Governor DeSantis Unveils New Florida License Plate Featuring Anti-Government, Libertarian 'Don't Tread On Me' Design

Toby Hazlewood

A governor pushing an anti-government slogan?
Florida's new license plate designTwitter of GovRonDeSantis

On July 30, Florida's Governor Ron DeSantis took to Twitter to promote the state's new license plate design, featuring a coiled snake and the slogan 'Don't Tread On Me'. The license plates are being offered to Floridians and each one that's ordered will benefit the Florida Veterans Foundation.

According to his Tweet, there is another motive behind the license plate design, which according to the Governor:

"...sends a clear message to out-of-state cars, “Don’t Tread on Me” or Florida."

A conflicting message?

Floridians may be familiar with hearing the governor use the slogan. Merchandise is available for purchase via the governor's political fundraising website that features a similar logo (but with an alligator instead of a coiled rattlesnake) and a version of the slogan. Supporters of Governor DeSantis can buy t-shirts and flags bearing the same design.
Don't Tread on Florida FlagRon DeSantis' Website

Some of the comments on the governor's Twitter post raise an interesting question though - is it appropriate for the governor to promote such a logo given the origins of the design.

A symbol for "right-wing populism" and "far-right ideology"

The origins of the "Don't tread on me" design are found in the so-called Gadsden Flag, designed in 1775 by Christopher Gadsden during the American Revolution.

The flag has since been adopted by those who consider themselves libertarians, and who consider themselves vigilant and willing to defend themselves against coercion.

According to sources, the Gadsden Flag - upon which Florida's new license plate is based - has also become a symbol for:

"...distrust or defiance against authorities and government; and occasionally co-opted for right-wing populism or far-right ideology."

Some suggest that while many of these ideals resonate with the ethos of the state of Florida, they are not necessarily suitable for being featured on Floridian license plates. Then again, Floridians love to register private tags to send a message to others about themselves or their ideologies - maybe the new template is another way of doing just that!

A message to those from out-of-state?

Florida has witnessed large numbers of Americans moving into the Sunshine State with over 220,000 moving into Florida in 2021 alone. The effects of this have been to push up rents and place a heavy burden on state infrastructure including the roads.

In a tense exchange of words between Governor DeSantis and Governor Gavin Newson of California earlier this month, DeSantis made the point that many Californians have moved to Florida - evidenced by the number of out-of-state license plates that can be seen on Florida's roads:

"I was born and raised in this state - and until the last few years, I rarely, if ever saw a California license plate in the state of Florida. You now see a lot of them! I can tell you if you go to California you won't be seeing very many Florida license plates."

Could it be the case that the subtext of Florida's new license plate motto, is that Americans from out of the state are welcome, but they should be wary of the Floridian fighting spirit?

What do you think of Florida's new license plate template? Will you be buying one, or do you think that the origins of the design make it unsuitable for a license plate design? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.

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