After months of speculation, Ron DeSantis has announced his campaign to run for the Republican nomination for president in 2024. The anti-LGBTQ Florida governor’s announcement was previewed in a 30 second video posted on Twitter by his wife, Casey DeSantis, on May 23, which is titled, “America is worth the fight… Every. Single. Time,” and garnered over 6 million views.
On May 24, DeSantis made the first of what his campaign team explains will be a series of engagements with his constituency in a Twitter Spaces audio exchange with former Twitter CEO Elon Musk. It did not go well. Technical glitches and kept crashing the Spaces for 26 minutes. Then there was an echo that reverberated for some time. Labeled “Ron’s DeSaster” by the Daily Mail with a front page headline, the moniker soon went viral, trending on Twitter. Musk claimed the problem was too many people had joined, but it was an inauspicous opener at best.
The decision to bypass standard media like ABC, CBS and NBC to make his announcement raised eyebrows among political pundits, as DeSantis’s polling numbers have been on the decline in recent weeks, in part due to his ongoing battle with Disney, Florida’s largest non-government employer.
The announcement came just days after both the NAACP and LGBTQ advocacy group Equality Florida issued warnings to their constituents about traveling to Florida due to DeSantis’s racist, homophobic and transphobic policies.
Some pundits suggested the choice of Twitter and Musk was a challenge to former president Donald Trump, who once was a fixture on Twitter but now prefers his own social media site, Truth Social. DeSantis’s choice of Musk to announce with is notable for LGBTQ people because of Musk’s long history of anti-gay and anti-trans posts on the site. These include that Musk has pushed the homophobic narrative that gays are pedophile groomers on Twitter, which is one of DeSantis’s stock arguments to bolster his “Don’t Say Gay” policies. Last fall, Musk instigated the rumor that the brutal attack on then-Speaker Pelosi’s husband Paul was a gay lover’s spat. It was only after Hillary Clinton called it out on Twitter that he took the tweet down.
Last year, Musk’s trans daughter filed court documents to change her name because she “doesn’t want to be related to him in any way, shape or form.” That did not stop Musk from continuing to post anti-trans content.
DeSantis rose to national prominence through a series of extremist policies, notably his stringent “Don’t Say Gay” laws, which President Biden has referred to as “hateful.” The Florida bills, initially only pertaining to elementary schools, restrict any classroom discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity. The original law stated classroom instruction on “sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards,” according to the law’s language.
Last month DeSantis expanded Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” laws to cover all K through 12 classrooms. The rule change would ban lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity from grades 4 to 12, unless required by existing state standards or as part of reproductive health instruction that students can choose not to take.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre condemned the proposal saying “It’s wrong, it’s completely, utterly wrong.” She called it “part of a disturbing and dangerous trend that we’re seeing across the nation” of targeting LGBTQ people.
DeSantis and other GOP lawmakers have repeatedly said the measure is “reasonable” and that parents, not teachers, should be the ones to raise subjects of sexual orientation and gender identity with their children. DeSantis’s original “Don’t Say Gay” law is considered to be the template other states have used to pass similar laws.
DeSantis’s ongoing conflicts with Disney are a direct result of these anti-gay policies, which Disney objected to, setting off a series of battles between the governor and the giant entertainment corporation that includes ABC News. Many Republicans have expressed concerns that DeSantis’s conflicts with Disney signal problems between the governor and Big Business.
DeSantis has also gained notoriety due to his war against Critical Race Theory (CRT) and Black studies in schools and colleges. And in April, DeSantis signed one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country.
The confluence of DeSantis’s anti-LGBTQ laws and his attacks on Black history and Black college courses, as well as his strict implementation of anti-abortion laws, have positioned him as the most radically right of the current slate of Republican candidates, which include former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, businessman Vivek Ramaswamy, and South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, who announced his candidacy on Monday, in a spirited rally that aired live on CNN and MSNBC.
Scott’s announcement drew support from Donald Trump, suggesting both that Trump is unconcerned by the challenge and that he might consider Scott as a running mate, if he becomes the nominee.
But only DeSantis polls above single digits and is considered the only real challenger to Trump, whose ongoing legal troubles may disrupt his run for the presidency. On Tuesday the date for Trump’s New York trial was set for March 25, 2024 — right in the middle of the primaries.
In the current slate of GOP candidates, all of whom are outspokenly anti-LGBTQ, DeSantis stands out as the most dangerous due to his history of anti-LGBTQ legislation and his successful landslide re-election in November running on that record. Florida has been a mainstay of presidential contention for the GOP in every election since 2000 barring 2008, when the state went for Barack Obama.
The people DeSantis has surrounded himself with as governor also signal how he would fill his Cabinet as president. His potential education secretary and Surgeon General are both extremist figures well outside the norms of their respective fields.
AP reported about DeSantis’s expansion of the Don’t Say Gay laws that the expansion “signals the governor’s willingness to bypass even the compliant state legislature and instead leverage state boards in order to accomplish his high-profile political goals. Late last year, at DeSantis’ urging, state medical boards voted to ban children from receiving hormones or undergoing surgeries to treat gender dysphoria.”
Brandon Wolf, press secretary for the LGBTQ advocacy group Equality Florida, said in a statement about the change in March: “Everything he does is about what can further his own career ambitions. And it’s clear he sees the anti-LGBTQ movement as his vehicle to get him where he wants to go.”
That place is the White House.