Ron DeSantis Wants to Be the New Conductor of the GOP Crazy Train
The competition’s stiff, but Florida’s Baby Trump just might be winning the competition to pander most aggressively to the party’s deranged base.
Republicans didn’t just lose the House, the Senate and the presidency—they lost what was left of their damn minds.
In the race to pass the most extreme and least constitutional new laws, Florida’s Baby Trump, Gov. Ron DeSantis, just might be conducting the crazy train.
Start with the law DeSantis signed on Monday that fines social media companies tens of thousands of dollars a day if they remove the account of a political candidate or officeholder and that’s intended to punish the ones that booted off Donald Trump—whose new “social media platform,” which is basically a blog, has been a ratings disaster. DeSantis declared: “We the people are standing up to tech totalitarianism with the signing of Florida’s Big Tech Bill.” But he, a person, isn’t really standing up to anything since the law is obviously unconstitutional. Hilariously, it includes a Disney carveout for companies that own a theme park or entertainment venue larger than 25 acres, so if Trump’s zealot Supreme Court justices somehow let this travesty stand, the “good” news is that you’ll be able to visit Facebook Funland sometime soon.
Michael Froomkin, a law professor at the University of Miami, told Wired: “This law looks like a political freebie. You get to pander, and nothing bad happens, because there’s no chance this will survive in court.”
Speaking of pointless pandering, DeSantis is also playing to his Trumpy base by vowing to protect Floridians from “critical race theory,” without so much as defining what that is or explaining what he’d do about it. At a press conference in Pensacola last week, he said: “You can put lipstick on a pig, it’s still a pig”—before vowing: “If we have to play whack-a-mole all over this state stopping this Critical Race Theory we will do it.”
State Sen. Shevrin Jones, a South Florida Democrat and former public school teacher, told Politifact: “The crazy thing about this is, now critical race theory is not even taught in K-12 education.”
One thing DeSantis has done that isn’t just a bullshit performance is pandering to his party’s base of demented anti-vaxxers by signing an executive order to ban all vaccine passports, which is a real problem in Florida where the cruise ship industry needs them to get going again. The CEO of Norwegian cruise lines warned that, “At the end of the day, cruise ships have motors, propellers, and rudders, and [if] God forbid we can’t operate in the state of Florida for whatever reason, then there are other states that we do operate from, and we can operate from the Caribbean for a ship that otherwise would have gone to Florida.”
But bad as things may be in Florida, Texas is working extremely hard to keep up. The Lone Star State is about to make it legal for anyone over the age of 21 to carry a handgun as long as they don’t have a felony conviction, which would make it the first to allow guns without a background check, a permit, or any kind of training. Last week, Gov. Greg Abbott passed a bill that will outlaw abortions at six weeks. That’s one missed period. Republicans call that a heartbeat law even though a six-week embryo doesn’t have a heart; it’s the size of a pea. Other states have their own terrible laws, many of them clearly unconstitutional as of now but maybe not once Trump’s three new justices get around to considering them.
And then there are the voting bills. Republicans are trying to pass 250 laws in 43 states to fight voter fraud, which is not really a problem but sounds a lot better than the truth—that they want to make it harder for certain Americans to vote .
Edward B. Foley, a law professor at Ohio State University, told The Washington Post: “There’s this risk that we’re witnessing the rollback of the ‘Second Reconstruction.’” I’m pretty sure that’s Republicans’ goal.
It’s like Trumpism has empowered Republicans to cheat in ways they might have felt sheepish about in earlier generations. Some witches’ brew of propaganda and grievance has created a culture of entitled cheaters who believe that the ends justify the means.
While Democrats worry about the preservation of norms, Republicans are working overtime to dismantle democracy at the state level while taking away the rights of women and expanding the rights of gun owners to carry anywhere, anytime, anyhow.
Whoever’s conducting this crazy train, it’s headed off the rails.