Three of Hearts: mini-Trump DeSantis, outed Trump’s big lie of election fraud




“We can’t just choose to learn what we want to know” about our history, Biden said. “We have to learn what we should know.  We should know about our country.  We should know everything: the good, the bad, the truth of who we are as a nation.  That’s what great nations do, and we are a great nation.”

– President Joe Biden


“I think we’re just communicating wrong, because, like, what I know ‘woke’ to mean is, like, learning new things about people or the world, and then acting accordingly. Like, basic kindness. Maybe a gesture of care to people who are more vulnerable than you. You know what, actually you wouldn’t like it — it’s Jesus stuff.”

Sarah Silverman


“It feels cooler to say, ‘I’m not woke’ than the truth, which is, ‘I’m terrified of what I don’t understand and I only know how to process that as anger because I can’t look inward.’” 

Sarah Silverman


“Politics is a matter of choices, and a man doesn’t set up the choices himself. And there is always a price to make a choice. You know that. You’ve made a choice, and you know how much it cost you. There is always a price.”

– Robert Penn Warren, All the King’s Men


“DeSantis is, to many Republicans, Florida’s incarnation of Donald Trump, his successor, his alter ego, his clone, whatever you want to call it.”

Darryl Paulson, professor emeritus of government at the University of South Florida.


“Being unmoored from principles and riding the wave of fleeting culture wars might be a strategy to evade tough policy questions or to please the Fox News crowd, but it comes at the expense of alienating actual conservatives, moderates and independents, all of whom [DeSantis will] need to win an election.”

– Richard Gallant


The Miami Herald says the problem is that DeSantis can’t distinguish himself from Trump: “Some of his [policy] plans match what Trump has already proposed, and others echo what he already did as president. It’s a particular challenge for DeSantis.

– Politico


“If the great promise of the DeSantis candidacy was Trump without the baggage, STUART STEVENS, a top strategist on MITT ROMNEY’s 2012 presidential campaign, said that what Republicans got instead was ‘TED CRUZ without the personality.’”



The DeSantis 2028 Shadow Campaign
He’s running. Still.
MAR 13


For the past month, DeSantis has hosted one-on-one thank-you calls with donors, small meetings with more of these “investors” in Naples and in Miami, and conference calls with former volunteers.

In a rarity for DeSantis, he’s expressing some regrets, notably about the way his star-crossed campaign and super PAC stiff-armed the national media.

“I should’ve done as much media as I could because the election was directly a reflection of how much earned media each candidate got,” DeSantis told one group, according to a participant who heard the remarks and relayed them on condition of anonymity. (Another source confirmed the substance of the remarks.)

Coming from a politician who isn’t known for introspection or personal accountability, this admission of error was the clearest sign yet that DeSantis is already laying the groundwork for 2028.

THE CONVENTIONAL WISDOM is that, in politics, candidates learn more from their losses than their wins. By that standard, DeSantis just earned a Ph.D. in running for president. During his campaign he was viewed as stiff and unrelatable, so he now posts slice-of-life pictures and social media videos that give glimpses of his everyday life and less-scripted thoughts. While he was campaigning, he was seen to be especially self-centered and ungracious. So now he’s making shows of gratitude to supporters and donors.

Maybe the surest sign that DeSantis isn’t just on a journey of self-improvement but is actively retooling for another run: He’s getting under Trump’s skin.

On Saturday, seemingly out of nowhere, Trump unexpectedly teed off on DeSantis during a speech in Georgia where he called the governor “DeSanctimonious” and “DeSanctus” again. DeSantis didn’t respond. He has an image-makeover to attend to, a state to run, and hundreds of bills to sign after the state legislative session ended Friday.


The Trump VP picks that make the most sense


If he’s angling for it, it’s not terribly obvious right now; the Florida governor gave Trump only a perfunctory endorsement when he dropped out Sunday and has followed it up by saying things Trump probably doesn’t like. [Boldface added]

The constant slide of his presidential campaign also undermined his claim to being an electoral winner. And something would have to be done about the fact that both Trump and DeSantis live in Florida. (They would forfeit the state’s electoral votes unless one of them established residency elsewhere.)

But DeSantis did win Florida big in 2022. He is, despite his lack of traction this campaign, quite popular among Republican-base voters — more so than Nikki Haley. And he’s someone who could bring both political chops and a passion for provocation.

Ron DeSantis limps into 2024


We’re on the side of righteousness’

Dec. 10, 2023


Nearly three decades ago, Florida passed a landmark measure requiring that Black history be taught in its public schools. “Knowledge is the antidote to the poison of prejudice,” Gov. Lawton Chiles (D) said as he signed the legislation.

The law — one of the first in the nation — created a special volunteer task force to continuously guide implementation, and the educators and historians involved did so with little controversy until 2020. That’s when Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) began to fundamentally remake how the state would teach Black history.

DeSantis signed legislation prohibiting lessons that might make students feel guilty about their race. He rejected an Advanced Placement course on African American studies. He appointed a new working group and this summer drew scathing criticism when he defended curriculum revisions that said enslaved people developed skills that “could be applied for their personal benefit.” Veteran members of the African American History Task Force were not consulted.

As a year of intense rancor draws to a close, The Washington Post talked to four people deeply involved with the task force about how they have lived Black history in Florida and what it has meant for their voices to be sidelined. Their remarks have been edited lightly for clarity and conciseness.


No one should fear a history that asks a country to live up to its highest ideals.


Ron DeSantis’ biggest donor considers abandoning him for Trump

Robert Bigelow gave $20 million to Never Back Down this year.

The Florida governor had been reluctant to criticize the former president on the trail, but in recent weeks, that has started to change.


So I can tell you: Not only will I keep my promises as president, I’ll keep Donald Trump’s promises as president,” the normally staid Mr. DeSantis said with a wry smile as he delivered one of his biggest applause lines of the day.


‘No enemies to the right’: DeSantis ally hosts debate hedging white nationalism

Christopher Rufo’s Twitter space discussed conservatives cooperating with extremists ‘to destroy the power of the left’

Sept. 30, 2023


Conservative activist Christopher Rufo, who is a close ally of Florida governor and Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis, hosted a social media debate in which one participant argued that conservatives should cooperate with a hypothetical white nationalist dictator “in order to destroy the power of the left”.

Rufo, a Manhattan Institute fellow who has been a hugely influential figure in DeSantis’ culture war policies in Florida, did not disagree with the sentiments. Instead he commended speakers for their “thoughtful points” and presenting the discussion as a model for engagement with “the dissident right”.

Early in the Rufo-hosted discussion last Tuesday, Haywood raised the hypothetical possibility early in the discussion: “Let’s say a real white nationalist arose who had real political power … and therefore [could] be of assistance against the left.”

Responding to the hypothetical, Haywood said: “I think that the answer is that you should cooperate with that person in order to destroy the power of the left.”

Later in the broadcast, Haywood responded to concerns about rightwing authoritarianism by saying: “When we’re talking about people like Franco or Pinochet or even Salazar … they did kill people. They killed people justly, they killed people unjustly, and that’s just a historical fact.”

“But,” Haywood added, “they saved a lot more people than they killed.”


Ron DeSantis Is Afraid of Questions From a 15-Year-Old

The Florida governor’s operation went to extraordinary lengths to intimidate a high school sophomore—all for a question about Donald Trump.


DeSantis Finally Admits Trump’s Election Fraud Claims Are BS 

After repeatedly defending the former president, the Florida governor now says many of his rival’s theories are “did not prove to be true”
NYTimes: Today’s Top News: DeSantis Acknowledges Trump’s 2020 Loss, and More

[GOP] Lawmakers quickly react to latest Trump indictment

“If the great promise of the DeSantis candidacy was Trump without the baggage, STUART STEVENS, a top strategist on MITT ROMNEY’s 2012 presidential campaign, said that what Republicans got instead was ‘TED CRUZ without the personality.’”

– Politico

[And this, coming from a Florida governor who has unrelentingly “weaponized” his state government against the most vulnerable, proving himself yet again a mini-Trump, one who childishly calls out bona fide detractors for the egregious, anti-democratic  behaviors that he himself practices with such evident glee and to the harm of so many.]


DeSantis attacks DC jurors after Trump indictment 

Florida governor and 2024 Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis took aim at Washington jurors following the historic third indictment against former President Trump, calling the capital city a “swamp.”

Trump on Tuesday was indicted by a Washington grand jury on charges of four counts stemming from the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot and his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election. The charges against Trump are the most serious to ever be brought against a former U.S. president.

DeSantis slammed the outcome of the indictment in a post on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, shortly after the news broke.

“While I’ve seen reports, I have not read the indictment,” DeSantis wrote. “I do, though, believe we need to enact reforms so that Americans have the right to remove cases from Washington, DC to their home districts.”

He added, “Washington, DC is a ‘swamp’ and it is unfair to have to stand trial before a jury that is reflective of the swamp mentality.”

The indictment proves the government has been weaponized, DeSantis claimed.

“One of the reasons our country is in decline is the politicization of the rule of law. No more excuses—I will end the weaponization of the federal government.”


GOP field’s Jan. 6 tightrope
Axios Sneak Peek

By Zachary Basu
July 24, 2023
Donald Trump’s rivals are at risk of pleasing no one with their response to his potential third indictment — empowering the GOP front-runner by refusing to condemn him while irking a base that sees no room for nuance on Jan. 6.
Why it matters: Leading GOP candidates have argued in recent days that Trump’s actions on Jan. 6 were irresponsible but not criminal. Straddling that line won’t make the race any closer — but it could backfire if special counsel Jack Smith unveils an indictment as damning as his last one.

  • Smith’s inquiry extends far beyond Trump’s literal words on the day of Jan. 6 — the center of Republicans’ defense — with at least three sets of charges under consideration: deprivation of rights, conspiracy to defraud the U.S. and witness tampering.
  • Testimony has been supplied by virtually every figure involved in Trump’s months-long campaign to overturn the election — and thousands of pages of new evidence are still streaming in.

Driving the news: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis told comedian Russell Brand on Friday that Jan. 6 “was not an insurrection,” accusing the media of concocting the narrative that it was “a plan to somehow overthrow the government.”

  • Earlier last week, DeSantis said Trump “should have come out more forcefully” to call off the mob attacking the Capitol — but downplayed the notion that the president’s inaction was criminal.

Former Vice President Mike Pence, who has testified to the grand jury and whose life was threatened by Trump supporters on Jan. 6, echoed that sentiment on CNN yesterday.

  • “While his words were reckless, based on what I know, I am not yet convinced that they were criminal,” Pence said.


These 5 States Are Doing the Most to Target LGBTQ People

Anti-LGBTQ legislation is at a record high — and these states are responsible for the worst of it



The recent wave of anti-LGBTQ legislation feels alien to civil rights advocates who have been working in Florida for decades. Joe Saunders, who served for two years in the state legislature before joining Equality Florida as its senior political director, says Florida was once “often thought of as the hope of the South.” In 2017, a record 15 Republican lawmakers signed onto a bill that would enshrine into law protections for LGBTQ Floridians in areas like housing, employment, and areas of public accommodation, such as the right to be served at a restaurant. “It feels like a rubber band has been released, and we are slingshotting into a different version of Florida than we’ve ever been,” Saunders tells Rolling Stone. “It is jarring to come out of this last session where there were 22 pieces of anti-LGBTQ legislation that were filed. That is the most we’ve ever had on record. People are shocked. They’re afraid, and they’re very, very angry.”

