Ezra Klein Read DeSantis’ Book So We Don’t Have To

As horrifying as I find the prospect of TFG (aka Donald Trump) retaking the Presidency, the idea of Ron DeSantis in the Oval Office makes me even more nauseous.

At a gloomy brunch a couple of days after the 2016 election, a friend opined that the only thing that would save the country was TFG’s obvious incompetence. She was right–so many of the administration’s efforts failed because TFG’s ragtag group of “captains of industry” had absolutely no idea how government operated (or, in many instances, what governments are for.)

Ron DeSantis poses a significantly greater threat. He’s smart. And as Ezra Klein has recently written, he thinks Trump didn’t go far enough toward the dark side.

Klein says it’s a mistake to dismiss campaign books written by politicians. He thinks we  “can learn a lot about people by paying close attention to how they want to be seen.” And he notes that Ron DeSantis’s “The Courage to be Free”–while not a good book– is a revealing one.

As I read through it, I started marking down every time he told a story about using the power of his office to punish or sideline a perceived enemy or obstacle. There is his bill to make it easier to sue tech companies if you feel they’re discriminating against your politics. Here are his laws limiting what teachers can say about gender identity and imposing criminal penalties on medical providers who offer certain types of gender-affirming care. There’s his effort to punish Disney for opposing his anti-L.G.B.T.Q. laws by removing its self-governing status. Here’s his suspension of Andrew Warren, the state attorney for Hillsborough County, because Warren declined to enforce laws criminalizing abortion. There’s the bill to increase criminal penalties against rioters during Black Lives Matter protests.

Then there’s what DeSantis wants to do, but hasn’t yet done. He thinks the federal government has become too “woke” and too liberal, and Congress should “withhold funding to the offending executive branch departments until the abuses are corrected.” He is frustrated that President Donald Trump didn’t do more with an authority known as Schedule F that can reclassify around 50,000 federal employees to make them more like political appointees, enabling the president “to terminate federal employees who frustrate his policies.” He tried to make it easier to sue media outlets for defamation, though that plan got bogged down in the Florida Legislature. Outside the book, he has called for a national “reckoning” on Covid and promised to hold people like Dr. Anthony Fauci “accountable” for the damage he believes they’ve caused.

Klein hones in on the essence of DeSantis’ view of Trump–and his own approach to  governing. DeSantis argues that, despite Trump’s complaints about the “deep state,” he didn’t use the power of the Presidency to destroy what DeSantis regards as the “threatening forces of the left.” (My friend would argue–correctly–that this was due to Trump’s incompetence, rather than an absence of bile.) Whatever the reason, as Klein reports, “DeSantis is trying to show, in vignette after vignette, that he has both the will and the discipline to do what Trump did not.”

DeSantis delights in describing the methodical, relentless effort he put in to bending the state of Florida to his will. He describes winning Florida’s governorship and ordering his transition team to “amass an exhaustive list of all the constitutional, statutory, and customary powers of the governor.” Much of the rest of the book is an exhaustive, and at times exhausting, account of how he used them.

In media coverage of his campaign, DeSantis emerges as a humorless martinet, utterly unable to engage with people in retail politics.  Klein notes that he also can’t  bring himself to

“extend even a modicum of compassion to his opponents. When he describes the George Floyd protests he doesn’t spare even a word condemning or grieving Floyd’s murder. His anti-L.G.B.T.Q. agenda is unleavened by even the barest sympathy for L.G.B.T.Q. kids.”

Despite painting a truly appalling picture of Florida Man, Klein warns readers not to underestimate his chances–a warning that sends chills up and down my spine.

If American voters needed any further confirmation of the Republican Party’s U-Turn from political party to cult, DeSantis might be that U-Turn’s poster boy.

The GOP of my younger days was firmly opposed to what the party characterized as government over-reach. It was so averse to the exercise of federal authority, especially, that the party opposed many programs and regulations that were clearly warranted. Today, however, Republicans like DeSantis are enthusiastic about wielding government power– so long as government is  imposing an agenda benefitting Republican oligarchs and culture warriors, and ensconcing Republican politicians in office.

There’s a reason Neo-Nazis support DeSantis. He’s a fellow fascist.


  1. Hidden beneath DeSantis’s slant toward his base (which has no idea what Fascism means), is a Libertarian going after the public oligarchy or Wall Street like Disney. Anybody that knows Disney corporate operations know they run like a Fascist regime themselves in Orlando. They have hoards of lawyers for a reason.

    I can tolerate DeSantis more than Trump, only because of his intellect. TFG was an idiot who made mistakes that cost billions in bailouts.

    I don’t know where DeSantis stands on using his power against the military oligarchy. Trump was an idiot, but he knew war was a racket. DeSantis might be more intelligent than the Generals while Trump claimed to be, but wasn’t.

