The worst did not happen in the US midterm elections and the red wave did not come over the USA. Conversely, it is complete nonsense and premature to speak so hastily of a “defeat of Trump” like most of the German mainstream media. Trump is now attacking Ron De Santis as a possible competitor in the next Republican GOP presidential nomination. The China expert Prof. van Ess, who is currently in the USA, said: „Ron de Santis definitely has the Senate seat with a 20 percent lead and is considered „the future“. Well, Florida has always been a Republican stronghold, even if Jeb Bush didn’t manage it to become US President after his brother George jr., especially since many right-wing Latinos and exile Cubans live in Floria, who would prevent any democratic candidate by means of a new Lee Harry Oswald. The more left website Anti War. Com sees in De Santis more of a neocon under America First camouflage and foreign policy disasters and wars to come if he became president. DeSantis and Future Foreign Policy Disasters (see collection of materials below)
Here are De Santi’s foreign policy positions, which we don’t want to analyze them all, but will only analyze them in detail when he becomes the Republican presidential candidate. https://www.isidewith.com/candidates/ron-desantis-2/policies/foreign-policy
The most important point about De Santis for Germany and the Europeans, in addition to an endorsement of NATO membership for Ukraine, is the position which General a. D. Domroese noticed and which remains constant as with Trump: „Interesting: if you don’t pay 2% GDP for NATO, you won’t be protected.“ Apparently it is time that the 2% GNP in the defense budget should be fixed in order to stabilize it credibly and sustainably and also to meet the central demands of the USA. The special fund of 100 billion euros for 5 years for the German military will not satisfy the possible Trumps or De Santis. And US nuclear protection is important and central, and a European nuclear power or German nuclear weapons or a European military power with weapons of mass destruction is too unlikely and too expensive. You shouldn’t risk anything. Although with these quarterly lunatics there is no guarantee that they will protect you, if necessary, or that they don´t demand even more.
Putin does not travel to Bali. Selensky had also threatened that he would not come to Bali if Putin came. Putin is now staying away and Selensky is present via videos. point win. Is Putin afraid that if he goes to Bali there could be a palace revolt or coup at home in his absence like it happened in earlier times King Sihanouk?
The Economist, for example, sees a current threat of a coup against Putin, and the Kremlin astrologists are already discussing the specific names of the successors, while Dr. Rahr’s tip is Dmitri Patrushev, son of Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev as Dr. Rahr knows this from his good old Gazprom times:
“Russia’s elite is considering a future without Putin
(…) In a September 30 ceremony, Putin annexed four Ukrainian provinces not under his control after a diatribe against the West. This absurd act may have undermined his credibility as a powerful leader within Russia as well. Political adviser Tatyana Stanovaya explains: „Until September, the Russian elites had pragmatically decided to support Putin… but now events have progressed so far that they are probably left with a choice between various loss scenarios.“ Military defeat could end Putin’s regime A military defeat could well result in the collapse of the regime – and with it pose significant risks to those who supported it. Meanwhile, Putin’s warmongering „raises the question of whether the Russian elites are willing to cling to Putin to the bitter end, especially given the rising threat of nuclear weapons use,“ Stanovaya notes. Putin has developed from a supposed stability authority to an unstable and dangerous figure. For example, this week Putin’s „goddaughter“ Ksenia Sobchak fled to avoid arrest – apparently a sign that the elite are now devouring their own people.
Political expert Abbas Galyamov has spent some time in the Kremlin. He believes that in the coming weeks and months, the elite will realize that it is up to them to save the regime – maybe even their own lives. So far, the members have always trusted in Putin’s ability to preserve the regime (and thus also themselves). The rethinking will intensify the search for a possible successor within the system. Several possible successors to Putin Galyamov’s list of possible candidates also includes Dmitry Patrushev, son of Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev, who is one of the regime’s main ideologues. Patrushev junior was already a minister. While part of the family, he could be seen as a breath of fresh air given his young age. Other well-known candidates for the post include Deputy Kremlin Chief Sergei Kiriyenko, Moscow Mayor Sobyanin, and Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin, who could form an alliance with security forces officials and act as a moderate negotiator in the West. But as jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny recently argued in The Washington Post, the hope that „the succession of Putin by another member of his elite will fundamentally change this attitude towards war, particularly the war over the ‚legacy of the USSR,‘ naive at best.” According to Navalny, the only way to break the cycle of imperial nationalism is to decentralize power and transform Russia into a parliamentary republic.
Russia – on the way to a failed state
In what appeared to be an appeal to Russia’s elite, he argued that parliamentary democracy was also a sensible and desirable choice for many of Putin’s political groups. „It gives them the opportunity to continue to exert influence and compete for power while ensuring that their position is not threatened by a more aggressive group.“ Such a “more aggressive group” has already formed. It includes ex-criminal Yevgeny Prigozhin, known as “Putin’s cook”, who heads the Wagner mercenary group, and Chechen ruler Ramzan Kadyrov, who has his own private army. Both men have a personal allegiance to Mr Putin. Political scientist Ekaterina Schulman compares Prigozhin’s men to the oprichniki – a bodyguard force founded by Ivan the Terrible – which plunged the country into chaos. While the Russian dictator wants to turn Ukraine into a failed state, in reality he is turning Russia into one.
