Samir Mehta | March 30, 2023
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Scott Hardie | March 30, 2023
I assume that you mean the overall story and not just this week's latest wrinkle, that Disney quietly stripped the WDW oversight board of nearly all power before DeSantis's people took their seats on it. That's mildly amusing along the lines of, "Did they think it would be that easy?" Disney is famous for bending the law (and lawmakers) to its will, so DeSantis & company should have anticipated that Disney would use every legal option at its disposal to squirm free of this "punishment."

Speaking of punishment, that remains my biggest concern with DeSantis. (Search above for his name for several past TC discussions about this.) In terms of policy and actual governance, he's a typical Florida Republican, and I can live with that even though it's not my preference. But what really worries me, and by "worries" I mean "sends an icy chill down my spine," is his willingness to weaponize the power of his office against anyone who is perceived to oppose him. He does it to people and he does it to businesses and he does it to fellow elected officials. Much like Trump's narcissism, there might be something psychological in DeSantis's severe intolerance for dissent, since he's been that way at least since college, but it shouldn't matter: The highest elected official in the land, whether that's one state or all of them, is going to get criticized and has to be able to take it in stride. President Trump was notoriously vain and thin-skinned and quick to fire anyone for perceived disloyalty, but even he didn't go after private individuals and companies! President DeSantis apparently would. The word "fascist" gets thrown around way too often these days, but abusing governmental control over private businesses into order to crush all opposition is literally the dictionary definition.

Since DeSantis has no restraint, neither do my fears about him. He has already passed laws preventing Florida schools from even mentioning certain subjects, let alone teaching them, which has led to absurdities. That's one thing at a grade school level, but it's another entirely when it's done at universities, which are attended by, you know, adults, who don't need to be protected from "uncomfortable thoughts" or "indoctrination" and are more than capable of enrolling elsewhere if they don't like their classes. DeSantis argues that "divisive concepts" should not be taught because they include "liberal propaganda" -- but now that he has successfully genericized those terms, anything can be banned. Inconvenient facts about climate change or mass shootings or abortion safety? "Divisive concepts." Criticism of Ron DeSantis's failures and policies? "Liberal propaganda." If he's willing to block adults from accessing material that he doesn't like in colleges, then public libraries won't be far behind. What would be next? Barring media companies from broadcasting or publishing any "liberal propaganda?" Passing a law preventing Internet service providers from serving any online content that mentions "divisive concepts?" Jailing any citizens who participate in the consumption or dissemination of that material? This is how we slide into autocracy. America was supposed to be resistant to authoritarianism because of our common belief in democracy, but it's genuinely frightening to see DeSantis get *more* popular every time he takes another step in that direction.

(As an extra note about my local area, what DeSantis is doing to New College is sad. I have a number of friends who graduated from there, and some have said that they made it through only because New College was a place where they could be themselves. We just can't have nice things, it seems.)

I have no particular love for Disney. My fondness for the MCU and the Orlando theme parks is not sufficient for me to forgive the company's litigiousness, abuse of its lowest workers, manipulation of its devoted customers, and historical problems with racism and union-busting. And yet, despite all of that, I bet you can instantly guess who I'm rooting for in their conflict with the governor.

Scott Hardie | March 30, 2023
Two more thoughts:

- There was a time when the punishing of enemies all seemed performative, as if DeSantis was just playing "culture warrior" to gain the GOP presidential nomination. But the more time that we spend with the guy, the less it seems like merely an act. He's so aggressive and so relentless about it that it's beginning to feel like it comes from a deeper place.

- I decline to call him "Meatball Ron" because I assume it's a racist dog whistle about his Italian ancestry. But there are much more harsh things that I can call him, as long as that's still legal!

Samir Mehta | March 31, 2023
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Scott Hardie | April 1, 2023
Oh, I know. I didn't think that *you* would make up a racist nickname for somebody. :-) I'm just trying to do my tiny part to push back against the spread of that term in the world.

