The latest evidence came earlier this week, when he signed three bills into law aimed (ostensibly) at raising the civic literacy of Florida’s young people. But if you listen to what DeSantis said at the signing ceremony, you see what he was really after.
It isn’t a coincidence that each of those issues — the suppression of speech on college campuses, the embrace of socialist and communist ideals and the alleged re-writing of American history — are absolutely top-of-mind for Republican base voters these days.
That’s in large part because Trump, who remains the most powerful figure in the Republican Party, has railed against wokeness — of the media, of academia, of, uh, elites — for months now. It’s his favorite topic, when he isn’t pushing fantasies about how he won the election and how he is going to be reinstated as president any minute now.
Of Democrats, Trump said:
“They want to promote socialism, ultimately leading, unfortunately, to communism, and that will happen. If you look at Venezuela, you look at some of these countries, that’s why some of our biggest supporters are from South America, Latin America, because they’ve seen what goes on with all of this cancel culture, and you can’t speak, and let’s cut them off and let’s not give them words.”
Later in the same speech, he added this:
“We believe in patriotic education and strongly oppose the radical indoctrination of America’s youth. It’s horrible. We are committed to defending innocent life and to upholding the Judeo-Christian values of our founders and of our founding. We embrace free thought. We stand up to political correctives, and we reject left-wing lunacy, and in particular, we reject cancel culture.”
What DeSantis is doing is offering Trumpism without a) Trump himself or b) the crazy conspiracy theories about the 2020 election. And it appears to be working.
While straw polls are not scientific — and have to be taken with a major grain of salt — that result in Denver was far from a lone incident.
Good politicians — and successful ones — know that timing is everything in this line of work. DeSantis knows he is having a moment — and using the power of his office to rack up more credibility among the most rabid members of the Trump base. (Worth noting: DeSantis still has to win what will likely be a seriously contested reelection race next November before he can begin running for president in earnest.)
Much, of course, depends on Trump. If he decides to run again, all of DeSantis’ posturing and positioning may not matter. But DeSantis isn’t waiting to press “go” on a 2024 bid until he hears from Trump. He’s laying the groundwork right now.