As DeSantis gears up for a 2024 presidential campaign, LGBTQ Floridians worry that attacks on equality may continue proliferating next legislative session. The governor has hinted at further actions to punish Disney for its criticism of the “Don’t Say Gay” law as the company sues DeSantis’ administration in court for retaliation. The governor installed an oversight board to monitor Disney World’s special district after stripping its self-governing status and has floated the possibility of building a prison near the Orlando theme park to scare off potential visitors. Meanwhile, Florida’s regulations on trans youth health care have also made it extremely difficult for adults to transition: The new law bans gender-affirming treatments from being prescribed through telehealth — for trans people of all ages — and prohibits nurse practitioners from administering transition care. What’s more, it requires trans patients to sign an informed consent form before they can be prescribed treatment, a form that has yet to be created by state medical authorities.

The evolution of the Republican Party under the influence of former President Donald J. Trump calls into question a post-Watergate norm.

Jonathan SwanMaggie HabermanCharlie Savage and 


Mr. Trump’s closest rival, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, has flatly said he does not believe the Justice Department is independent from the White House as a matter of law, while leaving it ambiguous where he stands on the issue of presidents getting involved in investigation decisions.


Long before Ron DeSantis made the regulation of college curricula a stump-speech talking point, WILLIAM F. BUCKLEY JR. launched a conservative crusade to transform universities into bastions of right-wing ideology.


JUNE 2023


Subsequent generations, many led by young journalists inspired by Buckley, followed his example, stretching the limits ever further.

In 1974, members of the Yale chapter of Young Americans for Freedom—the right-wing campus organization founded in 1960 at the Buckley family estate in Sharon, Connecticut—invited the troublesome genetic race theorist William Shockley to debate whether “society has the moral obligation to diagnose and treat tragic racial I.Q. inferiority.”

A massive protest ensued—students, Black and white, appalled that Shockley was being given a platform at Yale, filled the auditorium and drowned out Shockley by shouting and clapping. Yale’s president denounced the protesters for choosing “stormtrooper tactics in preference to freedom of speech.” (Never mind that it was the crank Shockley who advocated what he called a “voluntary” plan to pay “low-I.Q. women to undergo sterilization.”)

Out of this came a new style of speech, the right-wing meme of “free speech”—free, that is, to speak in ways all but guaranteed to stir up audiences and very possibly lead to physical harm.

In the Reagan years, activists at Dartmouth founded a publication, Dartmouth Review—the title and format modeled on Buckley’s National Review—with encouragement and support from Buckley and others. Its most ambitious editors, Dinesh D’Souza and Laura Ingraham, aimed not merely to provoke but to incite. And they could do so from the safety of an autonomous operation, independent of the college.

Thus emboldened, the editors infiltrated a meeting of the Gay Students Association, for example, and secretly taped its proceedings, leading to a criminal investigation by the New Hampshire attorney general’s office for privacy violation—this during the AIDS epidemic, when animus toward gay men had reached dangerous levels. In the end, the attorney general did not seek charges. The Review also published attacks mocking affirmative action with crude parodies of Black speech.

And thus a new idea was born—of ideological difference waged as outright warfare, a conflict in which real harm might be done, perhaps should be done. It was a battle of ideas in which trophies were won, the bright scalps of victims. Over time, these methods became more reckless. In 2014 D’Souza pleaded guilty to breaking campaign finance laws and was sentenced to five years’ probation. Ingraham, closer to our day, was one of Fox News’s 2020 Biden election deniers, even as she privately acknowledged—in telltale emails—that the claims of a fraudulent vote count were false.

From the Trump years onward, the contagion has spread, and with it has come the latest twist in the ideology of conquest.

First, it starts with creating campus tempests, sowing chaos among the libs. The word goes forth that a controversial speaker will be coming to give a lecture, triggering a backlash within the university community—for instance, the federal judge who recently clashed with law students at Stanford and became a near folk hero to conservatives, who championed him as a “canceled” martyr while the accusing students were depicted as a wild-eyed mob. In other instances, reports are leaked by students to ideologically friendly publications, such as the Washington Free Beacon, which warn against the growing specter of “woke” oppression.

The second tactic aims for permanence, appropriating the very methods and approaches that Buckley said “collectivists” were practicing in 1949, only to the opposite effect. In this case, the indoctrination comes from the right—and is even more ambitious because its intention is to infiltrate the entire structure of the educational system, top to bottom.

It begins again in Florida, where DeSantis, looking hard by all accounts at the presidency, has become the nation’s education warrior in chief, wielding his executive authority over a large system of public institutions, from preschool through universities, appropriating power in ways Buckley would never have dreamed he could—or should. The data-immersed analysts at Vox have dissected “DeSantis’s war on ‘woke’ in Florida schools” and sorted it into a catalog of proscriptions: “strict book bans in various school districts…rolling back diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives; reducing tenure protections; and review[ing] core courses to make sure they’re free of ‘liberal indoctrination.’ ”

It doesn’t stop at K–12, of course. DeSantis has backed a political ally, the Senate flameout Ben Sasse, former president of a small Lutheran college in Nebraska, to be president of the University of Florida in Gainesville, at a salary of $1 million a year. DeSantis has gotten even bigger headlines for targeting New College of Florida, a tiny liberal arts school in Sarasota, a haven for students such as X González, one of the most political and vocal survivors of the horrific Parkland slaughter, now a leader in the gun control movement. With its progressive curriculum and largely left-leaning student body, New College was ripe for attack.

If DeSantis seemed to show little interest in what was going on in Ave Maria’s classrooms, he more than made up for it here, firing its president, whom he replaced (at more than double the pay) with another political crony, and adding to its board of trustees six veteran culture warriors culled from the upper tiers of the New Right brain trust.

One, Charles Kesler, comes from the Claremont Institute, the conservative West Coast stronghold that used to be aligned with Trump but has since switched to DeSantis and has opened a new office in Tallahassee. Another is Christopher Rufo, whose crusade against “critical race theory” has made him, at 38, a household name on the right. A third is Matthew Spalding, a dean at Hillsdale, the famous Michigan college, whose influence penetrates the inner sanctums of the political-cultural right. The plan, it soon emerged, was to remodel quirky “woke” New College into a Gulf Coast version of Hillsdale.

What DeSantis is doing in Florida, other governors, moguls, and cultural gadflies are constructing or contemplating in states across the nation, from the civics institute at the University of Tennessee Knoxville to a Hillsdale extension campus in Washington, DC.


Florida taxpayers pick up bill for Ron DeSantis’s culture war lawsuits

Governor’s Disney battle and extremist policies are met with costly lawsuits covered by ‘blank check’ from Republican legislature

Maya Yang

June 4, 2023


DeSantis declares

CNN Opinion

By Richard Galant

May 28, 2023


It’s on.

The contest for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination heated up last week with the official entry of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former President Donald Trump’s strongest challenger in the polls. But his debut with Elon Musk on Twitter Spaces was “disastrous,” according to SE Cupp, and “riddled with technical issues.” The bigger question, she wondered, is what DeSantis actually stands for.

“Being unmoored from principles and riding the wave of fleeting culture wars might be a strategy to evade tough policy questions or to please the Fox News crowd, but it comes at the expense of alienating actual conservatives, moderates and independents, all of whom he’ll need to win an election.”


What the Trump Indictment Means for Ron DeSantis and the G.O.P.



Instead the plausible line of attack against Trump in a Republican primary has always been on competence and execution, with his moral turpitude cast as a practical obstacle to getting things done. And as others have pointed out, including New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait, nothing about defending Trump against a Democratic prosecutor makes that case any more difficult to make.


Readers have an Answer for “Woke” Ron DeSantis

March 26, 2023


To the Editor:

Re “Trying to Define a Label,” by Ross Douthat (column, March 19):

It is hard to overstate the irony of Ross Douthat’s offering a definition of the “‘woke’ worldview.” “Woke” is not a worldview. It is a boogeyman, a pejorative epithet, a cudgel used by conservatives like Mr. Douthat to strike fear in people’s hearts.

But I accept his invitation to embrace the label if he agrees that the idea of being “woke” means being open to the fullness of truth about our shared past, present and future: the good, the bad, the ugly.

Wokeness, if anything, is understanding that our pluralistic, complex democracy must be open to all our voices, perspectives, stories, histories and visions of the future, even and especially those of the most marginalized. In this way, wokeness is a commitment to truth and justice as the American way.

Staying asleep among the ranks of the unwoke is a choice. It may be more comfortable. It is also fundamentally undemocratic and un-American.

Philip Walsh
Cape Elizabeth, Maine


To the Editor:

Ross Douthat defines “woke” for his readers, expressing a lot of progressive hopes, desires and accomplishments. But woke certainly doesn’t lend itself to an easily understood or repeatable definition. Mr. Douthat is making it much harder than it needs to be.

Forget all the verbal salad. Woke stresses the value and goodness of being human, emphasizing common human needs, and seeking rational ways of solving human problems. It is similar to humanism. “Woke” has become and should be called “neo-humanism.”

Neo-humanists, stand up and be heard!

Liane M. Lee
Winter Park, Fla.


To the Editor:

Ross Douthat takes a liberal argument to the extreme. In his mind, “woke” now means intolerance, rigidity and a narrow view of the world — terms best understood to be the hallmarks of conservatism.

To understand that persistent systemic racism and various sexist beliefs permeate our history is a simple idea that allows us to better appreciate the bias of the status quo. We are in a better position to make changes when we see the world from this larger context.

All movements overshoot. There have been mistakes: Intolerance of conservative speakers on campuses, defining our need to demilitarize the police with the ill-stated “defund the police” are examples. But these errors do not condemn us to surrender the basic idea — seeing the world as it truly is in all of its complexity.

No liberal I know discounts biological differences. To become aware of the range of sexual orientations is no sin. Today young people see sex as it is, infinitely more complicated and mysterious.

In sum, you either become better informed or you remain asleep. And you stop blaming the world’s problems on those who have learned to appreciate seeing more of reality.

Bill Fyfe


To the Editor:

Ross Douthat attempts to define the word “woke” but doesn’t mention the origin of the word. The word “woke” came from Black American slang in the mid-1900s, meaning awake or aware. During the 2014 Black Lives Matter protests in Ferguson, Mo., many Black Americans used the phrase “Stay Woke” to encourage others to become aware of the injustices happening to Black people in America.

In recent years, white conservative commentators like Tucker Carlson have co-opted the word as a catchall for cultural progressive politics that scare them.

The word “woke” was created by and for Black people, to describe a specific cultural message, not for the use of aggrieved cultural commentators.

Ethan Ready
Chapel Hill, N.C.


Zelensky Has an Answer for DeSantis

In an interview, the Ukrainian president makes a pragmatic case for continued American support.

