Yesterday I got my first mass solicitation e-mail from the Meatball Ron campaign. It was a thinly-veiled attack on the way Trump raises money from his sheeple: “A lot of campaigns are urging you to donate before their self-constructed fundraising deadlines. They're probably making you feel terrible if you don't contribute too, aren't they? At Team DeSantis we're taking a different approach. Our entire fundraising & digital program's foundation is built on this principle: Our donors are a part of our team; they are NOT our personal piggy bank… You will never receive a solicitation from this campaign that promises a fake match or degrades you for not donating. No smoke and mirrors, no fake matches, and no lies.” In other words, no more of these Trump/MAGA scams.
Then, before the big ask, he added “That's what this campaign is all about, and I promise you, that's the kind of President you will have when I am in the White House.” Really? He promises? DeSantis is best known for telling whomever he’s talking what he thinks they want to hear. He’s a standard variety dishonest pol. He even signed his e-mail— without a trace of irony— “Yours in freedom.”
And at the same time that e-mail was being prepared to be sent out to a wide national list, Team Meatball was making a pitch to the real members of DeSantis' finance team-- the fat cats he had gathered in Miami. Someone leaked a tape to the National Pulse. The goal was to calm the donors down about Meatball’s extremism, especially on abortion, promising them he will move to the center if he wins the general election. In other words, he'll continue posing as further right than Trump to hoodwink the MAGA base and then betray them in the general to win over more mainstream conservatives.
During the session, the hosts— including DeSantis pollster Ryan Tyson amongst others— can be heard lauding this a “major step forward for the Republican Party in moving to the middle [on abortion].”
There are a number of times throughout the leaked audio that DeSantis’ strategists can be heard telling wealthy donors: “You have to win a primary before you win a general,”— which is political campaign speak for “we’ll move to the middle after we win the nomination.”
Meanwhile, Fox reported that ESPN host Stephen Smith noted that Meatball Ron is “one of the stupidest people I’ve ever seen” and that banning diversity, equality and inclusion (DEI) programs at Florida universities show that he’s “lost his damn mind… If you’re DeSantis, it’s bad enough you’ve alienated the Latino community. It’s bad enough you’ve alienated tens of millions of women because, I assure you, even though you have an abundance of women against abortion, most would like the right to make the choice for themselves as opposed to having male politicians dictate those choices for them. Now, we get to this latest stuff, and this is where it hits home for me, 'cause I’m a Black man, and we’re talking about the NAACP. Respectfully to the governor, Ron DeSantis, who obviously has offended Latinos, Blacks, women— have you lost your mind or do you just want to throw away the election? Is that what you’re trying to do?”
Yesterday in his Slate column about the week’s guide to the most important figures in politics, Jim Newell started with Meatball Ron— “The ‘sane alternative’ to Trump makes his pitch (total centralization of power).”
The Florida governor officially entered the presidential race this week in an awkward, glitchy Twitter chat with a fellow black hole of charisma, Elon Musk. Jokes were made. But the Surge would like to spend this entry zeroing in on the pitch DeSantis has been making in his media tour since. Aside from some policy proposals, like the plan to pardon those charged with Jan. 6 crimes, up to and including Donald Trump (a good dig, tbh), DeSantis’ pitch to Florida-ize the rest of the country relies on pushing the envelope on the use of executive power. He told radio host Mark Levin that he has studied the Constitution to find new “leverage points” that would allow him to exercise the “true scope” of the presidency. “Presidents have not been willing to wield Article 2 power to discipline the bureaucracy,” DeSantis told Glenn Beck in another interview. “I’ll come in and on day one we’ll be spitting nails.” Next to, presumably, a broad-based firing of the federal bureaucracy itself, DeSantis said he would fire FBI director Chris Wray on day one, and made the point to Fox News host Trey Gowdy that his new FBI director and attorney general would not operate independently, but more as functionaries of the president. This centralization of power, enabled by acquiescent state courts and the Legislature, is precisely how he’s run Florida. So sure, he would probably do fewer weird tweets about celebrities from the Oval Office toilet than Trump would. But the Surge might need a little more selling on this whole “sane alternative” thing.
