The Mahablog

Politics. Society. Group Therapy.

The Mahablog

GOP Is Not Playing 12-Dimensional Chess

Perhaps it’s time to entertain the possibility that Ron DeSantis just isn’t very bright.

Ron DeSantis’s book The Courage to Be Free was released by its publisher in February, I understand, so I’m not sure why no one has noticed this before. Maybe Greg Sargent was the first person besides the Disney lawyers to read it.

When the Walt Disney Co. went looking for evidence to feature in its new lawsuit against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, its lawyers found much of what they needed in DeSantis’s own recently published memoir.

Buried in Disney’s complaint against DeSantis is something surprising. Numerous quotes taken from “The Courage to be Free” appear to support the company’s central allegation: that the Republican governor improperly wielded state power to punish Disney’s speech criticizing his policies, violating the First Amendment. …

… Disney’s lawsuit cites exactly these passages. DeSantis — who signed a law taking control of Disney’s special self-governing district, and moved to nullify the company’s efforts to work around it — repeatedly flaunts the truth: These were retaliation against Disney for opposing his “don’t say gay” law limiting classroom discussion of sex and gender.

This is followed by a bulleted list of bits taken from the book that plainly admit DeSantis targeted Disney because the company had spoken against his homophobic policies. (No paywall.) Plus, DeSantis wrote an op ed for the Wall Street Journal “that explicitly discussed governmental actions against Disney as an effort to ‘fight back’ against its ‘woke ideology,’ which is to say, its political speech.”

Note that this guy has a J.D. from Harvard Law. And  here I thought Harvard Law was supposed to be for smart people. Silly me!

Sargent goes on to quote a First Amendment expert saying that it’s very unusual for lawyers to be handed explicit statements of motive. “You have pretty clear statements from Governor DeSantis that he is seeking to punish a corporation for its speech,” the expert said, adding “That’s prohibited by the First Amendment.” And things could get worse for DeSantis after the suit goes through the discovery phase.

DeSantis’s book, says Sargent, “boasts extensively about his war on Disney to advertise how he would marshal the powers of the presidency against so-called woke elites.” Which brings us to the next point. It’s increasingly unlikely Ron will be the Republican nominee next year, but one does wonder if he seriously thinks he can win a presidential election raging about “woke.”

Jamelle Bouie writes in the New York Times (no paywall):

It’s not just that Republican policies are well outside the mainstream, but that the party itself has tipped over into something very strange.

I had this thought while watching a clip of Ron DeSantis speak from a lectern to an audience we can’t see. In the video, which his press team highlighted on Twitter, DeSantis decries the “woke mind virus,” which he calls “a form of cultural Marxism that tries to divide us based on identity politics.”

Now, I can follow this as a professional internet user and political observer. I know that “woke mind virus” is a term of art for the (condescending and misguided) idea that progressive views on race and gender are an outside contagion threatening the minds of young people who might otherwise reject structural explanations of racial inequality and embrace a traditional vision of the gender binary. I know that “cultural Marxism” is a right-wing buzzword meant to sound scary and imposing.

To a normal person, on the other hand, this language is borderline unintelligible. It doesn’t tell you anything; it doesn’t obviously mean anything; and it’s quite likely to be far afield of your interests and concerns.

I don’t question there are pockets of population around the nation in which a majority are ready to vote against “woke,” believe all Democrats are “groomers,” and would sooner give up their mothers than their guns. But I honestly don’t see those positions winning a general presidential election. “Taken together, it’s as if the Republican Party has committed itself to being as off-putting as possible to as many Americans as possible,”  Bouie writes.

This brings me to something Dan Friedman wrote at Mother Jones:  Maybe Becoming President Takes More Than Just Being a Dick.

The success of Donald Trump, an asshole who became president, created a fallacy: Americans want an asshole as their president. This misapprehension greatly appeals, of course, to assholes, especially those in public office, who seem happy to drop their traditional practice of pretending to be nicer than they really are in favor of doubling down on being dicks. …

… The main example in this genre, of course, is Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. DeSantis has been elected in the country’s third biggest state twice, and has won extensive media attention in part by being unprecedentedlyobnoxious to the press. No one can accuse him of being nice. DeSantis’ banning of books that address racism, his prohibiting saying “gay,” his use of state funds to fly migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard, and his (losingfight with Disney are undeniably obnoxious. If American wants another jerk in the White House, here is a champion.

And yet, Friedman continues, it’s not working. Whatever it is is that the MAGAts see in Trump, they are not seeing it in DeSantis. I question whether any of the alleged contenders for the GOP nomination has it.

What should worry Republicans more, Paul Waldman writes, is that Trump made it cool for Republicans to hate their own party.

As the 2024 GOP presidential primary gets going, it’s becoming clear that Trump has remade presidential politics in an underappreciated way: He has made it practically a requirement that GOP candidates campaign on open hostility toward their own party.

Recently, Trump declared that his victorious 2016 presidential campaign rescued the Republican Party from “freaks, neocons, globalists, open-borders zealots and fools.” These days, that has become standard-issue Trump rhetoric. But weirdly enough, other 2024 GOP hopefuls are now following suit.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has gone the furthest in chasing Trump down this road.In his campaign book, he writes that “old-guard corporate Republicanism is not up to the task at hand.” DeSantis recently said during a speech, “We reject the culture of losing that has infected the Republican Party in recent years.”

Even establishment figures, such as former South Carolina governor and U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley, are getting in on this act. She recently said that “both Democrats and Republicans” are responsible for all manner of Washington ills, and vowed to go to war with Republicans when necessary as president.

Certainly, you can find plenty of presidential candidates going way back who promised to change something about their party, or who staked out positions that differed from others in their party. But Waldman is saying that Trump positioned himself as a whole new brand even as he ran as a Republican. And most of the GOP contenders appear to be preparing to run as a Trump brand politician while running against Trump himself, and I have a hard time seeing how that’s going to work for anybody.  But it could set up the 2024 election as a referendum on the Republican Party itself, which I doubt is what the GOP wants.

In other news: Janet Yellen says the nation will run out of cash on about June 1. House Democrats are preparing to force a vote on the debt limit increase. It’s a long shot; the bill being prepared would need the approval of every Democrat and at least five Republicans. President Biden is standing firm on his “no terms” position.