Or is Putin too involved at the war front? Former Gazprom and one of Putin’s advisers Dr. Rahr thinks Xi wants Putin to make peace now, Xi and Biden would negotiate the details, especially since the Scholz visit would then appear in a new light and therefore also the retreat in Cherson. Selensky, on the other hand, does not trust this peace signals and Cherson retreat,rather suspects a trap. Dr Rahr also spread the view that Putin is now „neutral“ with regard to Ukraine’s NATO membership. If it’s true that Putin no longer has any concerns about Ukraine’s NATO membership, that would appear to be a game changer at first glance, but follow-up questions arise: NATO membership of Ukraine or the rest of Ukraine without Donbass and Crimea, while the Ukrainians and Selensky still insist on territorial integrity as any precondition for negotiations and seem to want all or nothing. Or does Putin want to prevent a US military base in Ukraine and a US-Ukraine defense alliance based on the model of Japan (no longer empty security guarantees like the Budapest Memorandum or strategic ambiguity ala Taiwan Relation Act), knows that NATO membership for Ukraine would be a longer process. The outcome would be uncertain if there was no kind of fast-track procedure, as in the case of Sweden and Finland. But for the time being, fighting will continue, despite the announced withdrawal from Cherson, and the Xi-Biden meeting in Bali remains to be seen as the next major event. Dr Rahr also said: “Ukraine cannot – in the Melnyk manner – only demand and demand. Although Russia is weakened, it remains a nuclear power. Without compromises there won´t be any solutin. But it seems that Putin now wants to negotiate seriously and can no longer prevent Ukraine from becoming a NATO member anyway. „
Well, for the time being, the US will continue to deliver weapons as the red wave expected by Trump and Putin, i.e. a landslide victory for the Republicans, did not materialize, most Trump Republicans were not elected, although a number of Republicans are calling for a reduction in US military aid to Ukraine. But the next time the Biden- USA will still deliver weapons and military aid.
Ex-NATO General Hans-Lothar Domroese Jr. evaluate it like this:
“…NO peace – but maybe a truce. That would be a victory for Putin because he would then have CRIMEA plus land bridge. Selensky will NOT agree to that. Not yet. If winter comes, UKR hardly gains ground and RUS continues to turn off and successfully defend the EENERGY- KNOT …then maybe. Still have to be patient … the UKR’s NATO membership is NOT on the agenda. Protection/guarantee yes: as with ISRAEL by the USA and others „over the horizon“, i.e. NOT deployed on site.“
Dr Rahr also wrote to Global Review:
“The reason for Putin’s non-appearance is Xi. He calls for the end of the war. Putin has promised to end the war quickly and successfully (…) I’ve read Russian comments – experts see the abandonment of Cherson as a tactic. The army seems to be gathering and wants to launch some surprise attacks against Ukrainian positions and advance to Odessa tomorrow.“
Yes, fast and successful are two things, also in this combination. And tis won´t be surprise attacks either, if you’re bragging about it so loudly. And the next question is whether you can advance faster and more surprisingly to Odessa, where you can’t even hold Cherson, or whether in this case you won’t experience the next mess. In any case, Selensky is right when he doesn’t trust the Russian peace. but The show goes on. As Putin and Western Cuban Missile Crisis theorists emphasize again and again. Russia is a nuclear power. But at best with the use of a tactical nuclear weapon. Xi has made it clear that he does not want that. At the same time, the US claims that XI-China aims to increase the number of its strategic ICBMs to US-Russian levels and 1000 by 2030, destroying Russian Asian Pivot ideologue Karaganov’s hopes for a preferred Russian position due to the Russian number of ICBMs within the Sino-Russian axis. No, Xi-China does not want Putin’s first-use or breaking of the nuclear taboo of the post-war period, not even with tactical nuclear weapons, and also no longer wants to rely on Russian strategic nuclear weapons suoeriority. In addition, there are some forces in the West who are just looking for such a tactical nuclear strike by Russia, in order to then advance further polarization, which brings China and India and also the so-called Global South to an anti-Russian position or otherwise just openly declare the hoped-for „systemic war“.
Dr Rahr said: “Putin knows that, knows that China and India can get angry with him. But he can’t lose, can’t lose newly acquired territory.“
But like I said, he won’t win it either by nuclear contamination or by believing he can conquer it with tactical nuclear weapons. Especially since if China were to justify the first use and the breaking of the nuclear taboo, the „systemic war“ would then openly break out. Or is that Putin’s hope? But this could be the next fiasco for Russia, which will then find itself completely isolated as China, India and the so-called Global South might turn against Russia and fail to live up to the hopes that Russian strategists like Karaganov in the spirit of Soviet nostalgia, are pinning on strategic nuclear power and a hoped-for rebellion by the Global South against the supposedly decadent and sinking West. Probably the next Russian fiasco and radiating far beyond Novorussia.