MARCH 20, 2023


Imagine that someone—perhaps a man from Florida, or maybe even a governor of Florida—criticized American support for Ukraine. Imagine that this person dismissed the war between Russia and Ukraine as a purely local matter, of no broader significance. Imagine that this person even told a far-right television personality that “while the U.S. has many vital national interests … becoming further entangled in a territorial dispute between Ukraine and Russia is not one of them.” How would a Ukrainian respond? More to the point, how would the leader of Ukraine respond?

As it happens, an opportunity to ask that hypothetical question recently availed itself. The chair of the board of directors of The Atlantic, Laurene Powell Jobs; The Atlantic’s editor in chief, Jeffrey Goldberg; and I interviewed President Volodymyr Zelensky several days ago in the presidential palace in Kyiv. In the course of an hour-long conversation, Goldberg asked Zelensky what he would say to someone, perhaps a governor of Florida, who wonders why Americans should help Ukraine.


DeSantis Will Betray Ukraine for MAGA Votes

The two GOP front-runners are selling out a democracy at war.

Tom Nichols

The Atlantic Daily

March 16, 2023 Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis have signaled their willingness to sell out Ukraine to the Kremlin, and the Russians have gleefully taken notice. How could this be happening in the party of Ronald Reagan?


The DeSantis Mini-Trump Strategy


Think of yesterday as the first real day of the 2024 campaign for the Republican presidential nomination.

And it didn’t go well at all for Ron DeSantis.

Making his first foray into foreign policy, the Florida culture warrior managed simultaneously to look both weak and out of his depth. David Frum summed it up: “Message: Tough on drag queens. Weak on national security.”

On yesterday’s Bulwark Podcast, the Wapo’s James Hohmann said that DeSantis’s attempt to align himself with Donald Trump made him look “small and unserious.”

“It’s bad policy and bad politics,” he said. “He’s being a follower, not a leader.”

DeSantis’s dismissal of Russia’s savage and illegal invasion of Ukraine as a “territorial dispute” was widely panned, even by some of his allies.

In National Review — which has been more or less a DeSantis fanzine — Noah Rothman dismantled what he called the governor’s “weak and convoluted statement” and predicted that it “is likely to haunt DeSantis in both the primary campaign and, should he make it that far, the general election.” (Others at NR, however, recognizing that turds do not polish themselves, were quick to assure readers that DeSantis’s comments shouldn’t be taken all that seriously.)

DeSantis’s rivals, and what remains of the GOP foreign policy establishment, also pushed back hard on the Trump/DeSantis Surrender Caucus, although few of them managed to mention Trump by name. Former New Jersey governor Chris Christie said that DeSantis had shown “a naïve and complete misunderstanding of the historical context of what’s going on.” His fellow Floridian, Marco Rubio, told an interviewer: “I don’t know what he’s trying to do or what the goal is.”

In contrast to DeSantis and Trump, Mike Pence doubled down on his defense of the American-led alliance with Ukraine: “There is no room for Putin apologists in the Republican party. This is not America’s war, but if Putin is not stopped and the sovereign nation of Ukraine is not restored quickly, he will continue to move toward our NATO allies, and America would then be called upon to send our own.”

Lindsey Graham went even further, comparing DeSantis to arch-appeaser Neville Chamberlain. “The Neville Chamberlain approach to aggression never ends well,” said Graham. “This is an attempt by Putin to rewrite the map of Europe by force of arms.”

Graham calls out DeSantis’ comments on Ukraine/Russia. “It’s not a territorial dispute. It’s an act of blatant aggression…it’s a big miscalculation to assume it’s not in our national interest.”

The NYT notes that although DeSantis did not explicitly call for cutting off aid to Ukraine, “by downplaying the stakes of the conflict to the extent he did, Mr. DeSantis angered many Republicans in the foreign policy establishment who said he had talked himself into a corner.”

Even if he were to change his mind about Ukraine, how would a President DeSantis rally the public and Congress to send billions of dollars and high-tech weapons for a mere ‘territorial dispute’ of no vital interest to America?”

(Make sure you read Will Saletan’s thorough fisking of “The Ukraine Untruths of Disingenuous DeSantis” in today’s Bulwark.)


All of this is obviously problematic for the Quasi-Also-Frontrunning GOP candidate.

But there’s another reason yesterday was a bad day for DeSantis—because it exposed one his glaring vulnerabilities.

Trump himself was quick to jump on DeSantis’s comments by pointing out DeSantis’s transparent strategy: “[He’s] following what I am saying. It is a flip-flop. He was totally different. Whatever I want, he wants.”

Nikki Haley quickly amplified Trump’s point.

“President Trump is right when he says Governor DeSantis is copying him — first in his style, then on entitlement reform, and now on Ukraine. I have a different style than President Trump, and while I agree with him on most policies, I do not on those. Republicans deserve a choice, not an echo,” Haley said in a statement.

This might stick, because this is the essence of the DeSantis playbook: clinging as tightly as possible to Trumpism so that he will be acceptable to the MAGAverse. That means not allowing any daylight at all between himself and Trump. Which means that DeSantis believes that the road to the presidency lies in sticking to his disciplined script as Trump’s Mini-me.

It’s a brilliant strategy, until it’s exposed. Then it just looks silly.

“What,” writes Nick Catoggio, “would you get if you asked ChatGPT to craft a Ukraine policy optimized to pander to Tucker Carlson viewers rather than to maximize American interests?”

“This. You’d get this.”

DeSantis wants voters to see him as a fighter, a punch-the-libs-in the face warrior, but what if he’s just a jumped-up chatbot? Here’s Catoggio:

DeSantis’ entire career might profitably be understood as a ChatGPT response to populist inputs. In 2012, when grassroots right-wingers were spoiling for entitlement reform, ChatRON spat out some argle-bargle about raising the retirement age. In 2022, when grassroots right-wingers were spoiling for culture war, it spat out contempt for an alphabet soup of woke acronyms (CRT, DEI, ESG …) while assuring voters that entitlements are safe.

In 2012 ChatRON would have insisted on projecting strength abroad, treating dovishness as distinctive of Democratic weakness. In 2022 it’ll mumble something about “blank checks” and ending endless wars.

It may seem sentient but it’s really just autocomplete on steroids.


So, I’m having flashbacks…

Until one night in February 2016, Marco Rubio was the future of the GOP, and a plausible alternative to Donald Trump.

But then Chris Christie unmasked him.

During a debate in New Hampshire, Christie noticed that Rubio was robotically repeating his same talking points, and he called him on it. As the Guardian reported, Rubio “quickly pivoted to his talking points, going on to repeat the same answer three times in a row in a brutal back-and-forth. About half an hour later, he repeated the same talking points yet again.”

“There it is, there it is,” Christie said. “The memorized 25-second speech. There it is, everybody.”

And Rubio was finished.

Exit take: If he continues his Mini-Me campaign, ChatRON can expect his own Rubio-moment.


BONUS: David Frum asks: “Is Ron DeSantis Flaming Out Already?”

He notes that the DeSantis statement on Ukraine “was everything that Russian President Vladimir Putin and his admirers could have wished for from a presumptive candidate for president.”

But he senses a much larger problem.

A number of positions that DeSantis is pushing — on abortion, guns, and education — are highly unpopular even in Florida.

Even more dangerous for his presidential prospects, writes Frum, are “the popular positions he does not hold.”

What is DeSantis’s view on health care? He doesn’t seem to have one. President Joe Biden has delivered cheap insulin to U.S. users. Good idea or not? Silence from DeSantis. There’s no DeSantis jobs policy; he hardly speaks about inflation. Homelessness? The environment? Nothing. Even on crime, DeSantis must avoid specifics, because specifics might remind his audience that Florida’s homicide numbers are worse than New York’s or California’s.

DeSantis just doesn’t seem to care much about what most voters care about. And voters in turn do not care much about what DeSantis cares most about.


The Real Danger Isn’t Trump or DeSantis

It’s the illiberal desires of Republican voters. 

Shark vs. Alligator vs. Gorilla

I get the appeal of the question. It’s like wondering who would win in a fight—a gorilla, an alligator, or a shark.

But it’s the wrong question because the danger doesn’t emanate primarily from the politician.

The danger emanates from the will of the voters.

We have a number of potential Republican candidates who fit squarely in the middle of America’s political tradition:

Nikki Haley. Brian Kemp. Tim Scott. Mike Pompeo. Glenn Youngkin. Mike Pence.

You may have ideological or policy disagreements with all of them. You might vastly prefer a replacement-level Democrat to any of them. Fine. But none of those figures either has a record of, or is campaigning on a promise to, walk American back from the tradition of liberal democracy.

On the other hand, the field has just two candidates who are explicitly positioning

themselves as . . . I’m struggling to be charitable here . . . in tension with the underpinnings of liberal democracy.

Donald Trump is in tension with the idea that electoral outcomes must be honored.

Ron DeSantis is in tension with liberalism itself. Here I’m not talking about DeSantis policies that you might merely dislike or think are harmful. I’m talking about policies which seek to rewrite the relationship between government and the private sphere.

Here’s Chait on what DeSantis is doing to Disney:

On Monday . . . DeSantis appointed a board to oversee Disney. The Central Florida Tourism Oversight District is stacked with DeSantis cronies, including Bridget Ziegler, a proponent of his education policies; Ron Peri, who heads the Christian ministry the Gathering USA; and Michael Sasso, president of the Federalist Society’s Orlando chapter.

While the board handles infrastructure and maintenance, DeSantis boasted that it could use its leverage to force Disney to stop “trying to inject woke ideology” on children.

“When you lose your way, you’ve got to have people that are going to tell you the truth,” DeSantis proclaimed. “So we hope they can get back on. But I think all of these board members very much would like to see the type of entertainment that all families can appreciate.”

It is worth pausing a moment to grasp the full breadth of what is going on here. First, DeSantis established the principle that he can and will use the power of the state to punish private firms that exercise their First Amendment right to criticize his positions. Now he is promising to continue exerting state power to pressure the firm to produce content that comports with his own ideological agenda.

Pour encourager les autres.

There’s no way to understand this except as a move toward Orbánism. And when you package it with DeSantis’s attempts to use the power of the state to control what can and can’t be said in classrooms and on university campuses and his attempt to regulate the media, we are way, waaaaaay outside the American political tradition.

We’re in new territory.

So don’t ask, “Who is worse, Trump or DeSantis?”

Instead ask, “What do Republican voters want, liberalism or illiberalism?”

And this is the rough answer we have:

The two illiberal guys get 75 percent of the votes. That’s the problem.

Look: Is Trump more dangerous than DeSantis? If you gave me a button that would make one of them president and told me I had to pick, I’d take DeSantis, based purely on (1) cognitive functioning; (2) Trump’s history of actively attempting a coup; and (3) a thin hope that maybe DeSantis doesn’t mean the Orbán stuff and is just maneuvering opportunistically.

But I wouldn’t feel great about (3). Because when the Republican base is given a choice between the conservatism of the last 50 years and an illiberal attempt to renegotiate the foundations of our governing compact—they want the illiberalism. And it’s not even close.

So even if DeSantis is a pure opportunist, the opportunistic path might well be the illiberal path.

