After Donald Trump sabotaged the 2022 midterm elections for Republicans by endorsing unelectable extremists, a comforting narrative took root among GOP elites. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis would offer a return to “normal” politics, continuing Trump’s aggressive, unapologetic defense of traditional American culture and values but without all that pesky authoritarianism. He would continue to wrap himself in an American flag, but he wouldn’t invite people to dinner who preferred wearing the Nazi one.
Many on the political left drew the opposite conclusion. DeSantis was the real threat, a smarter, more disciplined version of Trump. Whereas Trump believed in anyone or anything that believed in him, DeSantis was a dangerous ideologue. Trump would tweet like an autocrat; DeSantis would act like one.
Is DeSantis an authoritarian? The governor is the political equivalent of an overly greased weather vane, twisting to follow the winds within his party. In the post-Trump GOP, those winds are blowing in an authoritarian direction. Whether he’s an authoritarian at heart or just a cynical opportunist, what matters is how DeSantis behaves. And as governor, he has repeatedly used the powers of his office in authoritarian ways. [Continue reading…]