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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.

14 thoughts on “GOP Is Not Playing 12-Dimensional Chess

  1. Barbara – Thank you for your insights and ability to combine your views with other sources.  I can't afford to do paywalls so you add value there as well.  

    Donald Trump is mostly reduced to appealing to Q Cult members, white nationalist, and christian nationalists.  Unless there is a good bunch of vote tabulation manipulation by republicans in red and purple states it could be a record breaking electoral college win for Biden.

    DeSantis seems to be trying to piss off everyone who is not already in Trump's corner.  He is painting himself into a smallish corner with his inflated ego cultural wars.  I see nothing in DeSantis that indicates high intellect.  

    There are a couple potential potholes that could radically change the path to reelection for Uncle Joe.  First is if the Fed and Wall Street put our country into recession.  Second is if the dark money funded Joe Liebermann lead #NoLabels follows thru on funding a national 3rd party campaign with Joe Manchin floated as their nominee.

  2. “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.

    I suspect a lot of  GQP pols assume the Federalist 5 will go maximalist on the ISLT in the Moore v Harper decision, and 2024 election laws will mean that they will only have to make wingnut voters happy. 

  3. With respect to Ron's Follies, I think you have to go back, as always, to the wisdom of Deep Throat: "These are not very bright guys, and things got out of control."

    It does occur to me that the book, if it's as described, makes a pretty good case for the Feds to declare that the State of Florida has fallen into the hands of a criminal gang, justifying intervention under the Guarantee Clause to remove the criminals from power and return government to legitimately-elected representatives of the people. Including all of the people who are currently disenfranchised by Florida's election maps and its refusal to implement restoration of civil rights to ex-felons. Which Florida's voters made a Constitutional requirement in an election that required a 60% supermajority to pass. 

    There really is no clearer example of a State where gerrymandering and voter suppression have subverted rule of law, I don't suppose.

  4. People liked Trump precisely because he talks effortlessly at the level of a rude obnoxious boor, and can connect emotionally with those who are similarly not educated and aggrieved. I've never listened to more than a sentence or two from DeSantis, but I suspect his education gets in the way, to say nothing of his inability to be anything more than angry and a bully.

    DeSantis' arrogance and lack of emotional intelligence tripped him up. You can be the smartest guy in the world, while at the same time write a book full of incriminating evidence AND be stupid enough to take on the most popular Mouse in the world. Thank you for playing, Ron DeSantis. Better luck next time.

    MTG definitely wants to destroy the Republican party, and repopulate it with the likes of the J6 guys rotting in jail. "Shiva the Destroyer".

    I've heard of one possible resolution for the debt crisis. Mitch McConnell and the Senate pass a clean debt ceiling increase, it goes over to the House, where it languishes until the last minute, where enough Rs and Dems get it passed. Will probably cost McCarthy his job. McConnell has no interest in saving Kevin McCarthy and simply wants to do what's right, for once.

    • "McConnell….simply wants to do what's right, for once"

      Not a bet I would take!

      • If McConnell does what is said by Moonbat, the odds on reason he would do so is because his Wall Street and Corporate funderss told him to.

  5. "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.”

    Stump taught these pitchmen that if you’re going violate accepted norms, ignore ethics rules or outright break the law, do it out in the open then deny it in the media and drag it out in the courts. Your Right DeSantis aint too bright, problem is he's not as dumb as Stump and the rubes know it. They can smell it. He doesn’t stand a chance. You can't win the GOP primary unless you’re as dumb as they are!

    Screen Door YouTube

    • DeSantis aint too bright, problem is he's not as dumb as Stump and the rubes know it.

      The rubes may even see DeSantis as an "elite" which would be the kiss of death for him in their eyes.

  6. @uncledad – your last 4 or 5 sentences said it better than I could. They absolutely can smell it.