At this point, I want to make clear that I’m not wishing for some Never Trump fantasy version of a Republican. I’m not saying, Gee, if only St. Larry were the nominee, then we’d be fine.

Just give me Brian Kemp. Or Mike Pence. Or, God help me, Glenn Youngkin. Because as conservative as those guys are, and as much as you or I might not like their politics, none of them has betrayed an interest in renegotiating the liberal democratic order.

Only two of the potential candidates have. And those two guys are running away with it.

That’s the revealed preference of Republican voters. And that’s the real danger, irrespective of who wins the nomination.




Florida bill proposes bloggers covering DeSantis must register with state, slammed as unconstitutional

A free speech watchdog called the bill ‘fundamentally un-American’


Florida bans AP African American studies

Jan. 24, 2023

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis defended his administration’s decision to block a course on African American studies from the state’s public schools. He said teaching Black history is required in Florida schools, but the Advanced Placement course amounted to ‘indoctrination.’ The fight is just the latest in the ongoing identity and culture war in Florida that has become a hallmark of DeSantis’ agenda.

For a transcript of this story, click here.


Trump team struggles to consolidate support ahead of S.C. event

Two prominent South Carolinians are considering a run, complicating the picture for the former president


“The Trump campaign is trying to consolidate support. But I don’t think it is going to be as quick as they think,” said one state lawmaker, who has so far resisted the appeals of the Trump team and heard mutterings of support for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R). “Right now my constituency is as excited about Ron DeSantis as Donald Trump, if not more.” [Boldface added]



From: “Michael Waldman, Brennan Center for Justice” <>
Date: February 21, 2023
Subject: The Briefing: DeSantis’s voting stunt goes bad

“Brennan Center for Justice The Briefing”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is adept at showy stunts designed to appeal to his conservative base (the war on Disney, “where woke goes to die,” and so on). Meanwhile, his allies quietly assure national reporters that he has a strong, normal record of governance in Florida (restoring the Everglades and the like).

On the topic of voting, unfortunately, one of DeSantis’s Fox News–friendly exploits has had real and crushing consequences.

Start with the basics: Florida long had the country’s worst felony disenfranchisement law, a direct remnant of the Jim Crow constitutions of the late 1800s. People with felony convictions were banned from voting for life. That added up to about 1.7 million otherwise eligible voters — disproportionately Black men, given the imbalances of the criminal justice system.

The Brennan Center challenged this law for over two decades. We helped write and pass a constitutional amendment in 2018 to end that system of disenfranchisement. Amendment 4 won with 64 percent of the vote (which means that 1 million DeSantis voters supported it). The governor and the legislature responded by passing a law to gut the reform, denying the right to vote unless an individual had paid all fines and fees dating back decades. It is painfully hard for many individuals to find out what they owe and whether they are eligible to vote. No office keeps a list.

That’s where DeSantis’s latest stunt comes in. You see, he has refused to embrace Trump’s Big Lie of a stolen 2020 election. In fact, he bragged that Florida’s election practices were the “gold standard.” How then can he pander to an electorate fully frothing over Trump’s Big Lie?

To do so, DeSantis established an election police force to look for “fraud.” Last year, he announced, to great fanfare, that he had found the crooks who were undermining our democracy — 20 people ineligible to vote under state law, but who had registered and voted anyway.

That’s a tiny number for a big dragnet. Worse, many of the accused genuinely believed they were eligible to vote. Some had been told they could vote by government officials. Most, if not all, had also received voter information cards in the mail. Yet nobody in Florida’s government told them their rights had not been restored. They didn’t knowingly commit voter fraud — they made a mistake.

Some local prosecutors refused to bring charges, pointing out that, for example, “in all of the instances where sex offenders voted, each appear to have been encouraged to vote by various mailings and misinformation. Each were given voter registration cards which would lead one to believe they could legally vote in the election.”>

Hence the newest twist. The governor tried to take the cases out of the hands of these fair-minded prosecutors but was stymied by state law. So the legislature has now passed a law granting statewide prosecutors the power to act against certain election-related crimes that are “facilitated by or connected to the use of the Internet.” Voters pick the local prosecutors. The state attorney general, a DeSantis ally, oversees statewide prosecutors.

Why is DeSantis doubling down on this stunt? Partly, he wants to score political points with believers of the Big Lie. But it’s more than that, and worse than that. His current campaign to publicly punish people who are ineligible to vote yet accidentally do so because they are confused or misled about their eligibility will chill many legitimate voters with past convictions from exercising the franchise. It seeks to intimidate other Floridians with past criminal convictions from even trying to vote.

It’s voter suppression. And that’s no stunt.


‘Florida’s Trump’: DeSantis focusing on nonexistent issues as election looms, critics say

in Miami, Florida
 Jan 17, 2022


Opponents say the governor leans on ‘wokeness’ and culture war issues that are irrelevant to the real needs of Floridians

[Moreover,] DeSantis has focused on the bogus issue of election fraud.

Florida’s new restrictive voting rights law limits drop boxes and mail-in ballots, and Democrats have recently been overtaken by registered Republican voters for the first time.

In a red-meat-for-the-base address at the opening of Florida’s legislature last week, themed around the concept of “freedom” but described by critics as a fanfare of authoritarianism, DeSantis gave a clear indication of the issues he believes are on voters’ minds. They include fighting the White House over Covid-19, ballot box fraud, critical race theory in schools and defunding law enforcement.

Yet to opponents of the Donald Trump protege, who is tipped for his own presidential run in 2024, DeSantis has chosen to focus on problems that don’t exist in Florida, either to distract from real priorities or to bolster the Trumpist base and improve on his narrow victory over the Democrat Andrew Gillum in 2018.

“We have real issues that need to be addressed, and the governor is chasing boogeymen,” said Carlos Guillermo Smith, a Democratic state representative and frequent DeSantis critic.

“We have an affordable housing crisis with exorbitant rent hikes of up to 30% that people can’t afford. We have surging property insurance rates. We have a healthcare crisis with 22,000 Floridians with disabilities who are on waitlist to get the services that they deserve.

“And Governor DeSantis is focused on fighting ‘wokeness’ in the 2022 legislative session, with the Stop Woke Act. He wants to focus on fighting critical race theories in our schools. That does not exist. It’s not even a thing.”

A wave of criticism followed DeSantis’s speech, which came at the start of a 60-day legislative session in Tallahassee during which Republicans will also pursue a Mississippi-style 15-week abortion ban under the guise of “reducing fetal and infant mortality”.

Critics say that while DeSantis has been promoting the rights of citizens to make their own decisions, he has become increasingly authoritarian. He stripped local authorities of powers to instigate coronavirus mitigation efforts and banned school districts from imposing mask mandates.

In south Florida in particular, schools say they are “struggling to cope” with staff shortages and student absences.

“DeSantis is, to many Republicans, Florida’s incarnation of Donald Trump, his successor, his alter ego, his clone, whatever you want to call it,” said Darryl Paulson, professor emeritus of government at the University of South Florida.

“He’s certainly run very much in the style of Trump, this in-your-face, critical stance he has taken on a lot of issues, which have ingrained him with Republicans. But the GOP in Florida makes up a little less than 40% of the electorate, so to win a statewide race you need to appeal to the no-party-affiliated, independent voters.

“How do you appeal to those when you run a campaign trying to bash other people in the face, so to speak? That can play well with your base but not so well especially with independents.”


DeSantis reverses himself on coronavirus vaccines, moves to right of Trump

In a potential wedge issue for the 2024 primary, DeSantis is attacking the life-saving covid shots he once praised and promoted
Top White House official: DeSantis ‘is a divider’

Top White House official: DeSantis ‘is a divider’


Senior White House official Anita Dunn on Wednesday called Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) a divisive figure when asked to contrast President Biden with his potential 2024 rival.

“He is a divider. He looks for places to go, divide the people of Florida, to try to line up one side against the other,” Dunn said at an event hosted by Axios. “That’s just very different from the way Joe Biden sees the world, and certainly very different from the way Joe Biden defines the role of president of the United States.”

Dunn, one of Biden’s longest-serving aides, argued that Biden believes in trying to unite the country, saying he ran for office in 2020 to “heal the soul of the nation,” unify the nation and rebuild the middle class.

The Biden White House has had an adversarial relationship with DeSantis for months, with the two sides clashing over the governor outlawing mask mandates in schools, passing legislation to restrict discussion of sexual orientation in the classroom and sending migrants to Democratic areas via private planes.

Biden, at a fundraiser on Tuesday for DeSantis opponent Charlie Crist (D), called the Florida governor “Donald Trump incarnate.”


Florida migrant-moving company gave GOP cash, has ties to DeSantis’ immigration ‘czar’ and Rep. Matt Gaetz

Vertol Systems, which has lavished money on Republicans, was once represented by Gaetz and his former law partner, who now works for DeSantis.


Is Ron DeSantis the Future of the Republican Party?

September 13, 2022


Here is Trump, but more strategic about his targets; Trump, but restrained enough to keep his Twitter accounts from suspension; Trump, but not under federal investigation.

Among DeSantis’s most trusted advisers was [Matt] Gaetz, a fellow young Florida congressman and Fox super-regular who had Trump’s ear. [Gaetz, devoted Trump booster, 2020 election denier, and under investigation for procuring sex with an underage female] reportedly sought a pardon from Trump].

If DeSantis has proved himself a true believer, it is in himself more than any cause. “I think he stumbled into this,” Curbelo, the former Florida congressman, told me of DeSantis’s forays into culture warfare, crediting the governor for his political dexterity in making conservative red meat sound like common sense. 

The governor’s approach to voting issues is especially instructive. Shortly after taking office, he moved to restrict the recently restored voting rights of people with felony convictions, enshrined in a 2018 ballot measure, by requiring those with serious criminal histories to fully pay court fines and fees before re-enfranchisement. His emphasis on scattered episodes of possible fraud has appeared to be situational, highlighted by the creation of an Office of Election Crimes and Security and an announcement in August that more than a dozen former felons were being arrested for illegally voting. (In media interviews and court filings, some of the offenders have claimed they were effectively entrapped, encountering no issue when they sought to determine if they could vote and learning of an eligibility problem only upon their arrest.) When several people from the Villages, the vast Central Florida retirement community that skews Republican, were arrested for trying to cast multiple ballots in the 2020 election, DeSantis did not convene a news conference.

In Florida, DeSantis has aligned closely with Moms for Liberty, a nonprofit formed last year “to stand up for parental rights,” joining DeSantis to oppose school mask and vaccine mandates and “woke” incursions into the classroom. 

The governor’s high interest in transgender issues is both relatively recent and entirely consistent with trend lines in the party, drawing in traditional religious conservatives and a newer breed of online brawlers attuned to viral snippets of perceived liberal excess.

DeSantis’s war on “woke math” has followed a similar trajectory. After his administration rejected 28 textbooks in April for trafficking in “prohibited topics,” a Miami Herald and Tampa Bay Times investigation found that a vast majority of state reviewers reported no evidence of such issues. “We have unqualified people given access to determine what textbooks are permissible,” Anna Eskamani, a Democrat in the Florida House, told me. “It’s about instilling a hyperconservative, Christian-nationalistic generation. That’s 100 percent what their goal is.” Eskamani is among a large segment of Democrats who now call DeSantis “borderline fascist,” as she put it, a selective protector of freedoms more interested in pummeling opposition than shrinking government.

