After studying Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, I was surprised to learn how little I knew about who he really is or his master plan. It is almost as if he purposely avoids mainstream media both to build a covert base of support in the right-wing shadows and to camouflage his far-right extremism. In fact, his story could easily be turned into a complex political mystery, down one man’s dark psychological rabbit hole.
Ironically, when a psychological profile of DeSantis was suggested, my gut reaction was, “I don’t want to go to that dark place.”
However, as his response to the Covid-19 delta variant has made obvious, we all better start thinking about DeSantis’ dark psychology, whether we want to or not. Because as many Floridians now know, he is an existential threat coming for all of us and the most likely Republican nominee for president after trump.
Therefore, before it is too late to stop a more dangerous trump, we must start with the political lens that asks: Who is this Disney villain? What is his modus operandi?
The Political Lens
The delta variant exposed that DeSantis’ leadership skills consist of arguing the Fox News version of reality, shamelessly ignoring science, dishing out toxic abuse and remorselessly using the people of Florida’s lives as pawns for his political advancement. Before that, however, DeSantis was on a glide path to being reelected governor in 2022, and was the Fox News-anointed, Republican heir apparent to trump in 2024.
“They [CNN] think you're going to be the Republican nominee and that's why they're attacking you.” – Tucker Carlson to DeSantis, Jan. 5, 2021
Superficially, DeSantis has a picture-perfect, conservative, Faux News backstory. Little league baseball star, baseball captain at Yale, Harvard law, Navy JAG officer at Guantanamo during the “War on Terror,” legal advisor to Seal Team One in Iraq, elected to Congress in 2012, and elected governor in 2018.
He even has an attractive, professional TV personality wife, Casey, and three cute kids, who complete their well-crafted Ken and Barbie public image as the First Family of Florida. Casey runs everything for him and they are “a brain trust of two.” There is no doubt they are a tight team, and it is reported that everyone else is treated as expendable.
However, until trump semi-endorsed him in December 2017, calling him “a brilliant young leader … who would make a GREAT Governor” and “a … true FIGHTER!” DeSantis was mostly a nobody, despite being a member of the House of Representatives.
I say “semi-endorsed” because from the start of DeSantis’ campaign, he spun it into trump is endorsing my campaign and read trump’s entire 2017 tweet at his 2018 campaign rallies. Obviously, trump’s “endorsement” was a surefire way to win over the trump cult, and DeSantis played them perfectly.
On Feb. 22, 2018, trump made it official with, “He will be a Great Governor & has my full Endorsement!” DeSantis responded with, “I am absolutely honored to receive the FULL ENDORSEMENT of President Donald Trump.”
Unsurprisingly, trump thought DeSantis was “brilliant” and “GREAT” and a “FIGHTER” because trump saw him on Fox News attacking the trump/Russia investigation, although it was well known that an easy way to get trump’s support was to go on Fox and sycophantly praise and defend him.
There is no doubt trump’s endorsement led to DeSantis beating Adam Putnam, the Florida Republican establishment’s current version of Jeb Bush. It was a sad end for Putnam, who worked his whole life to become governor, only to watch his lifelong dream go up in smoke with a trump tweet.
Shortly after trump’s “full Endorsement,” the Koch network more fully backed DeSantis with their funding, resources, and political operation. This meant Putnam’s huge financial and organizational advantage disappeared almost overnight.
In other words, DeSantis’ rise to power mostly came about because the Big Liar liked the way DeSantis defended his lies on Fox News. DeSantis would become a regular, because in their view, he was the newer, better trump, and completes their Four Horseman of the Apocalypse box set, along with Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham and Tucker Carlson. As my Florida friend Justice says, “Faux News and #DeSatan are two peas in a pod.”
Stylistically, DeSantis is not that different from other trump Republicans, in the sense they are all relentlessly endangering America’s public safety and economy, for their own self-serving, self-centered, political ambitions.