    Leading approval ratings show Robert F Kennedy leading both Trump and DeSantis. He’s also leading Biden. Considering we are 18 months out — that is significant!!!

    I know there are naysayers, but we are several years out from the beginnings of COVID and still haven’t found ground zero, and Congress just allowed sealed docs on Wuhan lab to be combed over, which is a far cry from learning the truth.

    The American political landscape is a tinderbox and will be more so 18 months from now. Populism will be more acceptable on the right and left. The oligarchy is in trouble either way…

  2. Todd: as numerous CREDIBLE outlets have confirmed, “RFK Jr.’s candidacy is being promoted by rich, white, conspiracy-pushing bullies who hold an oversized media presence. Remember that time—three months ago—when Elon Musk was critical of Twitter for (allegedly) putting a thumb on the scale of political debate? He has now thrown the full force of Twitter’s Musk-promoting algorithms to advance the anti-vaccine agenda of RFK Jr.

    Are Musk and Rogan just anti-vaxxers who believe that RFK Jr.’s conspiracy theories are right? Or are they doing so to promote Trump’s candidacy? Or both?

    Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo wrote about dust-up, noting that RFK Jr.’s “top backers are Steve Bannon, Mike Flynn, Roger Stone. He’s a creation of the world of MAGA.” See Talking Points Memo, Trumpers Know 3rd Party Spoilers Are Trump’s Only Shot.

  3. I wonder if he was raised by authoritarian parents and what fellow classmates would say about him – from elementary school through the military academy.

    Very frightening that there are people supporting his campaign. Apparently they don’t think he would or could turn on them if elected.

  4. I can’t think of any time in our history, that most of Governor Demented’s favorite laws wouldn’t be immediately called out as blatantly unconstitutional, until now! Unlike Todd, however, I’m not in favor of burning it all down to solve our problems. Do we have a ton of issues? We sure do. How do we fix them? I don’t pretend to know. Rather than let a nutjob, like RFK come in and dither for 4 years, turning it all over to MAGATS, let’s save our (mostly) democratic republic first.

    I have said before that we need to play the long game. Let’s start by finding out how many duplicative laws and regulations we have. We need to reorganize government. We also need to codify the Constitution. Relying on the good will of those elected clearly doesn’t work. We’ve had 246 years to figure it out. Let’s begin to fix it!

  5. Wasn’t it Orwells 1984 where words often took on the opposite meaning of what they historically stood for ( its been decades since I read the book) . To republicans like trump & DeSantis “Freedom” means government control to push ideas fascist like DeSantis prefer. Not unlike the sign “Work will set you free” over the gates into Auschwitz ( aka Hell). DeSantis or trump would likely mean the end, or at least severe crippling of, of our democratic republic and the end of any semblance of justice if you aren’t a member of “the party”.

  6. Peggy. The bills that DeSantis promotes are passed by the state legislature which consists of a supermajority of Republicans who do whatever the Governor wants. He has the state in his back pocket.

  7. I think a liberal might well prefer Donald Trump over Ron DeSantis when it comes to policies. But there are some things more important than policies. Donald Trump doesn’t care about American institutions. He doesn’t care about American democracy. He doesn’t care that his handling of classified documents puts this nation at risk. As objectionable as DeSantis is when it comes to issues (and I would argue that many of his positions are performative in nature), it is Donald Trump who is the existential threat to American democracy not Ron DeSantis. If Trump is elected the American experiment is probably over. I wouldn’t say that about DeSantis. And I can’t stand the guy.

  8. Love this on of all days, Juneteenth – folks arguing about who would be worst, The Duck or DeSantaclaus. Give me a break – take your energy to make sure neither happens. You (for the moment) have your freedom – use it.

  9. Graduating from Harvard Law ain’t what it used to be. Some Harvard Law graduates are purely evil, mean and nasty, never mind having a clue about governing for the people. Wretches like Ted Cruz and De Santis are hopelessly evil and rotten to their fetid cores. And yet… people vote for them in droves. Those “voters” simply cannot admit they are wrong.

    All this hand-wringing and pearl-clutching in 2023 is, sadly, necessary so that the vast majority of people with brains that work and hearts that are true will vote these flaming bastards out of office and take the Republican party into the swamp of losers past.

  10. This is an interesting look at the American psyche of the PMC. This is quite a Caucasian group and a very privileged group as well. Yet,a very,very unhappy group as well.