From the stage [at a recent Pittsburgh rally], DeSantis suggested that the times demanded a little daring. Threats were everywhere. Bold offensives were necessary. The hour had come, he said, pulling from scripture, to “put on the full armor of God.”

“Stand your ground, stand firm, don’t back down,” DeSantis said as he closed, nodding a little at his own words. “We can do this.”


Interested in  a buttoned-down Trump clone, Ivy League style?

Presenting Ron DeSantis, mini-Trump presidential aspirant, ever ready to run against against democracy, voting rights, civil rights, women’s rights, teachers’ rights, students’ rights, LGBTQIA+ rights, public safety, you name it.

Ron’s litmus test – whatever shameless message it takes to become Trump’s political heir.  



Gov. Ron DeSantis is endorsing President Donald Trump’s fight to hold onto his job, floating the idea that GOP-controlled legislatures in battleground states won by Democratic nominee Joe Biden could appoint Trump electors and override the popular vote., Nov. 8, 2020


At CPAC 2021, presidential aspirant DeSantis cited the moves Florida has made since the presidential election in 2000, bragging about the removal of local election officials since his tenure began, and his resistance to pressure to expand mail-in voting ahead of last year’s election., Feb. 27, 2021



Ron DeSantis Going ‘Full Donald Trump’ Won’t Work

Will Ron DeSantis create his own cult of weird meanness the same way Trump has? New Abnormal host Andy Levy weighs in. 


Gov. DeSantis is seen as an heir to Trumpism, strategist David Jolly says

August 23, 2022

Heard on Morning Edition

4-Minute Listen

NPR’s Rachel Martin talks to former Florida Republican Rep. David Jolly, who’s an analyst for NBC, about the rise of Gov. Ron DeSantis to become a potential presidential candidate.

In a playbook Republicans across the country are using after President Joe Biden’s decisive victory in November, DeSantis announced his support for new restrictions on voting by mail and on ballot drop boxes, needed, he claims, to clean up election nightmares that have plagued the state’s reputation since the neck-and-neck George Bush vs. Al Gore fight in 2000.
  • There’s a bill already filed in the Florida Senate that would change the rules on vote-by-mail requests to be made every election year instead of every two years — and retroactively cancel requests already made for 2022 races. Now that the Florida Legislature has convened, expect more changes to SB 90 as it moves through the committee process over the next two months.
  • The November elections were almost flawless by Florida’s standards. Voting occurred without a hitch and Republicans did well, ousting two Democrats from Congress and gaining seats in the state Legislature. Yet, the governor claims changes are needed to safeguard the sanctity of future elections.
  • But his pious words about “integrity” and “transparency” in reality will make it more difficult for Floridians to participate in the voting process.
  • That isn’t our idea of reform — far from it.Editorial: DeSantis calls it election integrity. It’s voter suppression. 
  • The Palm Beach Post Editorial Board,, Mar. 2, 2021

May 6, 2021 / Updated May 6, 2021

Florida is the latest Republican-led state to pass new voting restrictions months after former President Donald Trump began making unfounded claims the 2020 presidential election was stolen from him.

Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida signed new voting legislation into law on Thursday. It enacts restrictions on voting by mail and at drop boxes, which Democrats and activists warn could suppress voter turnout.

Georgia passed its own restrictions in March, prompting a pushback from Democrats and activists that ultimately resulted in a handful of major corporationsdenouncing the move and Major League Baseball moving its All-Star Game out of the state. A push for new voting restrictions in Texas, which could be the next state to enact similar measures, has also prompted businesses to speak out.

Read More

DeSantis, a Republican, signed the bill, which was passed by the GOP-controlled legislature last month, live on Fox News’ “Fox & Friends” during an interview with the show’s hosts. [I]n conservative circles, . . . he’s seen as one of the top Republicans jockeying for a future presidential bid. Fox & Friends has become a mainstay for Republican politicians, and a show former President Donald Trump has lavished with praise.

DeSantis’ signature enacts a host of changes into Florida’s election laws, including limits on where drop boxes could be placed, restrictions on who can drop off a voter’s ballot, a mandate that drop boxes be staffed while open, new powers for partisan poll watchers as well as a requirement that voters must request to vote-by-mail more frequently.

Democrats have also taken aim at the broader changes, joining with voting-rights groups to cast the changes as political retribution after Democrats posted strong vote-by-mail turnout in the 2020 election, and arguing the restrictions will have an outsized effect on minority voters.

The bill “seeks to silence voters’ voices based on what they look like or where they come from,” voting- and civil-rights activists from more than 20 local and national groups — including the NAACP and the Florida chapters of the ACLU and All Voting is Local — wrote in a letter to DeSantis sent before he signed the bill.

They added that “Black and brown voters” are more likely to work longer hours, live in larger households and “rely on community voter registration drives to access the ballot, making these restrictions especially unfair.”

“This is a blatant and calculated attack on the right to vote,” NAACP President Derrick Johnson said in a statement. “We should be working to expand access to voting to strengthen our democracy, as opposed to restricting and limiting the America people’s sacred right to participate in elections. This new bill is a horrifying reminder at the fragility of democracy.”

The League of Women Voters of Florida, Black Voters Matters Fund, the Florida Alliance for Retired Americans and others announced shortly after the bill became law that they are suing over the law, arguing that it violates the constitutional rights of Floridians.

Rep. Charlie Crist, D-Fla., who announced his gubernatorial bid against DeSantis this week, called the law “pathetic” in a statement.

Many voters sought out drop boxes instead of voting through the mail last election, particularly amid concerns about the efficiency of mail service during the pandemic.


As Gov. Ron DeSantis consolidates his power in Florida, some local officials rebuke his leadership style

ByTim Craigand

Meryl Kornfield

August 15, 2021


Much of the recent hostility has centered on efforts by DeSantis, a possible GOP candidate for president in 2024, to prevent local governments from implementing coronavirus restrictions, including mask and vaccination mandates and occupancy limits. Some school officials are openly defying his ban on mask mandates; DeSantis has responded by threatening to withhold their salaries.

To Kriseman and other local leaders, DeSantis’s efforts to block them from deciding how to protect their residents during the pandemic is just the latest insult in a historically bad 2½-year relationship with Tallahassee.

Even before the pandemic, local officials say, DeSantis and his allies in the Republican-controlled legislature had worked to gut powers that cities and towns had been granted under home rule.

Read More

Between 2017 and 2019, Florida legislators proposed 119 bills to preempt local authority, according to Integrity Florida, a nonpartisan research group.

Some of the bills were priorities of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a conservative think tank that uses state legislatures to try to shift national discourse and policies to the right.

While many of DeSantis’s earliest battles involved fights with mostly Democratic mayors and relatively liberal urban voters, the latest disputes over how to respond to the delta variant and resurgence of coronavirus cases has unnerved even some GOP elected leaders.

Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernandez, who represents a heavily Republican community in Miami-Dade County, said he now views DeSantis’s actions as an affront to the bedrock Republican tenet of home rule.

Hernandez (R), who has been critical of DeSantis’s approach to the pandemic for months, said he wants to impose a mask mandate for his community but is being blocked by DeSantis’s executive orders prohibiting local officials from doing so.

“He’s a dictator,” Hernandez said. “It’s a shame because we’re paying the price.”



September 4, 2021

Just days after Texas’ unprecedented, restrictive anti-abortion law took effect, Republicans around the country are looking to import it. “GOP officials in at least seven states, including Arkansas, Florida, South Carolina and South Dakota, have suggested they may review or amend their states’ laws to mirror Texas’s,” write WaPo’s Meryl Kornfield, Caroline Anders and Audra Heinrichs.

We can’t help but notice that many of those states have something in common: Republican governors with 2024 ambitions.

— Florida Gov. RON DESANTIS said his state would have to “look more significantly” at how Texas handled it, adding: “I welcome pro-life legislation,” he said. “What they did in Texas was interesting.”


Sept. 29, 2021: 

DeSantis: “Yeah, I’m not considering anything beyond doing my job, we got a lot of stuff going on in Florida.”


At the end of another extremely friendly interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity in which he boasted about his state’s COVID-19 response—despite having one of the highest death rates in the country—DeSantis was asked if he is harboring any presidential ambitions.

“I’m not considering anything beyond doing my job,” DeSantis said before adding: “I want to make sure people are not supporting critical race theory!”


And the fate of mini-trump presidential aspirants?  Hmm . . . seems like the Big Lie responds only to one, the most un-republican, anti-democratic of them all:


October 5, 2021

Trump remains the GOP alpha, and it is fascinating to watch the rest of the pack circle around him. Trump gave a not-so-subtle hint to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to stay out of the 2024 race. 

“If I faced him, I’d beat him like I would beat everyone else,” Trump told Yahoo Finance late last week. “I think most people would drop out, I think he would drop out.”

Hear that, Ron? Mike [Pence]? Anyone else?

CNN’s What Matters

By  Zachary B. Wolf

Opinion: The scandal involving Ron DeSantis and the silenced professors just got worse


Nov. 4, 2021


Letters from an American, Heather Cox Richardson, November 8, 2021

In Florida, Trump loyalist Roger Stone is threatening to run against Governor Ron DeSantis in 2022 to siphon votes from his reelection bid unless DeSantis promises he won’t challenge Trump for the Republican nomination in 2024. 


The Complicated Truth About Trump 2024

The former president may already be running for president again—or it may be a lot of bluster.

November 21, 2021

Privately, [Trump] has been dismissive of maybe his most formidable potential rival for the 2024 party nomination: DeSantis. When DeSantis’s name pops up in conversations, Trump is prone to reminding everyone in earshot that his endorsement in Florida’s 2018 GOP gubernatorial primary lifted DeSantis over the presumed favorite, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, one person close to the former president told me. Trump “reminds everybody that he made” DeSantis, this person said. “There’s no doubt that Trump made him, and no doubt that Ron resents that he gets reminded of that all the time.”


Governor Ron DeSantis’s latest flexes are surprising public health officials, voting rights experts, and state lawmakers alike.


JANUARY 19, 2022


DeSantis’s false heroism on the COVID-19 front comes as the governor, who is up for reelection this year and is widely seen as a presidential hopeful come 2024, is seemingly trying to perpetuate his ironclad control by targeting the voting process.

He recently proposed a congressional redistricting map that egregiously favors Republicans. Democrats also decried the map as a flagrant violation of the state Constitution’s Fair District standards and Voting Rights Act.

“This map dilutes the power of minority voters,” Miami attorney Ellen Freidin, who leads the advocacy group charged with ensuring the Fair Districts amendments are implemented, told the Miami Herald. “It reduces the number of districts in which African Americans could elect a representative of their choice by 50%, and reduces voting power of Hispanic citizens despite the dramatic growth of the Hispanic population in Florida over the last 10 years.”