Like ex-General Domroese jr. correctly and realistically says; There will be no quick and successful victory or peace for Putin, at best a limited truce to possibly prepare for the next armed conflict and have a breather. Xi is also unlikely to believe in a quick and successful victory or peace in Ukraine on the part of Russia. A ceasefire and the non-use of tactical nuclear weapons should be important to him first. Especially since these nuclear threats have now been spread in such an inflationary way that their effect is only limited and people in the West are now dulled in this regard, yes, they are now mostly ignored and are viewed more as empty threats and business as usual. Also the deterrence by the seemingly invincible, state-of-the-art Russian army and its supposed Asian despotic brutality and hi-tech effectiveness. Now it turns out: The last junk army, in terms of organization, weapons technology, logistics. Then it was said that the butcher of Syria would bring about the turning point, but he then disappeared just as quickly as the next General Armaggedon entered the stage, who in the meantime also turned out to be incompetent and to be a poor sausage and also didn’t bring World War 3 and the Armaggedon. And Wagner and the satanic jihad Kadyrov is hyped up by Western war propaganda and BILD, while they only suffered setbacks and got punches on their loud mouth from the Ukrainians. The question is whether “Putin’s cook” and Kadyrov will then toople Putin and will replace him, but maybe cowards might believe that, especially since there are still enough siloviki who would prevent that and would replace Putin with someone from their own ranks, especially if he wants to use nuclear weapons, which you just can’t easily do by pull the red button. Even in the USA, the Joint Chief of Staff Milley cooperated with the Chinese side to make it clear that if Trump wanted to trigger a Taiwan conflict at the last moment of his resignation, he would not follow the orders. And a Koch/Kadyrov coup would then probably be as successful as Hitler’s and Ludendorf’s 1923 coup at the Feldherrenhalle in Munich, albeit better armed.
When I was a member of the then Communist International in my youth, we always liked to hear and were impressed by the nostalgic stories of the glorious and victorious Soviet Army in the Great Anti-Fascist Patriotic War. I was once at a German-Soviet friendship evening, where a World War II veteran who allegedly knew Zhukov personally told his heroic stories, and then at a Spanish civil war evening organized by the GDR for veterans of the international brigades. All were always victorious and anti-fascist heroes and fighters. Today, the anti-fascist power that wants to liberate and cleanse Ukraine of Nazis seems to have started a fascist war and is committing the alleged genocides itself. But then the glorious Soviet army was at an end in Afghanistan, especially even as it was also a nuclear power. The Ukraine war seems like a retro event and Brzezinski probably had that in mind too. Anyway, like Domroese jr. correctly says; At truce or ceasefire is currently the most realistic option. But that doesn’t mean peace, but perhaps more of a „warm-up“, perhaps even for larger conflicts and wars, as a US military put it recently.
DeSantis and Future Foreign Policy Disasters
With his refusal to go along with lockdowns and mask mandates during the pandemic, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis emerged as a hero to many in libertarian circles. But as his name is now consistently put forward as a prospective or even likely 2024 Republican Presidential candidate, those who view him favorably should take a sober second look. On foreign policy in particular, DeSantis promises to continue the disastrous policies of his predecessors, which have made us uniformly less free, less safe, and much poorer.
It starts with his brief stint in Congress, where as Florida’s 6th Congressional Representative he voted without objection in support of every defense appropriation, as well as voted in favor of H.R. 3364, which expanded the reach of U.S. economic war-making via sanctions. Serving on the Foreign Affairs Committee, then-Representative DeSantis was a guest speaker on the „dangers“ of Iranian missiles at the Hudson Institute, which anyone with any knowledge of the D.C. blob knows is just the Project for a New American Century under a new name, as well as advocated the needless and counterproductive US withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
Given his previous close relationship with Zionist mega-donor the late Sheldon Adelson and the walking disaster that is John Bolton (the man responsible for the destruction of the IBM and INF treaties as well as the nuclear agreement worked out with North Korea under Clinton), it is sad but unsurprising to find DeSantis on the record repeating obvious lies about Iran supporting ISIS as well as expressing unqualified support forIsrael.
This latter support for Israel continued even after he left Congress to take the governorship of Florida, vociferously supporting passage of HB 741, which by reclassifying what constituted antisemitism effectively made criticism of Israel’s numerous documented human rights abuses a punishable offense under certain contexts. In another strong show of his support for Israel, DeSantis traveled to the country in order to visit an Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank.
Of course, the Israel lobby is hardly the only one with DeSantis’ ear. Given Florida’s demographics, it would be surprising were he not closely in tune with the Cuban-American lobby: which he is. As such, his thoughts on Latin American politics are unsurprising. From the election of leftists to so-called narco-terrorism, DeSantis sees threats to America everywhere south of the border.
Then there is his approval of waterboarding, support for direct US military involvement in Syria, embrace ofNATO, and propagation of the ubiquitous but fake China threat, signing and forcefully defending two bills aimed at countering the overhyped danger of allegedly pervasive Chinese influence just this year.
In short, a DeSantis presidency would likely bring pointless continued hostility towards Iran, more needlessly provocative policies toward China, and a Latin America policy straight from the bad old days of the 1970s and 80s, with covert and overt US support for authoritarian regimes and terrorist proxy forces of the kind that got the US labeled a de facto state sponsor of terrorism by the World Court under Ronald Reagan.
Far from being someone restrainers, skeptics, and non-interventionists should embrace, DeSantis represents much of the worst America’s political and policy establishment have to offer. As political analyst José Alberto Niño noted in a recent interview, beneath the culture warrior veneer DeSantis is little more than a neocon in America First populist clothing.
