida law signed by Governor Ron DeSantis is brewing a false narrative. The law in question pertains to driver's licenses and has sent critics decrying its implications. But let's take a step back and examine the situation more closely, as you will see, it is all political theater.
Governor DeSantis made the announcement just yesterday that Florida's Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) has released a list of out-of-state license classes that will no longer be valid in Florida as of July 1, 2023. This revelation comes in accordance with Senate Bill (SB) 1718, which was recently passed into law. Under this new legislation, driver's licenses from states such as Vermont, Delaware, Hawaii, and Rhode Island will be deemed invalid in the sunny state of Florida.
However, the roots of this law can be traced back to the 2005 REAL ID Act—a piece of legislation that remains largely unfamiliar to most Americans. While the general populace may be oblivious to its existence, the Act has been a point of contention for libertarians who have vehemently opposed it both before and after it was passed with unanimous support in the U.S. Senate.
The Real ID Act is unconstitutional because it violates the Tenth Amendment by infringing on the jurisdiction of individual states. It affects undocumented, illegal immigrants in the United States because it compels states to apply verification of legal status. Yet U.S. Senate Democrats and Republicans unanimously joined forces to usher in this REAL ID Act, showcasing their commitment to curbing illegal immigration.
Back in those days, Democrats held a fierce stance against illegal immigration, which explains why the REAL ID Act sailed through Congress unimpeded. Essentially, the Act requires individuals to provide a birth certificate and other identifying documents in order to obtain a driver's license not only in Florida but also in most states across the country. However, implementing this Act proved to be a time-consuming process for many states, including Florida, which required multiple extensions to comply fully. It's worth noting that by May 7, 2025, possessing a REAL ID will be mandatory for boarding commercial flights and accessing certain federal buildings—a measure designed to bolster security measures.
Interestingly, some states offer individuals the choice between a REAL ID compliant driver's license and a non-compliant one. For instance, take Vermont, a state that prides itself on being REAL ID compliant. The Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles issues both federally-compliant REAL ID driver's licenses and standard licenses. Drivers can opt for a Driver's Privilege Card (DPC) or a REAL ID Driver's License, with the cost for both being the same. Just like their Floridian counterparts, Vermont's REAL ID licenses and identification cards feature a star enclosed within a golden circle in the upper right corner, serving as an indicator of their compliance with federal security standards.
It's astonishing how a seemingly mundane issue like driver's licenses can ignite such a firestorm of outrage. The reality is that the new Florida law is merely an extension of the REAL ID Act, which has been in effect for nearly two decades. Yet, critics continue to lambast Governor DeSantis and his administration, conveniently overlooking the bipartisan nature of the Act's inception. Americans and the media have a short memory, at least depending upon who they are rooting for or against.
In the grand scheme of things, this controversy will likely fade into obscurity, much like the countless others that have consumed our attention and our freedoms in recent years. It serves as a reminder of the ephemeral nature of outrage, perpetuated by the ever-churning news cycle and our society's insatiable thirst for controversy. Perhaps it's time we redirect our energy towards more pressing issues that warrant genuine concern. Until then, let us bid adieu to this chapter of fake outrage and brace ourselves for the next wave of manufactured dissent.