DeSantis’ proposed election police force alarms voting rights advocates

By Steve Contorno and Fredreka Schouten, CNN

Updated  January 20, 2022

Florida could become the first state in the country with a dedicated police force to investigate election fraud under a proposal that has become a top priority of Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis.

The proposal has concerned voting rights advocates, local election officials and Democrats, who fear the scope of this police force’s new mandate could lead to voter intimidation. If approved, the new office would have a 52-member team, including 20 sworn police officers, to “investigate, detect, apprehend, and arrest anyone for an alleged violation” of election laws.

“They don’t have a lot of safeguards to keep this from being politicized and weaponized,” said Brad Ashwell, the Florida state director of the voting rights group All Voting is Local.

DeSantis is asking lawmakers to set aside $5.7 million to create the Office of Election Crimes and Security and give the executive branch unique and unprecedented power to look into voting irregularities, despite little evidence of widespread voter fraud in his state.

Read More

Why Ron DeSantis wants to form an election security police force

The Repubican said last week that the new office would “ensure that elections are conducted in accordance with the rule of law” and “provide Floridians with the confidence that their vote will matter.”

Establishing an office that ultimately answers to the governor with powers to investigate election crimes is unprecedented at the state level, voting rights experts say.

DeSantis’ proposal represents “an escalation in the broader attempt to sow doubt in the integrity of our elections,” said Wendy Weiser, vice president of democracy at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University’s law school. It’s unusual, she added, because “in the American system, we separate law enforcement functions from political functions.”

The governor first announced the proposal in November as supporters of Donald Trump pushed for Republicans to investigate the former President’s unfounded falsehoods about election fraud. Even in Florida, where Trump won by a historically wide margin, conservatives spent the fall knocking on doors in communities all over the state, hoping to find evidence of fraud that could convince leaders to conduct a review of the 2020 vote totals.

Trump ally Roger Stone, a Florida resident, threatened in October to run against DeSantis in 2022 if the governor didn’t support an audit of the state’s election.

DeSantis, widely considered a future GOP contender for president, has dismissed those demands as unnecessary in Florida, which he has said is a voting model for the country. Nevertheless, he has pushed for new voting measures that he said will prevent election fraud.

Florida law enforcement agencies, local election officials and state prosecutors already have the power to enforce election laws in Florida. The unit DeSantis has proposed would report to the Department of State, an agency overseen by the governor and administered by Secretary of State Laurel Lee, a DeSantis appointee.

DeSantis spokeswoman Christina Pushaw said the new office would like to hire people “who have experience and familiarity with election law,” such as former employees of the Department of Homeland Security, the federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and the Department of Justice.

In December, Lee addressed a gathering of Florida election supervisors and offered more details about how the office would work, said Joe Scott, the elections supervisor in Broward County. He said he grew alarmed after listening to Lee.

“It sounds like they are going to focus on grassroots organizations — the type of organizations that go out and do voter registration drives,” he said. And he worries that the potential for criminal prosecution will “intimidate people into not bothering” with electoral work.

The League of Women Voters of Florida typically registers thousands of voters each year in the state, said Cecile Scoon, a Panama City civil rights lawyer who serves as its president. If DeSantis succeeds in establishing a new elections security office, “it’s going to chill the behavior” of third-party groups such as hers “because we don’t want to be accused” unfairly of illegal activity, she said.

“We’ve had almost zero fraud, almost zero problems, so you are asking yourself: ‘What are they going to be looking for?’ ” Scoon said. “When you create an office to stamp out something, they are going to look for it — even if there is nothing there.”

Scott, a Democrat, said he’s skeptical of an elections police force that’s controlled by a DeSantis appointee.

“This is Gov. DeSantis’ political police squad. That’s what this is,” he said. “You shouldn’t have partisan election officials directing an agency like this.”

Republican lawmakers have reacted cautiously to the governor’s proposal. The top Republicans on the House and Senate election committees did not respond to phone calls from CNN. Speaker of the House Chris Sprowls previously said he would evaluate the idea but was uncommitted.

State Rep. Evan Jenne, the House minority leader, called DeSantis’ idea: “A solution looking for a problem.”

“If this had come on the heels of a massive scandal, I wouldn’t be so against the idea,” Jenne said.

The unit would have latitude to probe allegations of voter fraud in the state as well as take over other law enforcement agencies’ investigations, according to the proposed legislation. DeSantis would also embolden this new force to watch over election officers and “conduct proactive information gathering and investigations to identify and prevent potential election law violations or election irregularities.”

Wesley Wilcox, a Republican who runs elections in Marion County, Florida, said he was taken aback by what he called the “tough” wording.

“It kind of makes supervisors, in my mind, almost look like bad guys in this process,” he said.

The Florida Supervisors of Elections, the group that represents all 67 county election officials in the state, is waiting to evaluate a concrete legislative proposal before taking a formal position, said Wilcox, the organization’s president.

In the past, top Republicans have turned to state law enforcement to investigate their vague allegations of election irregularities.

With his race headed for a recount in 2018, then-Gov. Rick Scott accused “unethical liberals” of trying to steal a US Senate seat from him and he requested that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement conduct a criminal probe into a South Florida elections office. The investigation was ultimately dropped.

Just before the 2020 election, DeSantis questioned the legality of former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s offer to raise funds to pay the court debts of felons so they could vote. Calls for an investigation ultimately landed in the lap of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which again found no evidence of wrongdoing.

Pushaw seemed to confirm that the later episode could have fallen under the jurisdiction of DeSantis’ new elections force, had it existed.

“The proposed Office of Election Crimes and Security is intended to investigate possible violations of election law and deter potential violations,” she said, adding: “Florida law explicitly prohibits ‘vote-buying’ and ‘vote-selling,’ ” which is what Republicans accused Bloomberg of violating.


The candidate from Fox

The New York Times, On Politics

Jan. 31, 2022


DeSantis has shrewdly cultivated the right-wing media — and Fox News above all.

It began in 2012, when DeSantis was an unknown candidate for a U.S. House seat in Florida. Somehow, he managed to score an appearance on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show, where the nervous-looking, 33-year-old Iraq veteran spoke about then-President Barack Obama and his supposed lack of support for Israel.

DeSantis won that race, and the relationship blossomed over the ensuing years. When DeSantis ran for governor in 2018, he appeared regularly on Fox in what former aides acknowledged was a strategy aimed at securing the primary endorsement of the network’s No. 1 fan. Sure enough, Trump endorsed him, and DeSantis went on to defeat Andrew Gillum, the Democratic nominee, by fewer than 33,000 votes.

Lately, it often seems like Fox News is promoting another campaign: DeSantis’s thinly disguised bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024.Last year, The Tampa Bay Times revealed that various Fox shows requested the Florida governor appear on the network 113 times between November 2020 and the end of February 2021 — almost once a day. The Times quoted emails from Fox staffers gushing about DeSantis, with one producer calling him “the future of the party.”In response to the Tampa Bay paper, Fox said it “works to secure interviews daily with headliners across the political spectrum, which is a basic journalism practice at all news organizations.”

Why Trump Pantsing Graham Once Again Matters in 2022
February 2, 2022 
Trump is focused on himself and his own backward-looking grievances in ways that create problems for other Republicans.Divisions over Trump’s election-stealing grievances are what helped elect two Democratic senators from Georgia.
Those grievances could potentially play a similar role in 2022 and 2024. This is part of why there seems to be more openness among GOP operatives and elites to a different standard-bearer in 2024 — someone like Ron DeSantis. 
DeSantis is clearly positioning himself as Trump’s heir, even if he might have to battle Trump directly to become that. He’s taken on all the positions, the authoritarian tendencies, the trolling politics.
But he’s not hung up on re-litigating the 2020 election or defending the insurrection. He is focused on using those lies to make democracy-undermining progress into the future — enacting voting restrictions, laying the groundwork for future election steals as so many other state-level Republicans are. But he’s not putting Republican officials on the spot, making them defend pardonsfor insurrectionists.
Voting Rights Lab: The MarkupA Weekly Election Legislation Update

February 7, 2022
Today is Monday, February 7. We are tracking 1,953 bills so far this session, with 458 bills that restrict voter access or election administration and 926 bills that improve voter access or election administration. The rest are neutral or mixed or unclear in their impact.
The Bad News: The Florida omnibus bills are here. Each chamber of the legislature introduced similar omnibusbills last week, which include provisions that increase the chance that absentee ballots will be rejected, threaten voters with a felony for returning ballots on behalf of neighbors, and create an Office of Election Crimes & Security to investigate possible election law violations. In West Virginia, legislators introduced a bill (H.B. 4518) that would effectively repeal automatic voter registration. In Missouri, legislators introduced H.B. 2633, which would ban electronic tabulators and require a hand-count in all races.

In his fight against ‘woke’ schools, DeSantis tears at the seams of a diverse Florida Some Republicans want to let parents sue schools and teachers over student ‘discomfort’By Tim Craig and Lori Rozsa

February 7, 2022


MIAMI — The school system in Florida’s most populous county includes students whose families moved here from 160 nations.

As part of the “stop-woke” agenda of Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), Florida lawmakers are now considering bills that would allow almost anyone to object to any instruction in public school classrooms. DeSantis wants to give people the right to sue schools and teachers over what they teach based on student “discomfort.” The proposed legislation is far-reaching and could affect even corporate human resources diversity training.

While the legislation mirrors national efforts to ban critical race theory in schools, the debate in Florida has turned especially raw and emotional, a testament to how central multiculturalism is to the state’s identity. Many parents and teachers — who note that critical race theory is not taught in Florida’s public schools and is already banned under state law — fear the legislation would force teachers to whitewash history, literature and religion courses.

In recent days, advocates on both sides of Florida’s ideological divide have said they are girding for a divisive political fight in a state where more than 1 in 5 residents are foreign-born and nearly half the population is Latino, Black or Asian American.

Political analysts say the battle could have wide-ranging impacts that carry overinto the 2022 midterms andDeSantis’s reelection campaign.

Florida voters have shifted to the right in recent elections. But many analysts remain skeptical that residents want to upend how cultural and ethnic histories are shared in classrooms and workplaces,raising questions about how far DeSantis can tug at the seams of Florida’s demographic makeup.

“A lot of people have been begging the Republican Party to be more inclusive, and if you look at the gains that were made in 2020, it was with Latino Republicans,” said Susan A. MacManus, a retired political science professor at the University of South Florida and a widely respected state political analyst. “But things change, and with the debate over [critical race theory] … we may see challenged doctrines with regards to party voting and ethnic voting, and the old tried-and-true explanations may no longer apply.”

Florida Democratic lawmakers, who have been in the minority for nearly a generation, argue that DeSantis is polarizing the state while positioning himself for a possible presidential campaign, where predominantly White, conservative voters will play a crucial role in deciding the GOP nominee.

“What is happening is our governor is competing with the governor of Texas over who will be the heir apparent to Donald Trump,” said Florida House Democratic Whip Ramon Alexander, who is Black. “It’s all about who can go to the farthest extremes of the Republican Party.”

