On Wednesday evening, Ron DeSantis officially announced what has already been clear for months: He is running for the office of president of the United States in 2024. But rather than popping in to make the announcement on the constantly fawning Fox News, DeSantis took his announcement to what he viewed as an even friendlier stage: a chat with Elon Musk on Twitter.
Unfortunately for the Florida governor who squeaked into office with a 0.4% victory before being lauded as the future of the Republican Party, his big day smacked into Musk’s often expressed policy of “fail fast and fail often,” a philosophy that, like most things Musk, was actually lifted from someone else and exposed as facile foolishness years ago.
That foolishness bit DeSantis in the rear on Wednesday, leaving him caught between stretches of silence that lasted minutes at a time, or when all anyone could hear was Musk or others at Twitter mumbling about their inability to fix the problem. When the badly broken event occasionally got up and running, it was mostly Musk’s army of blue-check fanboys taking the opportunity to praise him for his mega-genius while DeSantis waited off to the side.
But by focusing on the disaster that is Musk’s destruction of Twitter, too many media outlets are missing the real disaster, which is that DeSantis is considered a viable candidate for president.
When his giant Starship rocket exploded in the skies over Texas (a full 40 seconds after SpaceX engineers punched the self-destruct button and the tumbling, out-of-control 5,000-ton rocket just kept on tumbling), Musk was quick to claim that the launch was a big success. He surely views Wednesday night as another big success. It was, after all, a learning experience. Now he can rush to his next big failure.
Not that most of the right-wing media gave the failure to launch any notice in the first place. Most just went right along pretending that things went peachy. Fox News, while taking a moment to poke fun at Twitter, never for a moment allowed any sign of criticism to be directed at DeSantis. Instead they gave him a nice soft landing for the evening, providing a safe space in which he could lie, lie, and lie again without any concern about correction.
Even during the Twitter event, there was no moment when DeSantis faced any pushback over his announced policies. Like CNN’s “town hall” event in which Donald Trump was given a hand-selected audience to gush over him and applaud his every utterance, no discouraging words or opposing viewpoints crept into the mangled Twitter event.
But DeSantis being coddled on Twitter and held aloft on Fox News is only to be expected. Articles like this one in The Washington Post are the real concern. Not only does the article completely bypass the issue of just how bad, how incompetent and bumbling, the launch really was. When it comes to DeSantis:
In other words: You can have Trump—even a better version of him—without actual Trump and all the baggage and chaos that comes with him. It’s the “Trumpism without Trump” argument we’ve suspected might surface, paired with a ding on Trump’s ability to lead.
The whole article is so concerned with the entirely inside baseball subject of how DeSantis is positioning himself relative to Trump without specifically calling out Trump that it never stops to talk about what DeSantis’ positions actually are, what they really mean, or how they would impact the nation.
DeSantis’ policies include banning books, forcing educational facilities to instruct along lines of ideological purity, using government power to punish organizations that dare to speak up, sending SWAT teams after people for voting, making diversity and equality programs illegal, and enforcing bigotry against groups that constitute a small minority of the populace.
These policies aren’t fascism-adjacent, or fascism-light: they are fascism. Textbook fascism.
Fascism that should be, and must be, recognized and denounced by the news media on every occasion when it is expressed. Treating Ron DeSantis as if he is an acceptable candidate in the mainstream of American politics is an act so dangerous that every red flag and fire alarm should be sounded. Disguising what’s actually happening by papering it over with the made-up term “Trumpism” is a deception America can’t afford.
This is not normal. Trump was not normal. DeSantis is not normal. This is America playing with the ideology that drove the worst disasters of the 20th century, disasters that destroyed lives in the most ghastly ways and in such colossal numbers that generations later, denial is almost an understandable response. With Trump the nation got its fingers burned; now DeSantis is offering to burn everything to the ground. That’s how he’s a “better Trump than Trump.”
Why isn’t this being called out? Why isn’t it the focus of every article that mentions DeSantis?
DeSantis represents exactly the ideology that came within a hair's breadth of ending the whole concept of democracy and freedom. That his campaign announcement was turned into farce through the technical and management failings of another bigoted egotist is amusing, but what DeSantis had to say, what he represents, is never funny.
If DeSantis is the future of the Republican Party, then that future is exactly the one that George Orwell envisioned when he said, “If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—forever.” Don’t worry about remembering this: DeSantis will probably put it on a hat at some point in his campaign.
Fox News may want that future. Some portion of those who supported Donald Trump in the last two elections clearly crave that future. And every time a report runs on DeSantis that treats him as if his policies are by any means acceptable, it brings us closer to that future.
DeSantis’ campaign may have gotten off to a hilariously bad start, but he won’t have Musk on hand to accidentally cut his microphone at every turn. His demands for more restrictions, more bigotry, more hate will be heard in this campaign. In fact they must be heard, because that’s what actual democracy, actual free speech, requires. But if the media can’t marshal the strength to repudiate DeSantis’ statements on the content rather than the delivery, we’re in serious trouble.