ANALYSIS | Florida Governor Ron DeSantis shows off the raw power of his imperial rule

DeSantis calls on young people to leave “Covid theatre” 0:52 (CNN) — Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s meteoric rise to the GOP’s ranks of possible presidential candidates has been one of the most riveting subplots of all time. politics: It put him on a direct collision course with former President Donald Trump as he led the brigade against mask wearing and mandates during the pandemic and then blasted his way through a series of controversial laws to present himself as the new champion right-wing “parents’ rights.” DeSantis’ imperial governorship reached new heights Thursday as the actions of the Florida legislature demonstrated how he is not only bending the state government to his will, but also to his whims. In a special session, lawmakers approved a new map of Congress proposed by his office that seems almost certain to dilute the voting power of black Floridians. On the same day, the legislature followed through on DeSantis’s threat to punish Disney for speaking out against the law he recently signed that limits certain classroom discussions about sexual orientation and gender identity. Even in the last days of the Trump presidency, DeSantis managed to get involved in almost every controversy that animated Fox viewers, using both executive actions and the power of his pen to keep the spotlight on his state. And as he prepares for a potential White House bid in 2024, at the same time Trump decides whether to run for president again, DeSantis is being rewarded for his political prowess with mounting poll numbers establishing him as a real threat to the previous president. “This is not his father’s Republican party,” President Joe Biden said at a fundraiser Thursday night, in his most direct comments yet on DeSantis’ fight with Disney. “Look what’s happening in Florida… They’re chasing Mickey Mouse.” Florida governor takes it out on Disney 0:43 But DeSantis’s message, while infuriating to science and civil rights advocates, has often been crisp, succinct and more palatable to suburban audiences than Trump’s polarizing tirades. Florida’s governor has become adept at making some of his most discriminatory and unscientific policies sound innocuous, underscoring what a formidable challenge he could be to future Democratic opponents at a time when disinformation is flourishing. When Covid-19 cases surged in Florida last summer, for example, DeSantis took a gamble by threatening school boards that intended to implement mask mandates, with his office claiming his executive order was protecting “freedom of choice.” parental”. He banned vaccine passports (before they were even real) and gained the power to override local emergency orders during the pandemic to distinguish himself from “lockdown governors,” all under the guise of protecting individual rights and freedoms. When he enacted legislation in November that blocked private employers’ Covid-19 vaccine requirements — a direct blow to White House efforts — his administration framed the package as “the strongest action for freedom and against the mandate taken by any state in the nation”. His marketing prowess has even extended to his campaign merchandise, with DeSantis flip-flops leaving a mark that the president’s top medical adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci, “can walk away.” Ron DeSantis uses government to punish his critics In his latest chapter, DeSantis, who is facing reelection this year, has delved deep into the curriculum wars that fueled Virginia’s gubernatorial race on last year and are now at the center of the Republican agenda as the party seeks to win control of Congress in the midterm elections. While taking steps that amount to censorship could lead to the marginalization of some of the most vulnerable children struggling with identity issues, Florida’s governor has repeatedly said that his goal is to protect children. Florida’s education commissioner announced last week that 41% of submitted math textbooks were being rejected because DeSantis claimed they included “indoctrinating concepts such as racial essentialism” and had not met new state standards, including the prohibition of critical race theory. (DeSantis has previously described critical race theory, an academic framework for understanding racism and inequality not typically taught in the K-12 setting, as “state-sanctioned racism.”) But one of his biggest tactics so far has been taking on Disney, the state’s largest private employer, as his crusade against “awakened” culture takes a Trumpian turn, illuminating his willingness to use government tools to punish his critics. . DeSantis has angered members of the LGBTQ community and their allies with her defense of legislation she signed that bans certain classroom discussions about sexual orientation and gender identity with younger students, a move critics have dubbed the “Don’t Tell” law. gay”. While Ron DeSantis tried to frame its goals in mild terms, stating that the bill recognized the “critical role” that parents play “in the education, health care, and well-being of their children,” critics criticized the way that the legislation could harm vulnerable LGBTQ youth, with many noting the high risk of suicide among that group. Disney Chief Executive Bob Chapek first faced backlash for what he called the company’s “silence” on the bill, given that the company employs about 75,000 people in Florida. But then he was met with the ire of DeSantis after apologizing to employees when he cast the move as “yet another challenge to basic human rights” and said Disney would stop “all political donations in the state of Florida.” The company had donated $50,000 to DeSantis’ re-election bid. At a time when Republican lawmakers across the country have introduced dozens of anti-LGBTQ laws, DeSantis recognized a golden opportunity to energize his base by taking on what he described as another “wake up” company. In a fundraising email this week, DeSantis struck the kind of strongman stance that won so many admirers for Trump. “If Disney wants to fight, they picked the wrong guy,” he wrote. The Florida legislature delivered on Thursday, passing a bill that stripped away the unique status Disney has had for decades by dissolving the company’s ability to operate as an independent government at its Orlando-area theme parks. On the same day, Florida lawmakers approved the DeSantis redistricting map that traces the state’s new congressional boundaries for the next 10 years. The map eliminated two districts that had been represented by black Democrats and created an advantage for Republicans in as many as 20 of 28 districts. The new map, which may be subject to a court challenge to test whether it diminishes the power of minority voters, prompted an outcry during the floor debate from several black members of the Florida state House of Representatives. “I am occupying the chamber floors of the Florida House of Representatives to ensure black people are not forgotten. We are here to stay,” state Rep. Angie Nixon said during the protest. “We are occupying the floor. We’re making good trouble. Ron DeSantis is a bully. Ron DeSantis doesn’t care about blacks.” But after notching those two wins, DeSantis knows he’s likely to be rewarded by Republican voters who could help him achieve greater political ambitions, and he’s already no doubt moving toward his next fight.