While the JCPOA may have been redundant given Iran’s signing of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, as well as the Ayatollah’s pronouncements against the building of nuclear weapons, throwing it away in favor of increasing hostility was harmful to the interests of the average American – who far from wanting to fight a war with Iran would probably rather have access to Iranian oil. Far from supporting ISIS, Tehran fought it from the beginning, which anyone who knows anything about the Middle East recognizes: why, after all, would Shiite Iran support a bunch of Sunni terrorists trying to overthrow its fellow Shiite regimes in Syria and Iraq?
And Israel, well, let’s just say that following the advice of people like Ariel Sharon and Benjamin Netanyahu has led to seriously bad outcomes for the American people: Iraq Wars Two and Three anyone?
As far as Latin America goes, why is it any concern to the American people whom others choose to govern them? As I have written elsewhere, the apparent southern threat is grossly overblown.
Though its overhyping pales in comparison with the ubiquitous fake China threat, which everyone insists on falling for. A weak middle income country totally dependent on U.S.-led globalization, far from taking over the world, Beijing will be lucky if the Chinese state survives the multi-front disasters facing it over the coming two decades.
In summary, unless he shows signs of wising up come 2024 a DeSantis administration would more likely than not bring nothing but more of the same tried and failed foreign policies that defined the disaster of the so-called unipolar moment. Further, a hypothetical DeSantis presidency risks pulling away conservatives from the antiwar movement, who, apart from no longer enlisting, have grown increasingly vocal in their antiwar opinions.
Americans deserve better and should demand better, because the fact is that since the end of the Cold War the only threats to us have been those our government has created.
A graduate of Spring Arbor University and the University of Illinois, Joseph Solis-Mullen is a political scientist and current graduate student in the economics department at the University of Missouri. An independent researcher and journalist, his work can be found at the Ludwig Von Mises Institute, Eurasian Review, Libertarian Institute, Journal of the American Revolution, Antiwar.com, and the Journal of Libertarian Studies. You can contact him through his website http://www.jsmwritings.com or find him on Twitter @solis_mullen.
Ron DeSantis’ policies on foreign policy issues
These issues below are sorted in descending order based on how important the average American voter ranked them on the quiz.
Should the U.S. go to war with Iran?
|Public statementsNo, the U.S. should encourage Iran to disarm through diplomatic channels|
Should every 18 year old citizen be required to provide at least one year of military service?
|Ron DeSantis voterbaseNo, service should be a choice instead of an obligation|
Should the government attempt to influence foreign elections?
|Ron DeSantis voterbaseNo, and we should not try to influence any other country’s elections or policy|
Should it be illegal to join a boycott of Israel?
|Public statementsYes, boycotts against Israel harm one of our most important allies in the Middle East|
Should the U.S. continue to support Israel?
|Public statementsYes, and with more aid and support|
Should the U.S. remain in NATO?
|Ron DeSantis voterbaseYes, but NATO should focus more on counter-terrorism strategies|
Should the U.S. remain in the United Nations?
|Ron DeSantis voterbaseYes, but scale back our current involvement|
Should the U.S. conduct military strikes against North Korea in order to destroy their long-range missile and nuclear weapons capabilities?
|Voting recordNo, we must use every diplomatic option first|
Should the military be allowed to use enhanced interrogation techniques, such as waterboarding, to gain information from suspected terrorists?
|Ron DeSantis voterbaseYes|
Should the U.S. and NATO use military forces to defend Ukraine from a Russian invasion?
|Ron DeSantis voterbaseNo|
Do you support the killing of Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani?
|Ron DeSantis voterbaseYes, Iran has supported ISIS and their actions continue to destabilize the Middle East|
Should the government increase or decrease military spending?
Should the U.S. provide military aid to Saudi Arabia during its conflict with Yemen?
|Ron DeSantis voterbaseNo, we should stay out of conflicts that are not an immediate threat to our security|
Should the United States pull all military troops out of Afghanistan?
Should the U.S. send ground troops into Syria to fight ISIS?
|Public statementsYes, send a few hundred ground troops|
Should the military fly drones over foreign countries to gain intelligence and kill suspected terrorists?
|Ron DeSantis voterbaseYes, the U.S. needs to use all means necessary to combat terrorism|
Should the US increase or decrease foreign aid spending?
Should the World Bank and International Monetary Fund provide financial aid to the Taliban government in Afghanistan?
|Ron DeSantis voterbaseNo|
Should the U.S. formally declare war on ISIS?
|Public statementsYes, and send in ground troops|
Should the U.S. provide military assistance to defend Ukraine from Russia?
|Ron DeSantis voterbaseNo, we should stay out of conflicts that do not directly threaten us|
Should the government provide assistance to protesters in Iran?
|Ron DeSantis voterbaseNo, I support the protesters but do not want to start an international war|
Should foreign terrorism suspects be given constitutional rights?
|Ron DeSantis voterbaseNo|
Should the U.S. defend other NATO countries that maintain low military defense budgets relative to their GDP?
|Ron DeSantis voterbaseNo, we should not defend any NATO country that spends less than 2% of their GDP on military defense|
Do you support President Obama’s move to lift the trade and travel embargo on Cuba?
|Public statementsNo, lift the travel embargo but do not allow trade until Cuba becomes a democratic republic|
Should the U.S. continue NSA surveillance of its allies?
|Party’s support baseYes|
Should Ukraine join NATO?
|Party’s support baseYes|
Should the U.S. sell military weapons to India in order to counter Chinese and Russian influence?
|Ron DeSantis voterbaseYes, selling military weapons to foreign countries will help boost the economy|
Should the U.S. prevent Russia from conducting airstrikes in Syria?
