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Ron DeSantis is not a cat
Ron DeSantis is a problem. The media is already treating him like just another (possible) presidential candidate. We've been here before. It didn't end well.
If you’ve been reading Law Dork, or even if you just follow me on Twitter (you really should subscribe to Law Dork, though, as well), you know that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is a problem.
Enter the The New York Times Magazine, which has published a 9,000-word profile of the governor. Already, this is exactly what DeSantis wants. Much of the profile is good. It’s solid reporting on what DeSantis has done, who he’s wooed, and where he’s going. But the framing is honestly terrifying. From the third paragraph (which I was drawn to after seeing a post by Tal Kopan on Twitter):
DeSantis has been permitted to subsist as a kind of Schrödinger’s candidate, both Trump and Not Trump. He can present as an iron-fisted imitation, touring the country in August with a slate of Trump endorsees who lie about the 2020 election. He can cosplay as the post-Trump choice for those desperate for a post-Trump party — a Yale- and Harvard-educated man of letters just winking at the party’s extremes. He can pitch himself, especially, as the “Trump, but ...” candidate — an Evolutionary Trump, the 2.0 — defined most vividly by what DeSantis has learned by watching: Here is Trump, but more strategic about his targets; Trump, but restrained enough to keep his Twitter accounts from suspension; Trump, but not under federal investigation.
“… has been permitted to …” “… can cosplay as …” “… can pitch himself …”
All of these things, the wording suggests, might not be true. But the silent words — the absent words — are maybe the most important ones: Who has permitted Ron DeSantis to subsist as a maybe-alive-maybe-dead cat? Why can he cosplay as something he is clearly not? Why can he pitch himself as “Trump, but,” when, in reality, he is “Trump, and”?
The answer, in part, is the Republican Party. Clearly, much of the blame lies at its collective feet, as well as with Donald Trump himself. However, the answer is, also in part, media like The New York Times that — in profiles like this and elsewhere — have normalized this very not normal man. It is also pundits — like David Frum, who called DeSantis “a recognizably normal US politician” — who have done the same.
You only need to look to The New York Times Magazine profile itself to see how dangerous it is when people like Frum call him “recognizably normal” or for the Times to say he can cosplay as post-Trump (while, in effect, permitting him to do so).
“In Pittsburgh, DeSantis’s denouncement of ‘gender-affirming care for minors,’ which he introduced with scare quotes, was accompanied by air-slicing hand gestures as he accused doctors of ‘chopping off private parts’ with impunity,” the profile states in passing, quickly moving on.
This is the pace of the piece. It was a sentence in a paragraph that began, “DeSantis has few analogues as a public performer.”
If journalists allow performers like DeSantis to cosplay as “Trump, but” cats, we’re not going to end in a good place.
Law Dork, with Chris Geidner, is independent, reader-supported journalism that seeks to hold government and other public officials accountable. Support this reporting by becoming a free or paid subscriber today.
WHAT DESANTIS WROUGHT: Lest there be any doubt about Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, on Tuesday, the plaintiffs challenging H.B. 1557, known as the “Don’t Say Gay” law, filed a motion asking for discovery — exchange of evidence — to be allowed to continue now that school has begun and the effects of the law are more plainly being felt.
And, while there have been some high-profile effects, Tuesday’s filing included a simple declaration from a Miami high school student that shows what this law is doing to young students on a regular, if not daily, basis.
In the declaration, the student described how another student in their school was going to make an LGBTQ resources website as part of their required community service project for the school’s International Baccalaureate program.
The program coordinator, however, told the second student that they couldn’t make the website for the project because of H.B. 1557 “concerns.”
That ended that.
There goes Ron DeSantis, cosplaying as the post-Trump choice again.
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