Last month, the Leonids lit up the sky for starwatchers. Normally known as meteors, the English language has long applied the moniker of shooting star. Perhaps it is appropriate that these shooting stars appear in the November post-election period as certain corners of the media push what they think is a rising star. Perhaps the name is even ironic–Leonids–as it originates from the constellation in the sky from which the meteors seem to originate, Leo the Lion.
Indeed, he is riding high, this new Florida lion who defeated a retread. But who would put a retread on the car when the current tire purchased new has a few years of tread life left?
Florida is shot. But before the rest of the nation buys this pig-in-a-poke, let’s take a closer look at the manufactured meteoric governor arcing through the political skies.
The first thing you should know about Ron DeSantis is that he’s a bully. Take a look at this clip where he scolded teenage children for protecting their health in the midst of a pandemic.
But it goes much deeper than this. He targets the vulnerable in his efforts to increase his power and political influence. Cunning in his political calculations, he exploits the culture wars with efficiency and finesse. The “Don’t Say Gay” law was a brilliant stroke in appealing to the base of his political party across the nation to position himself as the alternative to a damaged former president who is unlikely to win a general election.
What will happen to LGBTQ youth under his law matters not to this governor. As his staff will hasten to explain, we should not take his rejection, his harsh words, or his Reaganesque indifference personally. “Ron hates everybody.” Nevertheless, they have their own support groups to work out the DeSantis Treatment they receive. “Loyalty and trust, that’s not a currency he deals in.”
That’s the second thing to know about Ron DeSantis. He lacks empathy. He’s wooden and awkward in his appearances that lack the control he usually exercises over his media conferences. His staff and guards carefully vet who is allowed to attend. Not only those who are deemed hostile, but also those who might ask difficult questions, are denied attendance to his almost daily performances around the state as he appears before carefully selected cameras to announce something that will benefit Florida.
Indeed, many political observers believe that once he has to campaign directly for national office and actually meet people, he will fail. From a New Yorker profile last June: “Nearly everyone I talked to who knew DeSantis commented on his affect: his lack of curiosity about others, his indifferent table manners, his aversion to the political rituals of dispensing handshakes and questions about the kids.”
The third thing to know about Ron DeSantis is that he brags about the Free State of Florida while restricting the freedom of Floridians. Laws he demanded from the Florida legislature over the past four years have included a bill that criminalized citizens’ First Amendment rights to assemble and petition the government, including a possible denial of Eighth Amendment rights to bail.
He contravenes the will of voters by removing elected officials with whom he disagrees. He took out the State Attorney for Hillsborough County, not for acts of malfeasance, misfeasance, or neglect of office, but because the official had expressed an opinion about the current state of law regarding abortion and transgender care and his discretion in deciding when to prosecute.
The fourth thing to know about Ron DeSantis is that he eagerly mucks with nonpartisan elections in his determination to impose his will upon Floridians, their own desires be damned. He interfered with school board elections by endorsing candidates in a partisan exercise in what Florida law specifies are nonpartisan elections.
It’s all part of his strategy to play the culture wars to further fame, glory, and power. It’s why he denounces CRT (Critical Race Theory) and avers that he will eradicate it from Florida schools, where you cannot find it. He has a law, passed under his insistence, to help with that.
To date, he mostly loses when his culture war laws are challenged in court. That’s not the point. The point is the notoriety he gains from sponsoring and advocating for the laws. Losing might even be a bonus as it inflames the self-perceived victimhood of the base he claims. Ron DeSantis is Trump without the flaws or so he would have you believe.
The fifth thing to know about Ron DeSantis is that he is a family man. Although some have tried to tie him to the indiscretions of Joel Greenberg and Matt Gaetz through sharing this photo on social media …
it doesn’t stick. This is a picture of three young pols, of the same age and party, like millions of photos people take and post these days. Unlike the other two, DeSantis prefers to spend his personal time with his wife and children.
There has never been a whiff of scandal about him regarding his personal behavior. Let’s be fair.
The sixth thing to know about Ron DeSantis is that, as coyly as he plays his presidential ambitions, as he pretends that all he cares about is governing Florida, as his wife is more determined than he is to take up residence in the White House, is that he was the first to say that a state legislature could override the will of the voters and award the electoral votes to the candidate of their choice, a position contrary to 250 years of our constitutional republic.
The seventh thing to know about Ron DeSantis is that he does not back parental rights. He advances the right of SOME parents to decide what ALL parents must do with their children. SOME parents decide what books ALL parents’ children may read. SOME parents decide what ALL parents will allow their children to know about our nation’s troubled racial history. SOME parents decide what ALL parents’ children will learn in school. SOME parents’ children must not be made to feel uncomfortable even if that causes discomfort to OTHER parents’ children.
But it’s par for the course for Florida’s rising star. Right on cue, the legislature is talking about carving out an exception to Florida’s resign-to-run law for the governor. Otherwise, he would be forced to choose between remaining governor and running for president.
What Ron wants, Ron gets. Everyone else be damned.
Is that really what you want, America?
Or will this shooting star, now blazing through the sky, burn out and disintegrate before it hits the ground?