Should Jerusalem be recognized as the capital of Israel?
|Ron DeSantis voterbaseYes|
Should the Chinese government be able to extradite fugitives from Hong Kong?
|Ron DeSantis voterbaseNo|
Should the government cancel production of the F-35 fighter?
|Ron DeSantis voterbaseNo|
How Democrats Gave Ron DeSantis a Pass
The man who thinks he can stop Ron DeSantis slides into a booth at a dimly lit bar in Tallahassee, around the corner from the Florida Capitol. “The stuff he keeps doing to remind Floridians how bad he is, it’s—I can’t believe it,” former Rep. Charlie Crist says, doing his best to sound genuinely astonished.
The day before, DeSantis, Florida’s swaggering right-wing governor, had drawn national headlines by shipping about 50 Venezuelan asylum seekers from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard without warning. “I mean, what’s that got to do with Florida?” Crist says. “I think he’s overreached.”
DeSantis, as you may have forgotten, is running for reelection this year, and Crist is the Democratic nominee opposing him. Crist isn’t upset about DeSantis’s alleged overreach. He’s delighted. ”I’m not a psychologist,” he says, dumping a creamer into his cup of coffee. “But I think he’s so laser focused on 2024 and the Republican nomination—I think he’s intoxicated by it, and I think that is messing up his judgment. And, you know, I’m not complaining about it. I think it’s helping us. I think we’re going to win.”
The political world is not so convinced. While DeSantis dominates the news, his reelection this year has been all but taken for granted, and Crist, a former Republican governor and two-time statewide loser, has been all but ignored. To most political observers in both parties, the race is barely a speedbump as DeSantis steamrolls to national prominence. Amid the daily drumbeat of speculation about DeSantis vs. former President Donald Trump, his constituent and frenemy, DeSantis vs. Crist merits barely a mention.
Yet DeSantis, 44, is hardly battle-tested. Four years ago, he was a little-known Republican congressman who got elected governor in a historic squeaker, defeating the since-indicted Democrat Andrew Gillum after a recount by less than half a point—just 30,000 votes out of more than 8 million cast. Since then, DeSantis has made a splash on the national stage thanks to his handling of COVID-19 and talent for culture-war provocations, from taking on Disney and critical race theory to the recent migrant gambit. He’s increasingly seen as a frontrunner for the GOP presidential nomination, whether or not Trump enters the race. And Democrats seem powerless to stop him.
It’s a befuddling situation in what used to be America’s paradigmatic swing state: rather than mount a massive effort to take out or at least bruise DeSantis, Democrats are effectively allowing the Republican they fear most to coast to reelection. Crist, 66, is a party-switching, baggage-laden retread more disliked by Floridians than DeSantis. He was forced out of his congressional seat by DeSantis-engineered redistricting and wound up with the nomination after other potential candidates passed on the race, intimidated by DeSantis’s war chest and iron grip on the state’s political landscape. Crist’s fundraising is paltry—barely a tenth of DeSantis’s staggering $180 million. Polls show him lagging by an average of 6 points, according to FiveThirtyEight. And while national Democrats privately lament the situation, they have no plans to invest heavily in the campaign.
“Florida was once the ultimate swing state, and if you look at the stuff DeSantis does, you would think there would be a major backlash,” says Jessica Taylor of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, which has rated the race “Likely R.” “But he’s only gotten stronger, and now we see him emboldened to do other controversial things. Many Democrats wish this was the year they could take him out, but it doesn’t seem to be shaping up that way.”
Crist, of course, rejects this perception. Asked for evidence, he cites mainly vibes. “There’s an energy here, and it’s palpable,” he says, particularly since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, triggering a national women’s mobilization. If DeSantis wins reelection, he warns, “it would be a disaster for the United States of America, because he immediately starts running for President on November 9.”
After our interview, Crist and I walk out of the bar, a storefront in a two-story strip mall. There’s a big banner hanging from the upper balcony. It says: Reelect Governor Ron DeSantis.
Earlier that day, Crist arrives at Florida’s historic capitol, a glass-domed building whose red-and-white striped awnings and surrounding palm trees give it a banana-republic feel. A motley group of three dozen supporters have gathered on the stone steps, holding purple abortion-rights placards that say “The Choice Is Choice.” (Oddly, the placard on the lectern has it the other way around: “Choice Is the Choice.”) By the numbers, Florida is the most pro-choice red state in the country, and Crist hopes to make abortion the campaign’s central issue.
