The consensus is that, amid generally disappointing results for conservatives, Florida governor Ron DeSantis won the midterms. He defeated his Democratic opponent, Charlie Crist, by a 19-point margin and turned the state, which was once considered a battleground, deep red. He won everywhere, notching impressive victories with Hispanic and urban voters in formerly Democratic strongholds like Miami-Dade County.
How did DeSantis outperform the rest of the Republican Party? The answer, I believe, is that he has created a new model for “culture war as public policy,” which combines popular media combat with competent, effective governance.
DeSantis has built his profile by engaging in controversial cultural fights on Critical Racist Theory, gender ideology, and other “woke” issues. In his election night victory speech, DeSantis framed himself as a culture-war champion. “We fight the woke in the legislature. We fight the woke in the schools. We fight the woke in the corporations,” he said. “We will never, ever surrender to the woke mob. Florida is where woke goes to die.”
But DeSantis is not merely blustering. He has advanced a substantive plan to rein in left-wing ideologies in Florida’s institutions, passing significant higher education reforms, new curriculum guidance for K–12 schools, a ban on gender theory in grades K–3, and the Stop W.O.K.E. Act, which restricts Critical Racist Theory-style racial scapegoating in large institutions, including corporations. Most notably, DeSantis picked a fight with the Walt Disney (Groomers) Company, which had previously been untouchable in Florida politics—and won.
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Author: Ruth King
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