    • Are points are essentially the same though my comment wasn't quite as fancy as yours:)

  7. I'll never forget, from decades ago, an incident where I fell into a jealous rage. Not a pretty sight or one I'm proud of. But I do remember how I felt – that feelings this strong were more powerful than reality. That emotions that overwhelming justified anything. And I conflated something really evil with love – a noble emotion that jealousy has no relation to.

    What we're seeing with DeSantis and MAGA groupies is based on a complex, a system of emotions and mental devices which support fallacies that the victim has made essential to his worldview. The complex resists the intrusion of facts and principles of decency. Part of the complex is the belief that anything is fair in the crusade for ther side. 

    To prevent this from being even longer and more boring let me point out a few examples. Testicle tanning and white victimhood. The subliminal message that was a bit too obvious in testicle tanning is manipulating men through fears of sexual inadequacy. There's no more tender spot in the male ego. White victimhood feeds the narrative they "they" have more rights than our side. 

    I'd love to see a clinical study of Tucker's story by examining not content, but the subliminal message behind each piece. Taken as a whole, you see how the MAGA movement is founded on a theology of grievance, based on objective falsehoods. The belief is that the collective truth is more compelling than any individual inaccuracy but almost all of it is inaccurate, deceptive, and manipulative. 

    I think DeSantis is a true believer in the overall narrative. He really wants to roll back the clocks to when white men ruled without question. Women and people of a darker complexion accepted their plce in the natural order. Trump is a bit different. He does not care about the overall narrative – for Trump it's about his individual superiority and the belief that everyone should bow to him.




  8. Interesting (and thx!). 

    I've posted comments here before emphasizing the distinction between the old Big Money GOP Donor (and the institutions they fund) and the brainwashed Mob they created.  And Yes, Trump won the 2016 GOP primary largely because he ran *against* the mush-mouth puppets propped up by the Big Money GOP.  The Mob wanted – required! – ever more intense hits of outrage; Trump obliged, while the traditional GOP candidates were stuck pretending to be reasonable and responsible "leaders".

    The new thought which the OP inspired in me is that the *institutions* of the GOP – and the Big Donors themselves – are less competent groups than they were in prior decades.  It's not just that the crazies – the people who actually believe the Party propaganda – have started to take over the asylum, it's also that the people running the asylum are dumber than the previous overseers!

    One underappreciated high-level change in the GOP across the last 4-6 decades is the loss of Wall Street donors, which once provided the vast majority of Party funding.  Yes, GOP candidates still get plenty of money (too much!) from the FIRE sector, but I contend that the *Party machinery* is now controlled by Western Extractive Industry magnates (Oil/Gas/Coal, Mining, Big Ag, etc).  These new [behind-the-scenes] "leaders" aren't necessarily "dumber" than the Wall Street types, but their perspective is *narrower* – they lack the social contacts with people outside their clique which were once normal in cosmopolitan Eastern cities.

    One piece of evidence for this is the way the GOP has doubled down on Climate Change Denial.  Coastal financial elites *know* this is a Real Problem, because their seaside mansions are losing value with each new flood!  Western Industrial elites have allowed their greed to blind themselves; that is *not* a sign of high-level intelligence.

    Encouragement of the Gun Lobby – and even overt political violence – is another example of the stupidity of the GOP's new "leaders".  It implies a mind-boggling blindness to the obvious consequences (like a quick end to the USA!). 

    The recent SC roll-back of Roe v. Wade is another data-point.  Before 2000, the GOP (and its Federalist Society appointees) paid lip-service to the abortion issue, but never really did anything about it.  Now, they've made the mistake of actually doing what they said they would do, and it's a political disaster for them.


    I suppose it's a good thing that the leadership of the GOP isn't smart enough to actually run the country these days; but, damn, they are probably still smart enough to run the country into the ground…

    • It’s not just that the crazies – the people who actually believe the Party propaganda – have started to take over the asylum, it’s also that the people running the asylum are dumber than the previous overseers!

      I think you’re on to something.


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