Taking the lectern in a gray plaid suit and yellow-striped tie, a little black fan whirring at his feet to keep him cool, Crist accuses DeSantis of using the migrant issue to change the subject from abortion. The governor signed a 15-week abortion ban with no exceptions in April, but has conspicuously avoided the issue since praising the Supreme Court’s decision in June. “This governor is an extremist, no question about it,” Crist says. “If Ron DeSantis wins, and he will not, he will ban abortion completely.”
Crist was once the bright new hope of his party—the Republican Party. As a GOP state legislator, attorney general and governor starting in the 1990s, he long described himself as pro-life. But in practice, he repeatedly opposed abortion restrictions, angering the right. Elected governor as a Republican in 2006, he promised conservatives he would sign an abortion ban, then publicly disavowed it. Crist’s critics say it’s part of a career-long pattern of trying to have things both ways.
In our interview, I ask if he now supports any limits on abortion. He dodges the question. “I support Roe v. Wade—I think that’s appropriate,” he says. “I think the real question, though, is why doesn’t Ron DeSantis trust women to make their own decisions? It’s not about what restrictions or where are you on the scale.”
Crist’s breaking point with the GOP wasn’t over abortion. In 2009, he accepted Florida’s allotment of stimulus funds from the Obama administration—the only Republican governor to do so—and hugged the Democratic president when he came to Ft. Myers to tout the investment. When Crist tried to go from the governor’s mansion to the U.S. Senate the following year, the Obama hug became Exhibit A for his Republican primary opponent, a little-known conservative state legislator named Marco Rubio, who called Crist a squish and rode that year’s Tea Party wave. Crist dropped out and ran as an independent instead, but lost by 20 points.
Today, he has recast his ejection from the GOP as a sort of martyrdom for his loyalty to Obama and refusal to pander to the racist right. He argues that he spotted where Republicans were headed long before Trump. “I don’t want to ever paint with too broad a brush here, there are fine Republicans in Florida and in America,” he tells me. “But I saw an element that wasn’t just upset with me because I was with the Democratic president. I was with the first Black President. And that really disturbed me, and I just couldn’t stay there anymore.”
Crist spoke at the 2012 Democratic convention, then ran for governor as a Democrat in 2014 and narrowly lost to now-Sen. Rick Scott. In 2016, he won a Democratic-leaning congressional seat in his hometown of St. Petersburg. He served three terms in Congress, compiling an unremarkable record as a reliable Democratic vote. But this year, congressional redistricting turned Crist’s district deep red, and GOP nominee Anna Paulina Luna, a Trump-endorsed election denier, is heavily favored to win it.
The aggressive redistricting plan was the work of DeSantis, who pushed to give the GOP an even bigger advantage than the Republican legislature had dared and defied court challenges to keep it in place. The resulting map eliminates four Democratic-leaning seats to give the GOP as many as 20 seats in Congress to just 8 for Democrats, despite the state’s narrow partisan divide. It’s among the ways Democrats have been strong-armed out of power in Florida in recent years, leading many to argue that the state Trump now calls home has become more red than purple. Last year, the number of registered Republicans in Florida surpassed the number of Democrats for the first time in history, an edge that is now 270,000 strong.
Things looked different just four years ago. Democrats came close to winning both top-of-the-ticket races in 2018: in addition to the narrow loss for Gillum, Republican Rick Scott defeated then-Senator Bill Nelson by just one-tenth of a percentage point, the closest Senate race in state history. Demoralized Florida Democrats commissioned a soul-searching report that faulted the party’s voter registration, messaging, candidate recruitment, outreach and turnout efforts, and stressed the need to rebuild from the ground up. “2020 will be one of the most consequential years in history, and we must act now,” the report stated. “The path to a Democratic White House will go through Florida, and we will waste no time charting that path.”
That hopeful prediction would not come to pass. Biden and the Democrats spent tens of millions on Florida in 2020, but Trump won the state by 3 points—the biggest presidential win there for any candidate in more than two decades. To some Democrats, it was proof the state was a lost cause. The increasing diversity they long hoped would work in their favor has been offset by an influx of white retirees and a slippage among working-class voters of color, particularly Black and Latino men. “Is Florida really a swing state? I think Democrats are pretty clear-eyed about the demographic trends working against us,” says Joel Payne, a Democratic strategist. “It does feel like DeSantis has consolidated Republican power in the state. I don’t think it’s gone forever, but I think it’s solidly red for now.”
DeSantis’s strength and Crist’s early entry into this year’s gubernatorial primary drove other potential candidates out of the race. Democrats privately mutter that some of them might have posed a greater threat to DeSantis. Rep. Val Demings, a former Orlando police chief briefly touted as a potential Biden running mate, was poised to run for governor, but decided to run for Senate against Rubio instead. (Polls show that race closer than the gubernatorial contest, though Rubio, too, is favored to win.) That in turn pushed out Rep. Stephanie Murphy, who had been eyeing a Senate run; she declined to run for reelection, depriving the party’s already-thin bench of a moderate seen as a rising star. Another candidate in the gubernatorial primary, state Sen. Annette Taddeo, eventually dropped out to run for Congress, leaving state agriculture commissioner Nikki Fried, 44, as Crist’s only opponent. Fried argued that, as a fresh face and a woman, she’d be the stronger candidate against DeSantis. But she was no match for Crist’s name ID, and he easily defeated her in the Aug. 23 primary.
