Imagine Donald Trump, but with brains and savvy.
OK ... most people have those.
Imagine Trump, but with a stalwart dedication toward legislation that moves the country in a direction that should terrify most reasonable human beings.
Enter Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
To me, Trump has always been, at his core, an avowed iconoclast and solipsistic opportunist who probably decided on a lark that he’d run for the U.S. presidency and managed to sweep his competitors on an anti-establishment platform. Like a man who catches a fully grown alligator, he never quite seemed to know what to do with the presidency when he got it.
Trump had the hubris and gall of a man who had no intention of adhering to the conventions of the White House, and he had (and still has) the benefit of unwavering support from a bunch of mouth-breathers frustrated with eight years of a Black man in the office. These people were aimless, looking for someone to follow off the edge of the flat earth. Trump was their man.
I believe addiction to the power of the presidency is the only reason Trump is giving the presidency another go — he has no real interest in legislative movement that doesn’t line his pockets. DeSantis, however, is a different brand of threat.
He managed to become a beast of a governor, anchored by a Republican Florida Legislature that, as the recently closed legislative session has shown us, bends to his whims like some do to Darth Vader using the Force.
DeSantis has not formally launched a campaign to run for president in 2024, but there’s precisely zero likelihood that he won’t: He’s already made recent stops in early primary states Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina in recent months, and a super PAC supporting him is on a hiring spree in several states.
Though you’ll find no shortage of “Make America Great Again” hats in Florida, the state is so enamored with DeSantis that the legislature passed a bill allowing him to remain governor while running for president — which, to me, seems like taking the bar exam while in medical school.
Legislatively, Trump gave the impression that he was throwing darts at a board while blindfolded to see what might shake out. But DeSantis appears more focused in his one-man crusade to bring the country back to burning witches.
Florida was already a hole of little faith before DeSantis got to it (just Google “Florida Man”), but for the past four years he’s used the state as a petri dish to advance his ultra-conservative agenda, providing frightening insight into what the country could look like if he makes it to the Oval Office.
In April, he signed a law criminalizing abortion after six weeks, making Florida — once a haven for people seeking abortions from nearby red states — among the most restrictive state for abortions in the country. Considering the U.S. Supreme Court’s unconscionable overturning of Roe v. Wade knowing the danger faced by women who can’t legally obtain abortions, it’s downright frightening to have multiple areas of government concerned about what women do with their bodies.
That same month, DeSantis signed into law a bill allowing Floridians to carry concealed guns with no permit or training. Which, if you did what I suggested and Googled “Florida Man,” you know is like throwing a match on a kerosene-doused haystack.
There’s also DeSantis’ co-opting and bastardization of the word “woke,” which he uses as a dog whistle to appeal to his demographic. He signed the Stop WOKE (Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees) Act, which would ban “critical race theory” (read: talking about actual white people actually acting badly) from Florida classrooms.
It would essentially require teachers and professors in the state to teach about Christopher Columbus discovering America, skip over the hundreds of years of chattel slavery and jump straight to Ronald Reagan saving us all. Fortunately, local courts aren’t having that nonsense.
Then there’s the Parental Rights in Education Act bill, which critics refer to as “Don’t Say Gay.” The bill, which DeSantis signed in March, forbids teachers from teaching about or discussing sexual identity and gender orientation to kids up to third grade; a few weeks later, the state’s Board of Education agreed to expand the ban to all grades.
The legislature passed a bill in April restricting drag performers from doing anything around children (it calls them “adult live performances”). DeSantis is expected to sign a bill banning gender-affirming care for minors, making it so not even doctors or parents can make decisions that could save young lives.
In April, DeSantis signed into law a bill allowing Florida juries to impose the death penalty without a unanimous vote, making it the state with the single lowest threshold for a convicted criminal to die. Logical move for an institution that’s historically racially biased, and in a state that has among the highest number of death row inmate exonerations ...
Finally, DeSantis signed into law last week SB 1718, perhaps the most draconian immigration bill on record. Among its provisions, it would make it illegal for anyone to give an undocumented immigrant a ride into the state, invalidate the driver’s licenses of immigrants from other states, and make it considerably harder for an employer to hire them.
I’m not sure how pretending like Florida doesn’t function on the back of undocumented immigrant labor is supposed to benefit the legislature, but perhaps it’ll learn the hard way.
That’s a royal flush of regressive social politics tied directly to DeSantis. And I haven’t even gotten into his ongoing beef with Mickey Mouse.
Lest you think DeSantis is a genuine ideologue, armed with the Holy Bible and a nostalgia for the “good ol’ days” before immigrants and the LGBTQ community existed, he’s actually like so many other politicians — rocking with whatever advances his agenda at the time. The irony of DeSantis being Trump’s biggest competitor for the GOP ticket is that he made it to his current position riding Trump’s coattails in a state that adores the former president.
Now, Trump is in headlines for the verdict finding him liable for sexually abusing writer E. Jean Carroll. Some Republicans believe this could tank his 2024 chances. But considering Trump has gotten as far as he has by doing everything short of eating a baby on camera, I’ll never count him out. DeSantis, however, could be his biggest threat — far wiser, more tactical and more calculated than his opponent.
Trump’s presidency emboldened the country’s troglodytes to do reprehensible acts like organizing racist tiki torch gatherings and storming the U.S. Capitol dressed like assholes. But he’s the devil I’ve already experienced in the White House, and he’d only have one term to go. Eight years of DeSantis terrifies me far more.