Even some Florida Republicans lament DeSantis’s approach, which they describe as divisive and a step back from how past state GOP leaders have governed. “Our party has become mean, and driven by emotion on whom we dislike,” said Alex Patton, a Gainesville-based Republican consultant and pollster. “But that is the driving force in American politics right now.”

Under the Senate bill, Florida businesses could not mandate that employees attend diversity trainings that cause any individual to “feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any form of psychological distress.” Employees who are distressed by a training could file a lawsuit against their employers.

Lisa Schurr, an attorney who lives in Sarasota, and three other women recently founded Support Our Schools, a statewide group that advocates for what they describe as diverse, fact-based school curriculums and textbooks.

“We are all appalled about what is happening in Florida,” said Schurr, 62. “They don’t want our kids to be critical thinkers. … And to say [a student] can’t feel discomfort. What about the child of color? What about the gay child? You don’t think this legislation is making them feel discomfort? You don’t think they have felt discomfort for all of their lives?”

Kim Hough, a Melbourne mother aligned with another newly formed group, Families for Safe Schools, said she is alarmed at how quickly the conservative parental rights movement transitioned into a major, statewide political force.

“We are all trying to raise socially responsible human beings, in addition to well-educated human beings, so I don’t understand the purpose of withholding information from them,” said Hough, 48, a former Republican who recently became a Democrat and decided to run for the Brevard County School Board. “If DeSantis gets reelected in 2022, I really fear the rules will be so stringent that local school boards won’t even be able to function at that point, and the state will be the end-all-be-all of all rules.”

From: Charlie Sykes – The Bulwark <>

Date: March 1, 2022 DeSantis Goes Small

By Amanda Carpenter


During the 2022 CPAC conference, there was a lot of talk about fighting for freedom against power-hungry tyrannical thugs. You’d be wrong to think it was about Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, though.In their minds, Vladimir Putin isn’t the enemy at the top of their minds. It’s woke libs.

To get the gist, watch the speech delivered by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who came in second in the CPAC straw poll behind former President Trump. (Or don’t, toplines are ahead.) He asked that conservatives have the courage, like him, to stand up to cancel culture, corporate media narratives, big tech, and the “Brandon Administration.”

And at the end of his speech, referencing verses from Ephesians about putting on the “full armor of God” and wielding a “shield of faith” to protect from “flaming arrows” DeSantis promised to “lead the charge,” “stand our ground,” and “hold the line.” 

“We have only begun to fight!” he vowed.Never mind the people in Ukraine actually fighting for their cherished freedoms against an enemy intent on destroying their lives. When folks, myself included, pointed out the glaring omission from a governor who, gosh, sure seemed excited to talk about fighting for freedom, his press secretary said it wasn’t in his purview.

Not his problem.

As a measly governor, there’s no need for him to waste his breath showing solidarity with Ukrainians. Got it. DeSantis’s speech is indicative of what’s driving a lot of so-called conservatives these days. The mentality was on full display throughout CPAC. They think their domestic political opponents here at home, whom they’ve irrationally billed as maniacal, power-hungry tyrants, are the most urgent threat they face today.And they don’t care much about anything or anyone else.


CPAC 2022: US conservatives show little interest in Ukraine

Anthony Zurcher

February 28, 2022


Some of the top Republican officeholders in the party, like Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis, Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Florida Senator Rick Scott, didn’t mention Ukraine at all in their speeches. 

Donald Trump, who took the stage on Saturday night, offered a quick condemnation of the invasion, but spent more time defending his interactions with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that led to his first impeachment and his statements earlier this week calling Russian President Vladimir Putin a “genius”.

He added that Nato nations and current US leadership were dumb. 

One of Mr Trump more loyal supporters, Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz, went further, questioning why the US should be “footing the bill for Ukraine” by imposing sanctions that could damage the American economy.

POLITICO Florida Playbook:

The DeSantis touch

April 5, 2022

by WKMG’s Mike DeForest:
“In a move criticized by advocates of Florida’s open government laws, Gov. Ron DeSantis’ staff intervened in a public records request related to a former appointee who is reportedly connected to a federal sex trafficking investigation, documents obtained by News 6 show. The governor’s secondary ‘review’ of state spending records delayed the release of those documents for more than two months, records confirm. That delay may have violated Florida’s public records laws, according to some legal experts familiar with the matter.”


Keep and eye on Florida

April 26, 2022

The imperial governor.

CNN’s Maeve Reston noted recently that DeSantis’ rise puts him on a collision course with Trump. His ability to mold the state government around him is something Trump could only dream of, and that would never work in Washington.

Reston wrote: DeSantis’ imperial governorship reached new heights (last week) when the actions of the Florida legislature demonstrated how he is not only bending 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 appears all but certain to dilute the voting power of Black Floridians. On the same day, the legislature carried out DeSantis’ threat to punish Disney for speaking out against the law he recently signed that limits certain classroom discussions about sexual orientation and gender identity.

I asked CNN’s Steve Contorno, who covers Florida and DeSantis, what we know about how DeSantis might act as president, since a series of recent actions seem designed to stoke divisions.

I brought up the election security laws, his “parental rights” campaign that also stokes divisions on LGBTQ rights and the fights he’s picked with big business.

Here’s what else Contorno mentioned:

Anti-mandate. Beyond reopening Florida before most other states and generally dismissing expert guidance, he also called lawmakers into a special session last year to ban any entity – from schools to private businesses – from requiring vaccines and threatened violators with fines.

He also banned governments from enacting pandemic mitigation measures, and he has gone after schools that have attempted to require students to wear masks.

And he has surrounded himself with people who have pushed questionable Covid-19 remedies and eschewed prevention measures, most notably appointing Dr. Joseph Ladapo as surgeon general.

Anti-woke. He has been at the forefront of attacking “wokeness” and critical race theory, signing a new law that bans businesses and schools from teaching about White privilege.

His administration also recently rejected math textbooks from publishers, claiming some included elements of critical race theory and emotional and social learning.

Anti-tech. Last year, he championed a bill that goes after Big Tech companies for supposedly censoring Trump and other conservative voices, and allows Floridians who feel they are wronged by social media companies a path to sue for retribution. A federal judge blocked the law.

Anti-protest. In response to the killing of George Floyd, while other states reviewed policing policies, DeSantis called for and signed a so-called anti-riot bill that opponents said targeted peaceful protesters. A court blocked that law as well.

DeSantis has also rejected the entire concept that there was an insurrection at the US Capitol and called the commemoration of January 6 this year “nauseating,” blaming the media for focusing too much on the effort to block counting of the electoral votes.

Presidents have more power than just about anybody in the world, but less total control than most people realize. Without a sea change in the Senate, DeSantis – if elected president – would have trouble getting much sweeping change accomplished in Washington, just like Biden has and Trump did.

But it’s easy to imagine very different uses for the massive federal apparatus if someone with such talent for the politics of division were to assume the office.


What Makes DeSantis Scarier Than Trump

New Abnormal hosts Andy and Molly think the Florida guv is smarter than Trump—but also a lot scarier, too. Plus, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul talks Trump and SCOTUS.

The Trailer: How DeSantis and other GOP candidates are ditching ‘legacy media’ for friendly outlets


As the number of local media outlets shrink, and as alternative media outlets boom, Republicans are finding less use for what they disparagingly call “fake news” — or, more diplomatically, the “legacy media.” Social media, and decades of investment in conservative outlets, have made it easy to reach voters outside of the “legacy” filter.

In Pennsylvania, four Republicans running for governor briefly demanded a Republican debate moderator as a condition for facing off; Doug Mastriano, who won the nomination, kept media outlets out of his closing rallies. In Missouri, two leading candidates in the GOP’s U.S. Senate primary avoided televised debates; one of them, ex-Gov. Eric Greitens, only committed to a debate run by two conservative news sites.

“Donald Trump might be the last president to be elected with a majority of CNN hits,” said Matt Schlapp, the president of the American Conservative Union and its CPAC conferences. “There is just so much hostility within legacy media toward people with our point of view that you do have to ask yourself — after all these experiences, is it even worth it to try?”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), who had selected Levin to moderate two of the debates, presided over an “invite-only” conference at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. While a few more outlets were permitted to cover his dinner speech on Saturday, DeSantis talked proudly about keeping them out of the day-long conference — the debates, speeches from legislative and statewide GOP leaders, and talks by prominent conservative pundits.

“We in the state of Florida are not going to allow legacy media outlets to be involved in our primaries,” DeSantis reportedly told the crowd of more than a thousand conservatives, who had paid at least $100 to attend the summit. “I’m not going to have a bunch of left-wing media people asking our candidates gotcha questions.”

A campaign spokeswoman followed up those remarks with a tweet aimed at “fake news journalists” — a picture of DeSantis onstage.

“How’s the view from outside security?” she asked.

The campaign committed to the bit; questions about how the credentialed outlets were selected, or whether anyone was recording the debates for the record, went unanswered. Reporters who were kept outside wrote stories anyway, cadging recordings of the conference and talking to attendees and candidates.

Those stories portrayed DeSantis as a growing force in the party, the only one Florida conservatives considered as an alternative to Trump, who’d once blocked media outlets he didn’t like from his rallies. Humbling the “legacy media” was, obviously, a political winner. The Floridian, whose founder was named the 2011 CPAC “blogger of the year,” mocked the “media meltdown” from “a small group of liberal crybaby bloggers,” while publishing some of the only videos that made it out of the hotel ballroom.

Conservatives who covered the conference said that they were frustrated with what they saw as relentless media negativity, pointing to the coverage DeSantis got during the covid-19 pandemic, when he lifted restrictions far more quickly than governors in more liberal states.

“I think that there’s a level of the mainstream media that, instead of highlighting good things, wants to destroy things, in a way,” said Will Witt, who had founded The Florida Standard last month after more than four years working at the conservative video outlet Prager U. “I want to highlight the good things about the state of Florida, the things that are happening here that are actually making people’s lives better, like the economy. I want to put out straight news reporting, not a narrative.”

That’s how plenty of readers and voters feel about their political leaders — Democrats, too. Since last summer, after the violent withdrawal of Americans and refugees from Afghanistan, some liberals blamed negative media coverage for the president’s falling poll numbers on what they said was a “both-sideism” that the news media engaged in after relentlessly negative coverage of Trump.

Democrats tend to have higher trust in “the media,” defined broadly, than Republicans; according to Gallup’s semiannual survey of faith in public institutions — and that trust spiked during a presidency that referred to critical outlets as “the enemy of the people.” In last week’s update, Gallup found that Democrats were seven times as likely to have faith in newspapers as Republicans, and three times as likely to have faith in TV news.

Those skeptical Republicans now have an array of sources that deliver political news they trust, including podcasts and TV shows that interview Republicans without what DeSantis called “gotcha” questions. This spring, when the Republican National Committee voted to stop participating in the Commission on Presidential Debates, the reasons ranged from criticism of Trump, to a schedule that started after early voting began in some states, to how some of the commission’s members had criticized the former president.

“Our optimistic, conservative Republican message resonates with Americans,” RNC chair Ronna McDaniel wrote after the vote in Breitbart, founded 15 years ago as a bulwark to legacy media coverage and narrative-spinning. “That’s why many of our nation’s most powerful institutions — like Big Tech, academia, and some legacy media outlets — work overtime to ensure that we aren’t given a level playing field.”