I hope I didn't shut down this discussion by being too long-winded or heavy in my response. I just have a lot on my mind about DeSantis, and I was considering starting my own discussion to say much of this. I still want to know what folks think about DeSantis's conflict with Disney, or about anything that I had to say. For instance, Samir, with your obsession, what is your take on the Disney fight?

Samir Mehta | April 1, 2023
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Scott Hardie | April 3, 2023
DeSantis has gotten pretty much all of the credit for Florida's recent success. He is perceived to have attracted a lot of companies to the state with a business-friendly environment (despite the high-profile fight with Disney; the bottom line is all that matters). He's also believed to have made the right call in re-opening the state very quickly after the initial panic over COVID-19. The culture-warrior stuff is about raising his national profile and getting attention; it takes a back seat to the pocketbook stuff. I imagine that Republicans around the country see him similarly. He's not considered to be just a mean bully with no substance, and the combativeness is only portrayed as a negative in liberal media. I don't know that he's a slam dunk for 2024, especially as Trump gains ground (every day that Trump is in the headlines is a day that he gets stronger), and as DeSantis's lack of personability handicaps him in the retail politics of early primaries, and as we're way out ahead of any actual voting happening yet, but I do know that he's wildly popular and not to be underestimated.

Here's an example: Last fall during the gubernatorial campaign, I remember liberals misunderstanding the moment when DeSantis's opponent "humiliated" him by asking DeSantis to pledge on the spot to serve Florida for a full term if re-elected, and DeSantis froze up. Liberals were high-fiving with a "got 'im!" attitude, assuming that Floridians would be mad at the prospect of DeSantis deserting them for higher office. Are you kidding? If DeSantis had said right there on that stage that he'd run for president instead, this would have made him even more popular on the right, not less. There would be cheers and hugging and happy tears in living rooms across Florida that were tuned into the debate. They'd love to see him govern at the national level instead of merely at the state level.

If DeSantis becomes the GOP nominee over the spring of 2024, then the normal course of action would of course be to tone it way down with the "kids, migrants, minorities, and Mickey Mouse" stuff for the general election. But his main rival in the primaries will be Trump, who has no shame and no limit on how far beyond the pale he'll go, so DeSantis might be forced to take such mean-spirited positions to outmaneuver Trump that he won't be able to pivot back to the center successfully. If that scenario comes to pass, I will be amused that Trump again managed to cost the GOP an election without even being in it.

Scott Hardie | May 4, 2023
Watching Trump slowly gain ground and DeSantis slowly lose it in polls has me thinking that your instincts were right, Samir. Of course, there are still months to go before even the first primary, so anything can happen.

I'm getting very tired of pundits speculating about how much Trump's indictments (one so far and more expected this year) will hurt his chances in the primary election. Let me answer that for them: NONE. Fucking none. Swing voters might be persuadable in the general election, but Republican voters have been fine with a lot of behavior from Trump that was previously considered unacceptable and unthinkable. If January 6 did not change minds, merely covering up a hush-money payment will have no effect whatsoever.

Samir Mehta | May 4, 2023
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Scott Hardie | February 6, 2024
Now that DeSantis has completely failed on the way out, Samir, I have to give you credit for calling it. His mean-spirited, fun-free candidacy, too focused on hollow "migrants and Mickey" political stunts, proved to be a losing bet. You were right to doubt his viability as a candidate. I'm curious whether he or Nikki Haley would have won the GOP nomination in a 2024 race without Trump, but we'll never know.

There is one small thing that I will say in DeSantis's defense, which is to point out how cruel articles about his lack of charisma seem when you assume that the guy is on the autism spectrum. Maybe he shouldn't have gone into politics with that condition, but shoot, just last night I watched a video about a blind football player, and it seems like we ought to make room for anybody to do any job that they're reasonably able to do. I care about DeSantis illegally firing elected officials for liberal politics and banning outdoor protests about public issues. I most definitely do not care about DeSantis fidgeting, or not maintaining eye contact, or having an inauthentic smile. That kind of thing should not be held against him, and voters might do so anyway, but professional writers should rise above the temptation.

Samir Mehta | February 7, 2024
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