DeSantis’ imperial governorship reached new heights on Thursday when the actions of the Florida legislature demonstrated how he not only bends state government to his will, but also to his whims. In a special session, lawmakers approved a new Congressional map proposed by his office that seems almost certain to dilute the voting power of black Floridians. That same day, the legislature acted on DeSantis’ threat to punish Disney for speaking out against the law he recently signed that limits some classroom discussions about sexual orientation and gender identity.
Even in the final days of Trump’s presidency, DeSantis managed to wade into almost every controversy that enraged Fox viewers, using both executive actions and the power of his pen to keep the focus on the Sunshine. State. And as he prepares for a possible White House bid in 2024 – at the same time as Trump decides whether to run for the White House again – DeSantis is being rewarded for his political skill with a surge in the number of polls showing him. ‘establish as a real threat to the former president.
“It’s not your dad’s Republican Party,” President Joe Biden said at a fundraiser Thursday night, in his most blunt comments yet on DeSantis’ fight with Disney. “Look what’s happening in Florida. … They’re going after Mickey Mouse.”
But DeSantis’ messages — while infuriating for science and civil rights advocates — have often been sharp and succinct and more palatable to suburban audiences than Trump’s polarizing rants ever were. The Florida governor has become adept at rendering some of his most discriminatory and anti-science policies innocuous, underscoring how he could be a formidable challenger to future Democratic opponents at a time when misinformation is thriving.
When Covid-19 cases spiked in Florida last summer, for example, DeSantis gambled by threatening school boards that intended to implement mask mandates — his office claiming his executive order protected “the parents’ freedom of choice.
He banned vaccine passports (before they were even a real thing) and gained power
to invalidate local emergency ordinances during the pandemic to distinguish themselves from “lockdown governors” – all under the guise of protecting individual rights and freedoms.
When he signed legislation in November blocking Covid-19 vaccine demands from private employers — a direct strike against White House efforts — his administration touted the package as “the strongest pro-freedom and anti-warrant taken by any state in the nation.” His marketing prowess even extended to his campaign merchandise — with DeSantis flip-flops leaving an imprint that the president’s chief medical adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci, “can beat sand”.
Using the government to punish critics
In his latest chapter, DeSantis — who faces re-election this year — dove deep into the wars over agenda that animated Virginia’s gubernatorial race last year and are now at the heart of the GOP agenda then. that the party seeks to take control of Congress. While taking measures that amount to censorship and could lead to the marginalization of some of the most vulnerable children struggling with identity issues, the Governor of Florida has repeatedly stated that his goal is to protect children.
Florida’s education commissioner announced last week that 41% of submitted math textbooks were rejected because DeSantis claimed they included “indoctrinating concepts like racial essentialism” and failed to meet standards. new state standards, including a ban on critical race theory. (DeSantis has previously described critical race theory – an academic framework for understanding racism and inequality not typically taught in the K-12 setting – as “state-sanctioned racism”.
But one of his biggest gambits to date has been to take on Disney, the state’s largest private employer, as his crusade against ‘woke’ culture takes a Trumpian twist – illuminating his drive to use the tools of government to punish critics.
DeSantis has angered members of the LGBTQ community and their allies with his advocacy for legislation he signed banning certain in-class discussions about sexual orientation and gender identity with young students — a move the critics dubbed the law “Don’t Say Gay”.
As DeSantis attempted to frame his goals in bland terms — claiming the bill recognized the “fundamental role” parents play “in the education, health care and well-being of their children” — critics lashed out at how the legislation could harm vulnerable LGBTQ youth, with many pointing to the high risk of suicide among this group.
Disney CEO Bob Chapek initially faced backlash for what he called the company’s “silence” on the bill, given that the company employs some 75,000 people in Florida. But he then ran headlong into anger at DeSantis after he apologized to employees as he framed the measure as “another challenge to basic human rights” and said Disney would suspend “all political donations in the ‘State of Florida’. The company had donated $50,000 to DeSantis’ re-election bid.
At a time when Republican lawmakers across the country have introduced dozens of anti-LGBTQ laws, DeSantis recognized a golden opportunity to bolster his base by taking on what he described as another “woke” company. In a fundraising email this week, DeSantis adopted the kind of strongman posture that has won Trump so many admirers. “If Disney wants to fight they picked the wrong guy,” he wrote.
The Florida legislature acted on Thursday by passing a bill that eliminated the unique status Disney has held for decades by dissolving the company’s ability to operate as an independent government around its area theme parks. from Orlando.
On the same day, Florida lawmakers approved DeSantis’ redistricting map that draws the state’s new congressional boundaries for the next 10 years. The map removed two districts that had been represented by black Democrats and created an advantage for Republicans in no less than 20 of the 28 districts. The new map, which may be subject to a legal challenge to determine whether it diminishes the power of minority voters, led to a protest during the floor debate by several black members of the Florida State House.
“I’m occupying the bedroom floors of Florida House to make sure black people won’t be forgotten. We’re here to stay,” state Rep. Angie Nixon said at the protest. “We take the floor. We do good. Ron DeSantis is a bully. Ron DeSantis doesn’t care about black people.”
But after securing those two wins, DeSantis knows he’ll likely be rewarded by GOP voters who could help him achieve higher political ambitions — and he’s no doubt already moving on to his next fight.