In only a few months, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has gone from a relatively obscure, run-of-the-mill heartless red state Governor to being the belligerent tip of the spear for conservative troll nation. He is in the news almost every day, and sometimes several times a week for different things. This is different than most Republican Governors, who prefer to keep a very low profile. Think of people such as Alabama’s Kay Ivey, who is rarely seen in the 3 years between elections.
So what’s DeSantis doing? What’s he trying to accomplish by picking fights with women (he’s signed an abortion ban), gay people, black people, black districts (which he wants to eliminate), private companies (Stop WOKE Act and vaccine mandates), schools, universities (he wants to change tenure), the state of Georgia (he threatened them not to vote for Stacy Abrams), Twitter (he wants to sue them for stopping Elon Musk from a hostile takeover), cruise lines, and even Disney? [He wants to end Disney’s special status in Florida, and this is the very company that just forced thousands of California people to move to Florida for a mild tax break and/or seek employment elsewhere. Many minorities chose elsewhere.]
What’s he thinking? IS he thinking?
Well, I hate to make everything about Trump, but I do believe this is a case where it’s particularly relevant. The truth is that Donald Trump set a horrible example, and a lot of Republicans are going to copy it until it’s proven the party wants to go in a different direction. [Like McCain was a pivot from W. Bush, but the timing was so bad for any Republican, that they immediately ran into the arms of the ultra-conservative Tea Party, which was still different than Bush, just in the opposite direction.]
DeSantis was someone that I had never heard of until a couple years ago, and the reasons I’m hearing so much about him now are because he’s a knock-off of Trump (who himself stole every idea he ever had from “America First” which was a Nazi-appeasing 1930’s isolationist group to Reagan’s old slogan of “Make America Great Again”).
The Trump playbook: stir up cultural grievances, reignite the culture wars, bellicose rhetoric and anger, crave the spotlight, punch down at minority communities, threaten businesses that don’t capitulate, and—above all—project an image of “strength” bordering on autocracy. [I’m not sure how a Governor in the most dysfunctional purple-ish state in America can just ram through whatever legislation pops into his head, but DeSantis seems to be doing it somehow.]
In only a month or two, he’s ignited a polarizing cultural battle with “Don’t Say Gay” bill, thrown some red meat to the hoi polloi with “Stop WOKE Act,” gotten mad at school kids for not wanting to take their masks off, threatened private businesses from Disney to Twitter (in addition to last year’s threats towards Norwegian Cruises and others with vaccine policies), wants to “tear up” minority congressional districts, wants to change tenure and what university professors can teach, signed an abortion ban, and done nothing to help the actual lives of Floridians except getting them to blame all their problems on minority groups. [That’s a large part of the reason the angry conservative horde LOVES this guy, same as they did Trump.]
He believes he can snake Trump’s base by being a younger, less-scandalized version of Donald, and that’s what’s motivating his unprecedented publicity rampage. Of course, that also sounds like a great way to tank his Presidential ambitions before they even begin.
You have to understand that DeSantis was just bragging about all the Disney jobs Florida poached from California only a year ago. Disney (and Bob Chapek specifically, who is much more of a Florida guy than Bob Iger) forcibly “relocating” thousands of jobs from CA to Florida, and building a huge new campus in Lake Nona (a suburb of Orlando) was a huge feather in DeSantis’s cap.
Now he’s feuding with and threatening the very corporation he was crowing about getting thousands of new jobs from? [They are—by far—the largest private employer in Orlando, where DeSantis was raised.]
All the Republican Party bosses and donors really cares about is money. They don’t care about their average voter, and their 1950’s views on abortion, race, religion, “wokeness,” or whatever else. Hell, half of Fox News came from NY, and Trump had barely stepped foot below Brooklyn before he decided to run for President. They only use cultural issues to trick gullible fools into voting for them.
But Santis is talking about interfering in businesses (he’s sort-of already done it by passing the “Stop Woke Act” that tries to limit anti-racism business training).
The people that actually control the Republican Party were (mostly) for Trump in the beginning, thinking he’d be a net positive for business and easy to manipulate since he didn’t really know anything about government. They were delighted with his cabinet (an anti-EPA director of the EPA, a Secretary of Education that didn’t even like public schools, an oil CEO for Secretary of State, a HUD director who knew nothing about public housing), and the tax cuts in the first two years.
But then…Trump launched a trade war with China, threatened tariffs fast and loose, countless angry tweets at businesses, and repeatedly interfered in the private sector: threatened NBC with an investigation over an SNL impression, if Microsoft had bought TikTok he said the Treasury deserved “a cut,” encouraged boycotts of lucrative private businesses like the NFL, wanted to block the AT&T/Time Warner deal over CNN, etc. That stuff, they weren’t so delighted with.
Now DeSantis is trying to limit a business’s ability to determine their own anti-racism training and openly threatening an employer building a new campus and relocating thousands of new jobs? He’s forgetting that all the frivolous Culture Wars stuff can’t actually interfere with the business end. Sounds like a great way to get the GOP looking at alternatives to DeSantis, who maybe isn’t ready for primetime.