Hopeful Democrats tout Crist as a Joe Biden-like candidate: a broadly acceptable moderate who can turn the race into a referendum on his polarizing opponent without drawing too much attention to himself. Unlike some Democrats this cycle, Crist doesn’t shy away from the unpopular president. “I think he’s the man for the moment,” Crist tells me, pointing to Biden’s foreign policy and legislative achievements. “I think people are really beginning to appreciate more and more how blessed we are to have him as our President right now.” Crist plans to appear with Biden when he visits Orlando this week, and is hoping to campaign with Obama as well, though the former president has yet to commit.
Crist’s own campaign admits it’s an uphill battle, particularly without an influx of cash from the national party. “The Republican spin machine has been working overtime since 2016 to market Florida as some kind of Republican stronghold as a way of deterring Democratic investment in a swing state,” says Joshua Karp, Crist’s senior adviser. “There are multiple statewide races with Florida Democrats in striking distance if we have allies who join us in the fight.”
DeSantis’s critics fret that the failure to put up more of a fight against him enables Republicans to spend money elsewhere and allows DeSantis to save his own campaign cash for a future race. DeSantis’s apparent strength, they say, is partly due to Democrats’ weakness. “If there was a functional Democratic Party in the state of Florida that could get out of its own way, they could do it,” says Rick Wilson, the anti-Trump Lincoln Project cofounder who was formerly a longtime GOP consultant in Tallahassee. “There’s a pool of votes out there sufficient for a Democratic majority at the statewide level. But these guys couldn’t organize a two-car motorcade.”
Shortly after my talk with Crist, DeSantis strides into an airplane hangar in Daytona Beach, four hours to the south, drawing loud cheers from the business-attired crowd seated on folding chairs. He’s there to announce $30 million in new state funding for aeronautics and tech workforce training. But the press conference naturally centers on DeSantis’s surprise migrant scheme.
Republican governors in Texas and Arizona—states that are actually on the border, which has seen an unprecedented surge this year—had previously staged similar provocations; Texas Gov. Greg Abbott even sent a busload to Vice President Kamala Harris’s residence. But it was DeSantis who managed to hijack the news cycle.
Questioned about the ploy, DeSantis seizes on reports that Biden has convened an emergency meeting of his Cabinet to deal with the issue: “He didn’t scramble when we had millions of people pouring across the southern border,” the governor taunts. “It’s only when you have 50 illegal aliens in a wealthy, rich enclave that he scrambles.” As for what business Florida has taking people from Texas and sending them to New England, DeSantis claims they had been “profiled” as the types of would-be immigrants who are likely to eventually get to Florida. It’s as if he’s already running against Biden—and any other Democrat who might get in his way. Gavin Newsom, the governor of California, has just challenged him to a debate, and DeSantis gets off a final zinger about Newsom before ending the event: “I think his hair gel is interfering with his brain function.”
The press rarely gets to ask questions of DeSantis, who has made the mainstream media one of his many punching bags. In August, he released a swashbuckling minute-long campaign video modeled on Top Gun (“Top Gov”) that showed DeSantis, a Navy veteran, strutting around in a flight suit and aviator sunglasses interspersed with clips of him berating reporters at press conferences. He prefers to speak to his party’s base, appearing on Fox News and Newsmax and doling out administration announcements to Breitbart and the like.
This is not the typical posture of a politician trying to win over the electorate of a purple state. But DeSantis, whose campaign naturally did not respond to my emails, is clearly feeling confident—and looking beyond November. For his first couple years in office, he rebuffed offers to speak at candidate or interest-group events in other states, insisting he was focused on Florida. But since last year, he’s been crisscrossing the country stumping for GOP candidates, a sign of both his star power in the party and his lack of concern for the perception that, as Crist puts it, “he cares more about the White House than any Floridian’s house.”
The typical purple-state political strategy would be to tack to the center, but DeSantis has not done that either. The fact that he has gone hard-right and remained broadly popular—one recent poll put his approval rating at 51%, vs. 43% for Crist—is a major component of his appeal to Republicans. Just as Bernie Sanders’ liberal acolytes contend that his socialist vision would galvanize the electorate more powerfully than the centrists the Democrats tend to nominate, DeSantis’s many fans in the GOP see him as proof that right-wing policies, far from provoking a backlash, actually appeal to voters. He would, they hope, do to America what he’s done to Florida: turn the political current to his will rather than bending in the wind. The bigger the margin he’s able to rack up as he sails to reelection, the greater the currency this argument would have in a GOP presidential primary. Many conservatives see him as a smarter version of Trump, with the shrewdness and focus to implement a vision Trump only flailed at haphazardly.
Plenty of liberals agree. To them, this makes DeSantis a more dangerous version of Trump. But when I ask Crist if he believes this to be the case, he doesn’t seem to have followed the debate. “He may well be, I don’t know,” he says. “I think he’s very calculating. You know, for a guy who went to Harvard and Yale to be this ogre-like, it’s hard to explain, except that he’s politically ambitious.” Crist is a famously touchy-feely, feel-your-pain kind of pol, the kind of campaigner who remembers everyone he’s ever met, cites the Golden Rule as his lodestar, and will stay on the selfie line till he’s kicked out of the building. It’s no surprise he’s not interested in abstract debates about authoritarianism. He’s a feeler, not a thinker.
