While campaigning in New Hampshire earlier this week, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) used a violent metaphor to describe his plans to transform the federal bureaucracy.

Emphasizing his commitment to firing federal bureaucrats, the presidential candidate vowed to “start slitting throats on Day One,” according to a New Hampshire Public Radio report on his remarks to voters in Rye, New Hampshire.

Under a DeSantis presidency, the Florida governor also said that Mexican drug cartels will be “shot stone cold dead.”

The American Federation of Government Employees, the largest labor union for federal workers, reacted to DeSantis’ remarks with indignation on Thursday, arguing that rhetoric of that kind has helped fuel violent attacks against federal workers, such as the 1995 bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City.

“Governor DeSantis’ threat to ‘start slitting throats’ of federal employees is dangerous, disgusting, disgraceful, and disqualifying,” said AFGE President Everett Kelley.

DeSantis’ graphic remarks about shaking up the federal government’s workforce are part of a broader trend among Republican presidential candidates of demonizing the country’s more than two million federal civil servants.

Republican presidential hopefuls have increasingly characterized the federal workforce as an overwhelmingly liberal bastion of unelected power, whose control over the “deep state” enables them to stymie conservative policy and persecute Republican politicians.

Presidents have long had the power to fire and reappoint a small group of political appointees at the highest echelons of the federal government. But former President Donald Trump has proposed expanding that privilege so that the president would have the direct power to fire about 50,000 federal employees, who currently enjoy civil service protections designed to insulate them from political retaliation. “The deep state must and will be brought to heel,” Trump said at a March 2022 rally.

Trump’s plan has sparked alarm among advocates for government transparency and ethics, who fear that his proposal would compromise the independence of the civil service and potentially turn it into a crude patronage operation.

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