On the radio with Ben Shapiro Friday, DeSantis said he would call on Congress to repeal the bipartisan 2018 criminal justice reform bill signed by Trump— which Meatball called “basically a jailbreak bill… If you are in jail, you should serve your time. And the idea that they’re releasing people who have not been rehabilitated early, so that they can prey on people in our society is a huge, huge mistake.” DeSantis was in Congress when the bill was first proposed and he voted for it— so just more of his deceitful posturing.
Yesterday, Paul Blumenthal reported that the constitution will protect us from DeSantis taking his war against woke national. “This ‘war on woke’ serves as the central justification and argument for DeSantis’ bid for the GOP nomination. By challenging the supposed liberal tilt in American culture as expressed in schools, the media and the corporate workplace culture, this ‘war,’ and the legislation behind it, shows DeSantis as a culture fighter who gets things done. But there’s one big problem for DeSantis’ war: the U.S. Constitution. Broad swathes of DeSantis’ anti-woke agenda— from restrictions on the teaching of social science about race in colleges and universities, to bans on corporate diversity training to limits on public protests— have been temporarily suspended by judges who found them very likely to be in violation of the first and 14th amendments. In suspending these laws, federal judges called them ‘positively dystopian’ and the defenses presented in court ‘wholly at odds with accepted constitutional principles.’ The suspended provisions of the laws may yet be upheld as they move through appeals courts and, possibly, U.S. Supreme Court review, but, at the moment, DeSantis’ offensive against the ‘woke mind virus’ has been partially reversed.”
These multiple losses in court put a constitutional blemish on DeSantis’ claims of success as a culture warrior who can deftly enact the social conservative agenda.
One of the laws partially suspended is the pillar of DeSantis’ war: The Individual Freedom Act, popularly known as the Stop WOKE Act, prohibits the promotion or advancement of eight concepts related to race in public schools, colleges and universities and in private-sector corporate trainings. The definitions of the prohibited concepts are based on a Trump administration executive order banning government contractors from engaging employees in certain diversity training programs.
In response, a group of university professors, students and corporations filed three lawsuits challenging the law’s prohibitions on teaching race-based concepts or using them in diversity trainings for private-sector employees. The two lawsuits challenging the law’s application to colleges and universities were heard as a single case. In each case, U.S. District Judge Mark Walker in northern Florida, who was nominated by President Barack Obama, suspended the law’s application with strong language.
“The State of Florida lays the cornerstone of its own Ministry of Truth under the guise of the Individual Freedom Act, declaring which viewpoints shall be orthodox and which shall be verboten in its university classrooms,” Walker wrote in his November 2022 decision on the law’s provisions governing colleges and universities.
“Recently, Florida has seemed like a First Amendment upside down,” Walker wrote in suspending the provisions governing private corporations. “Normally, the First Amendment bars the state from burdening speech, while private actors may burden speech freely. But in Florida, the First Amendment apparently bars private actors from burdening speech, while the state may burden speech freely.”
In both cases, Walker determined that the law improperly allowed the state to discriminate against speech based on viewpoint: Professors or corporate trainers were banned from discussing the race-based concepts if they could be seen to be advancing or promoting them but not if they were criticizing or disparaging them.
“It’s pretty black-letter law that if the government is saying you may not offer a training that espouses one viewpoint but you can offer a training that espouses the opposite viewpoint, that that is pretty blatant viewpoint discrimination,” said Shalini Agarwal, a lawyer at the nonprofit Protect Democracy who serves as counsel for the private-sector plaintiffs.
…[T]his broad effort to limit First Amendment rights by imposing restrictions on what may be discussed in colleges, universities and the private sector raises concerns among those who work to protect those rights, especially as DeSantis looks to take this war national in his presidential campaign.
“It seems really un-American, a lot of the targeting of protester speech rights, the targeting of private employer speech rights, the targeting of speech rights on college campuses,” Agarwal said. “A lot of it is not what Americans recognize as within the bounds of the law.”