The Week (US)
DeSantis: The new Trump?
Trumpism will be on the 2024 ballot even if Donald Trump isn’t, said Julia Manchester in TheHill.com, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis clearly wants to carry the former president’s banner. DeSantis is “at the top of the list of rising stars within the Republican Party,” and he’s boosting his national profile by tossing new red meat to Trump’s base every week. He recently ridiculed critical race theory, and signed a law tightening election “security” and another that imposes fines on social media companies that block politicians the same way they did Trump. During the pandemic, the governor delighted conservatives by emphasizing keeping businesses open and overruling mask mandates by local officials. Last week, DeSantis threatened cruise-ship operators with fines if they require passengers to be vaccinated against Covid when ships return to sea this summer. “I have only begun to fight,” he told cheering Republicans on a recent visit to swing-state Pennsylvania.
“Baby Trump,” as some call DeSantis, has learned his mentor’s “authoritarian ways,” said Melba Pearson in The Miami Times. He has promised to pardon Floridians arrested for violating pandemic restrictions and has championed a law putting strict limits on public protests and granting civil immunity to motorists who drive into a crowd of protesters. The ban on cruise ships requiring vaccinations is even more absurd, said Jonathan Chait in NYMag.com. Cruise ships famously serve as petri dishes for infections, had large outbreaks of Covid last year, and desperately want to require vaccination for the good of the industry. But to troll the libs, DeSantis—supposedly a champion of private businesses—won’t let cruise lines turn away customers who might spread “a deadly virus” on a vessel packed with 3,000 people.
Like Trump, DeSantis wears such criticism from the Left “like a badge of honor,” said Joe Nocera in Bloomberg.com. He defied critics by keeping schools, offices, bars, and restaurants open for much of the past year—creating “something akin to a gold rush atmosphere”; Florida’s unemployment rate was just 4.7 percent in March. Republicans see liberal governors enforcing lockdowns as the authoritarians and DeSantis as a leader who trusts people to make their own decisions. If Trump doesn’t run, DeSantis will have shiny “proTrump bona fides,” said Rick Moran in PJMedia .com. A re-election victory in 2022 would give him momentum he’ll leverage into a run for the White House. Democrats fear DeSantis, and they should.