  11. Sheila,

    I don’t know about that your claim regarding RFK, Jr. As I believe I mentioned, I hosted a friend of mine last weekend who is an RFK, Jr. supporter. She is extremely liberal (enthusiastic supporter of Bernie) and I was shocked to find out she also talked positive of Trump and would vote for him over Biden. Here are the things I heard: 1) Biden is corrupt and is taking bribes; 2) Trump is a pacifist and didn’t get us into wars; 3) Russia had every right to invade Ukraine; 4) NATO is bad and Russia is right to be worried about the organization; 5) Putin’s war crimes are no worse than America’s war crimes; 6) nothing Trump has done, including January 6th and his handling of classified documents, is worse than anything any other politician, including Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and Joe Biden 6) the mainstream media lies to you and you need to seek out alternative sources of information (she recommended several blogs and podcasts that tell the truth…lucky me.) 8) Liz Cheney is evil 9) vaccinations are evil; 10) she will vote for RFK, Jr. over Biden and if Biden wins the D nomination, she’ll vote for Trump.

    I couldn’t believe how poisoned her mind has become and how she embraces so many absurd conspiracies. So I went looking for people on the far far left, supposed intellectuals, who openly embrace Trump and Trumpism. And I found them…people like Glenn Greenwald and Marxist professor Christian Parenti, who constantly express hate for progressives for being too moderate, but they’re fine with Trumpism.

    Trump actually pushes a lot of anti-American crap (remember the “both sides kill people” comment when asked about Putin assassinating political enemies) that some people on the far left are very comfortable with. Trump’s embrace of Putin and willingness to give him everything he wants is straight out of the leftist appeasement playbook. I’ve long said the view that Trumpism is far right conservativism is not accurate. It isn’t really a philosophical movement at all.

  12. Ian. Some of us are unhappy partly because we don’t think that our position has to be achieved by stomping those less fortunate than ourselves into the dirt.

  13. Yes, DeSantis’ “Freedom” is freedom to be just like, and only like he wants you to be.
    It is clear from both history and Klein’s book report, that DeSantis IS the “Wanna-be dictator,”
    and little else.
    RFK Jr. is, quite apparently, being used as a ploy by those nasty boys.
    Why is Bannon not yet in jail?

  14. The craven power lust by the Nazi regime was witnessed by individuals still alive today. Everything said about Nazis was a lie, everything was fake, they projected these things on others because they were guilty themselves.

    And what happened? Once they were done eating what they considered the woke back then, they started eating themselves! Just like a male lion Will eat the Cubs of the females in his pride, especially one’s sired by another male, but he will also do the same with his own sires.

    A monster was created by those who cravingly thirst for power, and, never really rained it in to control it. So it just grew and became more bloodthirsty. And, here we are! It’s never about power to do good, it’s about power to control and exert indiscriminately as we witnessed during the second World war.

    They are drawn to this type of destructive behavior, because it collapses and destroys societies and civilization by upending any sort of social cohesion. And it continues on and on and on through history, until, some sort of universal epiphany is reached, or, the destruction/extinction of this apex life form. And, I might add, with the help of the hangers on and the useful idiots!

  15. Paul. Your post is a reminder that anyone who wanders blindly on the internet can fall down a rabbit hole. User beware!

  16. Paul,

    If you want to understand a Leftist point of view, I’d recommend the WSWS and the American Prospect. Tucker Carlson and Glenn Greenwald are in the same mix. Look at Tulsi Gabbard who bailed from the DNC to Trumpism.

    Trumpism is populist, and so is RFK Jr. RFK is no different than his father and Uncle, who were so populist in the 60s that they had to be murdered by our own government.

    Also, anti-government isn’t anti-American. Trump’s populism is missing a big piece, so I emphasize Einstein’s dictum and the Worldwide Socialists — genuine Leftist populism versus the pseudo-left called progressives like AOC, Warren, and Bernie.

  17. Paul, your friend is not a liberal, by my own definition AS a liberal. I agree the media is problematic. Nothing else she said was remotely liberal or democratic. I personally don’t know any persons that share my views that parrot the nonsense she did.

  18. First of all, thank you Sheila for not mincing words and calling DeSantis a “fascist”. Too many, including most, if not all, of The Press, will call him “conservative”.

    He is the fascist dictator of the banana republic called Florida. Each day in power proves this point.

    Paul – you remind me of Dennis Miller saying “I used to be a liberal until I heard a liberal call a police officer a ‘pig’. Then I knew that all liberals were bad.”
    Your friend is no more a “liberal” than Trump is a “conservative”.

    As for the choice of Trump or DeSantis, it is like asking if I would rather drown or be burned alive. Either way, I’m dead. No thank you to both.

    As for Todd’s bromance with Jr. – Nadar was a idealist (bordering on self-righteous) who gave the election to W. Jr. is a tool designed to give the election to Trump — or DeSantis. I quit caring about what he said years ago. One can only go so far on one’s father’s name before people realize that you are nothing like him.

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