However, it is fascinating that someone who has led a charmed life — as a baseball star, undergraduate at Yale (where he was in the same fraternity as George W. Bush, and Harvard law — would turn out to be so specifically against everything America’s first Black president was for. Instead, he jumped on the Tea Party wave to Congress and became a founding member of the far-right (Orwellian named) “Freedom Caucus” along with Jim Jordan and Mark Meadows.
How does someone so blessed and educated become such a callous, right-wing extremist in sheep’s clothing? According to his little league friend Brady Williams, “I always knew he was going into politics. … His goal was to be the president of the United States.”
This means DeSantis’ desire has always been to become the most powerful person in the world, and his belief system was formed well before college. It also means his glossy backstories were likely calculated steps in a devious plan, to create a staged image. The question is how and where did he get his beliefs?
His 2015 co-founding of the extreme right “conservatives” into a “Freedom Caucus,” that is now populated with the furthest right, toxic, “bomb-throwing,” white supremacists and insurrectionists in Congress (like Jim Jordan, Mo Brooks, Matt Gaetz, Paul Gosar and Andy Biggs, along with QAnon “Looney Toons” like Lauren Boebert and Marjorie “Jewish Space Laser” Taylor Greene) certainly puts DeSantis in a more racist light.
Add to that his father’s history of racist remarks like this one which he posted on Twitter in 2017: “‘Affirmative Action’ should be applied to the NFL and NBA. The leagues should be made up of 13% Blacks and the rest White. Can anyone argue with this based on past affirmative actions?” And the day after he won the Republican primary, DeSantis went on Fox News and used a racist dog whistle by telling Florida voters, not to “monkey this up” with “a socialist agenda” by voting for his Black opponent Andrew Gillum. Whatever he is, as Gillum said during their debate, “I’m simply saying racists think he’s a racist.”
When asked about the racist remark in the governor’s race, he hid behind the American flag and Navy uniform saying, “We wore the same uniform and fought for the country.” He also said, “I am not going to let the media smear me like they like to do with so many other people” Did you catch that? He didn’t deny being racist either time.
DeSantis’ official story has been that he is a libertarian-leaning, small-government conservative, which means, like his right-wing business and political backers, he wants everything opened up for ideological, political and economic reasons.
It must be a coincidence that DeSantis’ policies always seem to match the wishes of those who fuel his ambitions most. It has been widely reported that one of DeSantis’ biggest campaign contributor’s hedge fund has millions invested in Regeneron, so it’s not shocking DeSantis’ main COVID-19 strategy has been to go around Florida for photo ops pushing the expensive Regeneron antibody treatment instead of the low-cost, far more effective vaccine.
Unfortunately for DeSantis, plausible deniability and coincidence are incompatible with his well-known reputation for being extremely intelligent, disciplined, and intentional: “every decision is consistent with whatever he’s trying to achieve.”
As his Little League friend knew long ago, and much of Florida knows now, DeSantis has been running for president from the moment he was elected governor, and everything he has done since then has been part of his covert presidential campaign.
Of course, he must stay covert or the unstable and always-envious trump will get even more jealous, lash out at him, and ruin the plan. In fact, knowing how to play trump and his MAGA base just right is exactly why he has risen up in Fox News and Republican polls. Psychologically, it appears impressive how he has used trump to his every advantage and still stayed his own man, unlike almost every other Republican politician.
Frankly, until taking a closer look, I had no idea how close DeSantis is to being America’s next president. Before the delta variant exposed his cold, callous and bullying nature to America, he was trump’s clear heir apparent and the Republican Party’s #1 rising star and still is if you ask talking heads on Fox News.
So the complex political mystery is: Does DeSantis really care about anything beyond his own self-advancement and power? Considering his lack of conscience or concern for his fellow Floridians during the COVID-19 pandemic, where he lands on the narcissism spectrum will provide the answer.
This is the first feature in a four-part series. Read part 2 here.
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