Depending on which lens you use to look at Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, you could be either terrified or find him to be terribly pathetic. He’s either the dark authoritarian monster primed to lead the Republican Party or a sad and desperate wannabe who is no more fit to lead the nation than he is to lead Florida.
If you were to audit DeSantis’ receipts on the issues he’s made his priority—battling “woke” Disney, immigration, gun laws, or African American history courses—you’ll find he’s as empty as a pinata without the candy. He’s a hollow man, an empty suit, a straw man, a tin god.
Let’s take the governor’s battle with Walt Disney World. Last year, Disney employees stood up to DeSantis and his notorious “Don’t Say Gay” bill, a law that bans public schools from discussing LGBTQ+ history and gender identity in classrooms. In response to the theme park’s pushback, DeSantis signed a bill erasing the company’s decades-long tax benefits as a special tax district.
RELATED STORY: College Board yanks Black writers, BLM from AP African American studies, adds ‘Black conservativism’
“I will not allow a woke corporation based in California to run our state … Disney has gotten away with special deals from the State of Florida for way too long,” DeSantis said, according to The New York Times.
What seemed like a win for DeSantis was, in fact, a loss for the taxpayers in the Reedy Creek Improvement District area around the park, left to pick up the pieces where Disney had paid before. As USA Today reports, those residents would not have to shoulder the costs of emergency services, road repair, and the district’s approximately $1 billion in debt—that would be the responsibility of surrounding counties.
After realizing that DeSantis’ bold move was actually a noose around the neck of the primarily Black and brown communities in Osceola and Orange Counties, the Times reports that the Florida legislature was forced to step in and allow Disney to keep its tax benefits, including its tax-exempt status and the ability to approve development plans without prior approval from local regulators. In exchange, DeSantis got control over the five members of the tax district. Woot woot!
Even Republicans were irritated by the bluster of DeSantis’ claim of a win. Anthony Sabatini, chairman of the Lake County Republican Party in Florida, tweeted:
“So basically Woke Disney gets to keep its nearly tax-free, regulation-free status—but with a different Board … And now they are not allowed to have an airport … What a massive capitulation this is … HUGE win for Woke Disney … BIG loss for conservatives.”
Then there’s DeSantis’ touchdown dance after claiming to get the College Board to redact parts of its AP African American History Course.
On Jan. 12, DeSantis wrote a rejection letter to the state College Board nixing the AP course, claiming it is “inexplicably contrary to Florida law and significantly lacks educational value.”
A month later, the College Board claimed that although it had made changes to the course’s curriculum—removing the Black Lives Matter movement, affirmative action, reparations, and LGBTQ life, as well as Black authors such as Ta-Nehisi Coates, Kimberlé W. Crenshaw, and bell hooks—they wholly denied DeSantis’ allegations that he was behind the changes.
A statement from the College Board reads in part:
“We deeply regret not immediately denouncing the Florida Department of Education’s slander, magnified by the DeSantis administration’s subsequent comments, that African American Studies ‘lacks educational value.’ Our failure to raise our voice betrayed Black scholars everywhere and those who have long toiled to build this remarkable field.
“We should have made clear that the framework is only the outline of the course, still to be populated by the scholarly articles, video lectures, and practice questions that we assemble and make available to all AP teachers in the summer for free and easy assignment to their students. This error triggered a conversation about erasing or eliminating Black thinkers. The vitriol aimed at these scholars is repulsive and must stop.
“While it has been claimed that the College Board was in frequent dialogue with Florida about the content of AP African American Studies, this is a false and politically motivated charge,” the College Board said. “We had no negotiations about the content of this course with Florida or any other state, nor did we receive any requests, suggestions, or feedback.”
Then there’s DeSantis’ big $1.5 million stunt, where he paid to fly a group of 48 immigrants—men, women, and children—to Martha’s Vinyard, Massachusetts.
Five months later, DeSantis is facing a federal class action lawsuit and the possibility of violating the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution, NPR reports.
Speaking on the House floor in Florida, Rep. Jennifer “Rita” Harris, a Democrat from Orlando, said, “Migrants are human beings and are deserving of respect and dignity, they can't give permission or consent if they don't understand what they're being asked.”
Lastly, DeSantis is pushing the notion that Florida is the new Wild West and a safe haven for Second Amendmenters. Florida House Republicans are currently pushing for a proposal that would allow Floridians to carry guns without state permits or gun safety training.
According to The Washington Post, during an election night event, the governor tried to ban all weapons from his Tampa Convention Center celebration. He was denied.
So, who is this potential presidential candidate? Is he the fascist we think he is? Or is he just another crackpot politician kissing up to the right-wing faction of the Republican Party? Is he the next Donald Trump? Or the next My Pillow Guy?
Only time will tell.