Cutting some media out of the process wasn’t an RNC invention. It’s also been 15 years since Democrats running for president agreed not to appear in a debate hosted by Fox News, and just three years since the party’s last group of presidential candidates debated whether even to appear in Fox-hosted town halls.

Republican media skepticism runs deeper, and the tools are there to work around the outlets they’ve stopped trusting. In March, when a super PAC called A Stronger Texas Fund hosted a debate in the state’s deep red 8th Congressional District, the organizers tapped ex-Fox Nation host Lara Logan as their moderator. Logan’s discursive questions sometimes threw off the candidates.

But the organizers were thrilled. Logan, they said, had focused on topics that other media might not have bothered with, like a donation that Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) had made to Morgan Luttrell, the eventual winner of the race.

In Florida, it wasn’t clear what all the Republicans in the congressional debates had been asked. But the coverage on conservative outlets was positive, and highlighted the differences that Levin — and DeSantis, who sat in as a moderator briefly — had gotten the candidates to clear up. On Saturday night, when DeSantis told his familiar story of standing up to liberal orthodoxy, he might as well have been talking about the media blowoff.

“I have friends across the country,” DeSantis reportedly told his audience. “They say all they do is watch Florida, because they figure three months later, their state may get around and doing what we’re doing.


Is Ron DeSantis a Paper Tiger?

Republican elites are desperate to push Ron DeSantis. The Republican base wants the real thing.

The Bulwark

July 28, 2022


DeSantis stokes culture wars as 2024 profile grows


A Harvard CAPS-Harris poll released this week found that, without Trump on the ballot, DeSantis would lead his closest rival, former Vice President Mike Pence, by a 15-point margin.

“I do think that voters are going to have a hard time choosing between Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis because they are so similar in what they offer,” Schilling said. “I don’t think there is a DeSantis without Donald Trump opening that huge door for him . . . .” 


“DeSantis announces arrests in Florida for voting fraud”

Miami Herald:

Gov. Ron DeSantis announced the arrests of 20 people across Florida — spanning five counties, including Miami-Dade and Broward — on charges of voting illegally, the conclusion of a two-month investigation spearheaded by the governor’s newly-created state agency tasked with investigating election crimes.

DeSantis, in making the announcement Thursday afternoon in a courtroom at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, said there would be other arrests for people who cast ballots but were not eligible to vote in Florida for other reasons, including voters he said were non-citizens.

“If there are certain rules and regulations in place, if people don’t think that those are going to be enforced, you’re going to have more violations,’‘ he said. “That’s just the way it goes.”

Florida Department of Law Enforcement Acting Commissioner Mark Glass said that officers from FDLE made arrests Thursday in the Tampa, Orlando and Miami areas. FDLE spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger told the Herald that 17 people have been arrested so far: two in Miami-Dade, three in Broward, three in Palm Beach, four in Orange and five in Hillsborough. The suspects span ages 43 to 72. There was no immediate explanation for the discrepancy between the number of arrests DeSantis cited and the number of arrests provided by FDLE.

Plessinger did not provide the arrest affidavits for each person but said they were each being charged with one count of false affirmation in relation to voting or elections and one count of voting as an unqualified elector. She said they all voted in the 2020 election but did not provide the dates the alleged crimes were committed. DeSantis said the people arrested were disqualified from voting because they had been convicted of either murder or sexual assault and they do not have the right to vote. He said their rights were not automatically restored under Amendment 4, which excluded people that have been convicted of sexual assault and homicide from having their rights automatically restored.

The Guardian:

The governor released few other details about the charges, and indictments and warrants weren’t immediately available. That lack of detail is significant. The rules around voting with a felony are incredibly complex around the country, Florida included, and many people with felonies can be confused about their eligibility. There have been several examples, including in Florida, of illegal voting cases involving people who had been convicted of felonies that turn out to be people who were confused. People with felonies can make easy targets for prosecutors looking to make a voter fraud case since they are already being monitored.


Trump was Breitbart. DeSantis is Infowars

By Charlie Sykes


On yesterday’s podcast, the Wapo’s Phillip Bump discussed (among other things) Ron DeSantis’s strategy of appealing to the fringe.



A judge said Thursday that the law, which regulates race-based conversations in schools and businesses, violates the First Amendment.



Gov. DeSantis is seen as an heir to Trumpism, strategist David Jolly says

August 23, 2022

Heard on Morning Edition

4-Minute Listen

NPR’s Rachel Martin talks to former Florida Republican Rep. David Jolly, who’s an analyst for NBC, about the rise of Gov. Ron DeSantis to become a potential presidential candidate.

Gov. Ron DeSantis is battling what he calls “indoctrination” in schools. New laws have left many teachers questioning everything from pride flags to “The Great Gatsby.”


The changes come with significant stakes for school districts, which may be sued over violations to the law focusing on L.G.B.T.Q. identity. Within the first few weeks of school, teachers in some parts of the state have been asked to take down stickers showing support for L.G.B.T.Q. students, to review every book on their classroom shelves and, in at least one case, to remove rainbow colored paper from a classroom door after the decorations prompted a complaint from a parent, according to interviews with teachers, union officials and advocates for gay rights across Florida.

Nationwide this year, state lawmakers have introduced at least 137 bills seeking to restrict teaching on topics such as race, gender, L.G.B.T.Q. issues and American history, up from 54 last year, according to a report by PEN America, a free speech group. The bills, which overwhelmingly focused on K-12 schools and were sponsored almost exclusively by Republican lawmakers, most commonly addressed race. But an increasing number — 23 bills, up from five last year — focused on L.G.B.T.Q. issues, PEN America found.

“It’s opening a second front on public education,” said Jeremy C. Young, a lead author on the report, which identified seven bills that became law, including two in Florida. “Accusing public education of indoctrinating students on the basis of race, and then making the same accusation that they are indoctrinating them with L.G.B.T.Q. propaganda.”

Nowhere is that more visible than Florida, where Governor DeSantis has made issues surrounding the teaching of gender identity and race central to his platform, and has led the charge for parental oversight in education, amid a re-election campaign and, some political observers theorize, a run for president in 2024.

His office did not respond to requests for comment.

Read More

One of the new Florida laws, the Parental Rights in Education Act, bans instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade and says that instruction in older grades must be age appropriate. The law, nicknamed “Don’t Say Gay” by critics, also requires schools to notify parents about changes in student services, such as if a transgender or nonbinary student wants to use new bathrooms or locker facilities, or seeks to change their name or pronouns at school.

Another law, known as the “Stop WOKE Act,” limits teaching on race and racism, including prohibiting instruction that would compel students to feel responsibility, guilt or anguish for what other members of their race did in the past.

State officials have said that the Parental Rights in Education Act limits instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity, not mere discussion.

Still, the law has left some educators wondering: Where does discussion end and instruction begin?

“It was always written to be vague and to be sweeping in its effect, because the goal was the chilling effect,” said Joe Saunders, senior political director for Equality Florida, an L.G.B.T.Q. advocacy group that is suing the state.

The Florida Department of Education declined to comment, citing pending litigation.

Patricia Mazzei contributed reporting. Kirsten Noyes contributed research.

Florida let them vote. Then DeSantis’s election police arrested them.

BELLE GLADE, Fla. — When Leo Grant Jr. cast his ballot in the 2020 election, it was the first time the 53-year-old had ever voted — an act that made him feel like he was setting a good example for his three sons and fulfilling his role as a citizen.

But in August, three Florida officers showed up at his home near Lake Okeechobee in Palm Beach County as he was about to go bass fishing with a friend. They had handguns tucked into holsters strapped to their jeans and carried shackles.

Grant had committed a grave offense, they said:election fraud. He’d voted despite a sexual offense conviction two decades earlier in 1999. They placed handcuffs around his wrists and drove him to jail.

“I’ve been a good father and I follow the law,” he thought. “I do good for the community. And here they come to my house and pick me up for voting?”

Grant, a high-ranking officer in his local Freemasonry chapter, is one of 20 individuals — most of whom are Black — charged by an elections police force created by Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) to pursue allegations of election fraud and improper voting. Those arrested are all accused of voting in violation of a state law that forbids those convicted or murder or felony sexual offenses from casting ballots.

Yet, in the days that followed DeSantis’s campaign-style event to announce those arrests, cracks have begun to emerge in the state’s case amid intensifying questions about whether the governor and his election police unit have weaponized their new powers for political gain.

Read More

Several of those charged told The Washington Post that they were led to believe by election officials and voter registration groups that they were eligible to vote as part of Florida’s widely publicized push to restore the voting rights of most felons. They expressed despair that they could face prison time for simply misunderstanding the law.

Attorneys representing some of those being prosecuted said the state appears to have targeted individuals who made honest mistakes amid a shifting and confusing legal landscape. They are skeptical the cases will hold up in court, noting prosecutors will need to prove those arrested knew they were ineligible.

What’s more, those arrested had submitted voter registration applications that were processed by the state — a move that for many amounted to a green light that they were eligible. In Florida, the state Division of Elections is responsible for identifying who isn’t qualified to vote and would have been required to flag their applications. Attention has now turned to the state’s role is signing off on their registrations. Three were cleared in Broward County, where the local election chief at the time was Pete Antonacci — now director of the Office of Election Crimes and Security, who did not respond to a request for comment.

“If the state is unable to determine that these people were not eligible to vote, how on earth are these individuals themselves supposed to know?” asked Daniel C. Smith, a University of Florida political science professor and expert on state and national election laws. “It’s really unconscionable. … They’re punching down and targeting the low-hanging fruit.”

DeSantis has touted the prosecutions as necessary to protect the security of Florida’s elections. But there is no evidence that fraud marred the 2020 vote. The aggressive action by the new election crimes unit has drawn sharp criticism from voting rights advocates, who say DeSantis is using his power as governor to launch politically motivated prosecutions as he ramps up for a possible presidential run in 2024.

A DeSantis spokesman responded to a request for comment on the state’s role in approving voter applications and criticism of the election police unit’s tactics by referring to the governor’s previous remarks, in which he has indicated local election offices and individual voters bear responsibility.

“They did not get their rights restored, and yet they went ahead and voted anyways,” said DeSantis said in announcing the arrests on Aug. 18, flanked by more than a dozen Broward County Sheriff’s deputies. “And now they’re going to pay the price for it.”

But even some Florida Republicans are anxious that the state has gone too far in its attempt to promote the GOP’s embrace of “election integrity” in the wake of former president Donald Trump’s false claim that the 2020 vote was stolen.

More than 11 million people voted in the Sunshine State in the last presidential election, and DeSantis has acknowledged there is no indication that fraud at any significant scale took place.

“They have jobs. They have businesses. They have families,” said state Sen. Jeff Brandes (R). “And now all the sudden they’re being put under arrest for something they thought was doing their civic duty.”


“Nations reel and stagger on their way; they make hideous mistakes; they commit frightful wrongs; they do great and beautiful things. And shall we not best guide humanity by telling the truth about all this, so far as truth is ascertainable?”

— W.E.B. DuBois