On Friday, writing for The Bulwark, retired physician William Steiner described the ongoing fanatical devotion to former President Donald Trump in The Villages, a sprawling Florida retirement community that backed the former president over Joe Biden 68 to 32 — and the bizarre, authoritarian political structure that holds this community together.
"Here, within the confines of a quiet, retirement neighborhood, residents have nothing to gain by promoting the lie that Trump won. They truly believe it. And they are not afraid to show it, sometimes in angry and disturbingly uncivil ways," wrote Steiner. "There is a retiree who has turned the family garage into a showcase of pro-Trump/anti-Biden banners and paraphernalia. The Villages has an ordinance that prohibits political signage displays in residential yards. So, in order to comply to the letter with that ordinance, the shrine to Donald sits in the garage and the garage door is left up so that all who pass by can marvel at the level of Trumpian devotion."
The Villages was famous for contentious political golf cart parades in the runup to the 2020 election, and in the aftermath, multiple residents have been charged with election fraud for trying to cast more than one ballot.
One of the curious and less-discussed facts about the Villages, wrote Steiner, is that it is not a self-governing community.
"The Villages is not a city. There is no mayor, no city council, no local police department, no central government agency. Virtually all aspects of The Villages are controlled, directly or indirectly, by a single family worth billions, now in its third generation," wrote Steiner. "The Villages is spread over three different counties, so no one county commission or other government agency has oversight for the entire complex ... The law enforcement comes from the county sheriffs. Taxes are controlled by the county commissioners who, heretofore, have all been more or less in lockstep with the family of H. Gary Morse, the late architect of The Villages."
"I am not arguing that The Villages system is wrong, or evil," wrote Steiner. "But this kind of textbook benign dictatorship really is un-American, in the sense that this is not how matters in a large community are traditionally managed in the United States. In contrast, democracy is messy. No matter who wins an election, there is always a significant proportion of the population that is unhappy and wants to change things. Democracy could never produce or successfully maintain The Villages. The rules on yard signs would be changing every two years!"
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