Saturday, August 20, 2022

DeSantis Is "All Hat, No Cattle"

Ron DeSantis has garnered a few headlines lately. Just in case you had any doubts as to whether the Florida governor was part of the radical right, he's traveling with Turning Point Action to stump on behalf of candidates like Ohio Republican candidate for Senate JD Vance, Pennsylvania's GOP gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano, Arizona Republican candidate for Senate Blake Masters and GOP nominee for governor Kari Lake. Other than Hershel Walker and Dr. Oz, that amounts to a "hall of shame" when it comes to Republican nut jobs that are running in the 2022 midterms.

The question of the day has become whether DeSantis is maneuvering to be the heir apparent to the MAGA crowd and challenge Trump for the GOP presidential nomination in 2024. Conservatives as disparate as Andrew Sullivan and Alex Jones are abandoning the former guy to become the standard-bearers for this country's next round of Republican authoritarianism. 

In this contest of Trump vs. DeSantis, the assumption has been that the latter is the more intelligent and competent choice - even if he is lacking in the personality department. The Florida governor is branding himself as the culture warrior who is capable of winning the fight against his domestic enemies. But does his record bear that out?

Other than denying science during a global pandemic, DeSantis is best known for punishing DisneyWorld by convincing Florida's Republican-controlled state legislature to overturn the Reedy Creek special district status the theme park has maintained since it's founding in the 70's. But the revocation of that status was delayed until next summer. In the meantime, Disney made sure the governor and his pals knew that the district has about $1 billion of municipal bonds outstanding. That debt would fall on Florida taxpayers if the special district was eliminated. So here's what is happening:

Florida’s head of bond finance said lawmakers will likely re-establish the embattled Walt Disney Co.’s special district after the state passed a law that would dissolve the governing body next year. 

Ben Watkins, director of the state’s division of bond finance, said legislators are likely to create a successor district, one that will assume many of the powers that Reedy Creek Improvement District, the agency that allows Disney to preform certain municipal functions at its resort properties...

“I’m confident that Reedy Creek will get addressed in a more meaningful way,” he said Thursday. Lawmakers will likely restore a limited version of the special district in the next legislative session, Watkins said. He added that Governor Ron DeSantis’s office has been “supportive” of the successor district approach.

So the whole "special district status" will be restored next year AFTER DeSantis runs for re-election. The only remaining question is whether the governor rushed into all of this in ignorance or if he planned the whole thing as a show that he knew would never actually amount to anything. 

But that isn't the only nothingburger in DeSantis's bag o' tricks. Back in February, he was successful in getting the Florida legislature to pass the "Stop WOKE Act," which bars public schools and businesses from making people feel “guilt” or “discomfort” about their race during lessons and trainings about discrimination. This week, a federal judge halted implementation of the part of the act that applies to businesses. But it was the way U.S. District Judge Mark Walker introduced his ruling that was the real story.
In the popular television series Stranger Things, the “upside down” describes a parallel dimension containing a distorted version of our world. Recently, Florida has seemed like a First Amendment upside down. Normally, the First Amendment bars the state from burdening speech, while private actors may burden speech freely. But in Florida, the First Amendment apparently bars private actors from burdening speech, while the state may burden speech freely. 
“Now, like the heroine in Stranger Things, this Court is once again asked to pull Florida back from the upside down,” Walker wrote.

It's also worth noting that DeSantis's abortion ban met the same fate. Texans have a saying that applies to men with records like that: "All hat and no cattle."

It remains to be seen whether or not DeSantis will be able to tear the MAGA crowd away from their cult leader. He doesn't seem to have the kind of personality that inflames their passions. But let there be no doubt about his intentions. Here's a taste from one of his fundraising emails.

Our country is currently facing a great threat. A new enemy has emerged from the shadows that seeks to destroy and intimidate their way to a transformed state, and country, that you and I would hardly recognize.

This enemy is the radical vigilante woke mob that will steamroll anything and anyone in their way. Their blatant attacks on the American way of life are clear and intensifying: stifling dissent, public shaming, rampant violence, and a perverted version of history...

I am choosing to counter this enemy with faith, with reason, and with freedom. As Governor of the Free State of Florida, I have chosen to lead with a vision that builds America up rather than tears it down.

Of course, it is people like DeSantis who are stifling dissent while peddling lies based on a perverted version of history. But projection has become the name of the game for Republicans these days. 

If you want to know where DeSantis stands, there you have it. He's fanning the flames of fear and hate in order to create chaos and gain power. Being competent has never been the point.

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