Ron DeSantis, 42, owes his political fortune to Trump. He was an unremarkable congressman who was expected to lose to Agricultural Commissioner Adam Putnam in the 2018 GOP primary for governor. Still, DeSantis sucked up to Trump more than any other candidate that year. Trump endorsed him in June 2018, which helped him seal the primary win. Afterward, DeSantis ran the Trumpiest campaign ever in his quest to be governor and tied himself to The Former Guy more than anyone. In 2018, he proudly stated that he didn’t disagree with Trump on anything. This was a typical ad:
That was then.
DeSantis is very similar to Trump because he always looks out for Number One: himself. In reality, DeSantis knows what every conservative knows outside of the mindless drones who are still waving Trump flags—that Trump has no chance of ever becoming president again. They won’t admit it openly, but they know it’s true. Trump couldn’t pull it off last year when the GOP was completely united behind him, and he hasn’t exactly expanded his base since then, quite the opposite.
Keep in mind, since the election, Trump has tried to incite an insurrection, and we are just now learning how bad it was. His former sycophants are falling over each other, trying to redeem their reputations by spilling about what really went on behind the scenes. Meanwhile, Trump has only grown more isolated and unhinged, tying himself closer than ever to wacky conspiracy theorists like the Pillow Guy. Trump has embarrassed himself with multiple failures, including his shunned social media platform and the humiliating attendance at his relaunched campaign rallies. This is not exactly a winning strategy against a popular incumbent president.
DeSantis represents a young, new face who pushes similar conservative policies but with much more shrewdness. He’s not known for being particularly smart, but compared to Trump, he’s a genius. The post-Trump GOP loves him. A straw poll taken at the Western Conservative Summit showed DeSantis leading Trump, and I expect more such polls will follow. Fox News producers conspired with DeSantis to promote his image, and DeSantis is even getting help from well-known Trumpists for his future campaigns. For example, former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows joined DeSantis on a fundraising jaunt through Nevada and California.
The right-wing media also knows that Trump can’t win and is trying its best to get the Trump addicts to move off to the Patch. DeSantis has replaced Trump as the face of the GOP on Fox News, where he has been asked to appear 113 times since the election. The National Review called DeSantis the GOP’s best bet for 2024, and the right-wing Washington Examiner went further with a piece entitled “DeSantis is like Trump, but he actually does stuff.” He’s even lost RedState, which criticized Trump’s last year in office, and wondered how he would square up running again while claiming elections are rigged: “He was the person we needed in 2016, but that doesn’t mean he’s the preference forever.”
It used to be blasphemy for right-wing conservatives to attack Trump in that way—or in any way—but more are doing so. Conservatives love DeSantis because he was able to put their actual harmful right-wing fantasies into practice.
DeSantis signed what he called an “Anti-Riot bill” in response to the peaceful protests last year in Florida against police violence. The new law treats civil-rights protesters as violent, hardened criminals by making it very hard for arrested protesters to get bail, and when they do get it, he wants “a rebuttable presumption on bail.” This means the courts would presume that what’s on the arrest report is true until proven otherwise. This tactic has been exclusively reserved for the most serious felony charges, such as rape and murder—but DeSantis added marching for your civil rights.
If that wasn’t bad enough, the new law makes people participating in “disorderly demonstrations” forever ineligible for government employment or state benefits. How the hell would you know if a peaceful protest is going to turn disorderly ahead of time? You don’t. And that’s the point.
If that’s not fascist enough for you, how about the fact that DeSantis also wants to make “harassing people in public” a criminal offense. Why this law? Because a Miami activist yelled at DeSantis over his incompetent handling of the coronavirus. DeSantis is pissed over that and wants to make it a crime. Never mind that it violates the First Amendment.
DeSantis, in fact, really doesn’t care about the First Amendment. He signed a ridiculous bill that outlaws private media companies from suspending political candidates from their platforms, even if they break the rules they agreed to ahead of time—like spreading misinformation, making racist comments, or inciting violence. DeSantis’ new fascist law will impose fines of up to $250,000 a day for every day the candidate is banned from the platform.
DeSantis also expanded Florida’s horribly infamous Stand Your Ground Law, which will permit business owners to shoot potential looters or anyone engaging in a loosely defined term of “criminal mischief” even if they are in no danger. Seriously, it’s the legalization of murder for a minor criminal offense.
Our governor has also launched nukes into the culture wars, indicating that he is laser-focused on a White House run. He recently told the Florida State Board of Education to ban public schools from teaching critical race theory, something Florida doesn’t even do. He commemorated the first day of Pride Month by signing a bigoted bill targeting trans athletes. DeSantis also, of course, significantly curbed access to voting, as have other Republican-controlled states. DeSantis signed the bill behind closed doors and banned all media from the signing event—except Fox News.
