DeSantis, Trump, and a New Right Comfortable With Power

There is a saying in Washington: “Republicans are in office; Democrats are in power.” It speaks to the different approaches the two parties take toward prosecuting their political mandates. Democrats tend to be ruthless and uncompromising, while Republicans are often submissive and feckless. To constituents under the heel of corrupt bureaucrats and abusive corporations in lockstep with the Democratic Party, Republicans say their hands are bound by “principle” or some other fiction that helps them sleep at night.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, however, has helped to changed that. In the last few months, he has shown how much good the application of a little political muscle can accomplish. More importantly, he offers an alternative approach to the use of power, one well-suited for addressing the exigencies of the moment. If the election of Donald Trump in 2016 was the catalyst for this trend, DeSantis has advanced the method.

DeSantis is fresh off a row with Disney, in which the governor stripped the Magic Kingdom of its special tax district for meddling in state politics—a move that triggered spasming among conventional conservatives, from National Review’s onanists to arch-neoconservative Bill Kristol. That was just the start.

On July 26, Florida’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation (FDBPR) threatened to revoke the alcoholic beverage license of R House, a restaurant in Miami that has been hosting “drag queen brunches” for children 12 and younger. The dancers, garbed in gaudy outfits with holes cut between their buttocks or nearly nude, performed for children as young as three. Some “nice” Republicans, like David French, might call these gyrations before the eyes of little ones a “blessing of liberty.” But in the complaint filed by the FDBPR, DeSantis’s administration argues R House “maintained a nuisance on the premises or otherwise allowed its agents, employees, or other persons to violate the laws of Florida” concerning public morals and decency. 

Losing its beverage license would deal a serious—likely fatal—blow to R House. But DeSantis said his move was about protecting children, which is something more important than dollar signs. “Having kids involved in this is wrong,” he said. “That is not consistent with our law and policy in the state of Florida. And it is a disturbing trend in our society to try to sexualize these young people. That is not the way you protect children. You look out for children.”

A lot of Republicans have paid lip service to family values and moral decency. Few, if any, however, would consider sinking a business to uphold those ideals. But radical times require radical measures that entail the use of political force.

The day after DeSantis’s government weighed in against R House, the governor took aim at woke CEOs, criticizing “socially responsible” ESG investing. ESG stands for “environmental, social, and corporate governance” investing, which uses shareholder leverage to demand corporations adopt leftist social goals such as climate change policies and woke diversity initiatives. DeSantis also took aim at banks, credit card companies, and money processors like PayPal that discriminate against customers based on their religious, political, and social views. “They’re using things like social credit scores to be able to marginalize people that they don’t like,” DeSantis said during the July 27 press briefing. He went on to say that if Florida and other states could work together as a bloc against the depredations of “woke” capital. “We’d have a lot of money, a lot of voting power under management.”

At the briefing, Tina Descovich, the co-founder of parents’ rights nonprofit Moms for Liberty, said PayPal had frozen her organization’s funds while Governor DeSantis was speaking at the Moms for Liberty National Summit on July 15. After the briefing, PayPal unfroze Moms for Liberty’s funds.

The most recent and dramatic use of political power by DeSantis came on Aug. 4, when the governor suspended State Attorney Andrew Warren. In 2017, The New York Times hailed Warren, alongside Chicago’s Kim Foxx, as one of the new and ascendant “change-minded prosecutors, all of them Democrats whose campaigns were funded by the billionaire George Soros.” Progressive prosecutors—the kind Soros recruits—have a habit of using their power to undermine existing rules and regulations to the detriment of the social order.

In the case of Warren, DeSantis argued that the attorney had repeatedly refused to enforce laws designed to restrict child sex change surgeries and abortion. “The constitution of Florida has vested the veto power in the governor, not in state attorneys,” DeSantis said. “We are not going to allow this pathogen of ignoring the law get a foothold in the state of Florida.”

There are Soros-backed prosecutors all across America; they oversee districts that are home to 20 percent of Americans and where more than 40 percent of U.S. homicides are committed. DeSantis had previously removed Orlando-area State Attorney Aramis Ayala from a high-profile murder case due to her objections to the death penalty. Soros had donated $1.4 million to a political action committee that supported Ayala with the purchase of campaign ads.

Speaking to the Business Insider, Ruth Ben-Ghiat, a historian and self-professed expert on fascism, described DeSantis as a “very dangerous individual” because he “absorbed all the lessons of Trump … but doesn’t have the baggage.” But if DeSantis is dangerous in the way Trump was, it is because he has furthered a precedent whose possibility and palatability have been denied by the incumbent political order as too impractical and too radical. That is, using power to advance a right-wing populism that defends and affirms traditional moral values, community, family, law and order—the fundaments of a healthy social structure. And it is as simple as making distinctions between friends and enemies.

The FBI raid on Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate late Monday raised new questions about the relationship between the right and power—about the friend and enemy distinction. As an attitudinally conservative force, the right has long identified with the institutions of law and order that have effectively been subverted and transformed into the enforcement arm of the Democratic Party, something both Trump and DeSantis have publicly acknowledged. “The raid of MAL is another escalation in the weaponization of federal agencies against the Regime’s political opponents, while people like Hunter Biden get treated with kid gloves,” DeSantis tweeted. “Now the Regime is getting another 87k IRS agents to wield against its adversaries? Banana Republic.”

But if the United States has joined the ranks of dysfunctional Third World regimes, that means that the standard conservative approach to problem-solving—strongly-worded letters and pleas for civility—is utterly inadequate for the moment, and the future will belong to the side that most effectively wields power from “household to nation.”

image (from left to right): Forty-fifth U.S. President Donald Trump and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. (photos by Gage Skidmore via Flickr / effects by Canva)

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