DeSantis is treading lightly now, but there will be a moment when he breaks with Trump. The rift has already started, and he’s broken with Trump before. DeSantis tries to distance himself from Trump’s overt racism, which Trump doubles down on. One of the first things DeSantis did was pardon four Black men from a 70-year-old case—something Rick Scott refused to do. DeSantis, who has a long history of racism himself, didn’t do that because he changed, but because he was smart enough to start his administration on a good note that the press here ate up. If you have any doubt about whether DeSantis changed, look no further than his extraordinary fight to undermine Amendment 4, which grants prior felons the right to vote.
When Trump was campaigning through Florida after his bout with COVID-19, DeSantis was notably absent from his rallies. He told Trump he was too busy to campaign with him, but the truth was he needed to put a little distance between them. That’s especially true now. Trump held a rally at Sarasota in July, and DeSantis refused to join him. Instead, he met with Joe Biden—Trump’s archnemesis.
This afforded DeSantis two things: to show the moderates that he can act like a grown-up when he wants, and more importantly, to get badly needed infrastructure dollars. That collapsed Miami building was not a one-off: our cities are a decaying disaster. Unfortunately, while Florida’s economy crashed, DeSantis gave corporations $543 million in tax refunds. DeSantis is desperate for federal intervention, and if that means sucking up to Biden a little, he’ll do it.
Then there’s the vaccine. Trump wants his sycophantic governors to discourage, or at least not encourage, getting the COVID-19 vaccine because if people stop dying under Biden, Trump’s administration will look even worse than it already does.
Governors like Kristi Noem got the message and refused to do any PSAs for the vaccine—despite getting the vaccine herself. DeSantis, however, has been irritating Trump by really pushing Floridians to get the vaccine, telling them it saves lives and that almost all of the death has come from the unvaccinated ranks. Just a few weeks ago, DeSantis was selling T-shirts mocking Dr. Fauci, yet after news dropped that 20% of all new cases came from Florida, DeSantis is now a proponent of the vaccine.
Again, this has nothing to do with the actual death of people in Florida—it’s just the type of people who are dying. There have been almost 40,000 COVID-19 deaths in Florida, and DeSantis’ election in 2018 was decided by a little more than 30,000 votes. (The Senate race that year was decided by a little more than 10,000 votes.) DeSantis, unlike Trump, could see the problem and changed course.
All of these things make DeSantis much more dangerous than Trump. A competent fascist could succeed where Trump has failed. The best chance of stopping DeSantis’ ambitions is to defeat him for reelection next year. This will be difficult, as incumbent governors in Florida are tough to beat. Yet his high numbers have taken a huge hit with the hill he’s willing to die on—or rather, the children he’s willing to kill. He issued an executive order to forbid school districts from requiring masks and threatened to defund school districts and even individuals’ salaries if they dare defy him on this.
Yet this is Florida, and even now, DeSantis still holds a slight edge in the upcoming governor’s race. To make matters worse, the narrative after last year’s election defeat is that Florida has become too reliably red for Democratic donors to focus attention here. This is a false narrative put forth by lazy pundits, but it’s the current common belief within my party. However, I acknowledge that despite Ron and the GOP’s best efforts to fail, the fight for Florida will still be an uphill battle.
As a result, South Florida Democrats are attempting a unique tactic. They have announced the creation of Ron Be Gone, a new political group aimed at ensuring Gov. Ron DeSantis doesn’t win reelection. They are applying the strategy that national PACs used successfully in the 2020 election but on a state level. RonBeGone.com will attack DeSantis and eventually support the Democratic nominee for governor, who will likely be either Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried or former Gov. Charlie Crist.
Remove Ron is another state-level PAC with the same idea of knocking down DeSantis but using a different strategy. Ron DeSantis is desperately trying not to make Trump angry for outshining him before his 2022 election. However, given the type of person Trump is, it’s not too hard to rile him up. Remove Ron is running ads specifically to exacerbate the tension and running them where Trump is likely to see them. This ad ran in Sarasota when Trump was holding his rally there:
The ad is brutal but true. If Ron wins in 2022, he won’t need Trump. If Donald feels threatened, he will turn on DeSantis. Prior loyalty to him means absolutely nothing, as other sycophants had to find out the hard way. It would be quite poetic—if not ironic—if the man who foisted DeSantis upon the Sunshine State were the one who would do him in. I, for one, will do my part to help make that happen. We all should. Fascism has never been closer to reality.