It’s not as if Florida doesn’t have problems: the economy is roaring, but housing prices and insurance rates have skyrocketed, creating an affordability crisis. And it’s not as if DeSantis doesn’t have liabilities: as his 2024 stock rises, GOP insiders have grumbled about his brusque manner and tight inner circle. Several of his campaign ads feature constituents praising his policies while he is barely seen, suggesting his own team may grasp that, as with Trump, many of his supporters like what he’s done better than they like him personally.
DeSantis and Crist briefly served in the same state delegation in the House, but they only interacted once that Crist can recall. “My first term in Congress was his last, and I remember the encounter we had,” Crist tells me. The two congressmen were in the Capitol and had just emerged from neighboring elevators on the way to the House floor for a vote. “I’m a friendly guy, and I said, ‘Hey, Ron, how are you?’ And he goes, ‘Fine,’” Crist recalls, face drooping in imitation of DeSantis’s flat affect. “That was it. I mean, weird! And so I said to myself, well, you’re a good guy, Charlie, press on. And I told him, ‘I heard the rumors that you’re thinking about running for governor next year, and as one who’s been one, if it works out for you, you’ll find out that it’s the greatest job you can ever have.’ And he goes, ‘Thanks,’ and turns around and walks away.”
Crist passes his hand up and down in front of his perma-tanned face, the universal gesture for stone-faced. To him, there is nothing stranger than an introvert, nothing stranger than a disagreeable person. “That was it. And I thought, where is the soul in that person? It’s just odd to me that anyone would be that cold. Unsettling, a little bit. And I guess now I know why, seeing what he’s done for four years.”
Then Crist turns the subject back to abortion, the issue he’s sure will turn the race in his favor and give DeSantis a shock. But if Democrats can’t stop DeSantis, they may only end up making him stronger.
On September 22, 2022, in News Releases, by Staff
|MIAMI — Today, Governor Ron DeSantis announced executive action and legislative proposals to address threats posed by the Communist Party of China and other hostile foreign powers in cyberspace, real estate, and academia. These measures will curtail the nefarious intentions of all seven countries on Florida’s list of countries of concern, making it more difficult for China, Cuba, Russia, Iran, North Korea, Syria, or Venezuela to engage in espionage or influence operations within Florida’s borders and preventing purchases of agricultural land and lands surrounding military bases by those governments or their agents. Details on today’s announcement can be found here. “From server farms to farmland, the Communist Party of China has been worming its way into our nation’s data storage systems and buying up tracts of land near sensitive national security sites,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “By prohibiting the purchase of lands, state contracts with Chinese technology firms, and the infiltration of CCP-affiliated groups such as Confucius Institutes, Florida is leading the way to protect our nation from international foes.” “The Chinese Communist Party cheats on trade, steals our intellectual property, and produces deadly drugs like fentanyl that are pouring into our southern border,” said Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nuñez. “Governor DeSantis’ announcements today are not only critical to protecting American interests and Florida farmlands but also to maintaining our national security. Florida will never kowtow to the oppressive regime of China.” “With today’s Executive Order, Governor DeSantis takes decisive action to defend the State of Florida and all Floridians from the cyber threats posed by foreign countries of concern and associated groups,” said Department of Management Services Secretary Pedro Allende. “The Governor’s direction to develop cybersecurity and procurement rules and standards will make it harder for bad actors to gain a foothold on state infrastructure, will protect Floridians’ personal information and intellectual property, and will further secure key information systems and the critical infrastructure that our state and its citizens rely on each day.” “Thanks to Governor DeSantis, Florida will not allow foreign adversaries and Communist dictatorships to have insights into some of the most sensitive data and cutting-edge research taking place in U.S. academia,” said Commissioner of Education Manny Diaz, Jr. “As a Cuban-American, I know how Communist countries attempt to infiltrate schools and universities to steal intellectual property and indoctrinate young people with their dangerous and radical ideology. By removing this influence and focusing on the importance of American ideals and citizenship through civics education, Florida is again leading the way for the nation to follow.” Cybersecurity Effective immediately, Governor DeSantis has signed Executive Order 22-216 to prohibit government entities from procuring technology products and services from companies owned by, controlled by, or domiciled in foreign countries of concern. The executive order directs the Department of Management Services (DMS) to promulgate rules and take any additional action necessary to ensure commodities and services used by state and local governments are not susceptible to exploitation by foreign countries of concern. This prohibits government entities from procuring or utilizing technology services that: Have been determined by DMS to pose a risk to the safety and security of Florida due to the company’s connections to or use by a foreign country of concern; A federal agency has prohibited due to a national security concern; and Are designed, developed, manufactured, or supplied by companies or affiliated companies determined by federal or state government agencies to be owned, controlled, or domiciled in a foreign country of concern. This will help prevent the exposure of government information and technology services and systems in Florida to other state and non-state actors affiliated with a foreign country of concern. The full executive order can be found here. Governor DeSantis also proposed legislative action to prohibit government entities from contracting with companies owned by, controlled by, or domiciled in foreign countries of concern if the contract would provide access to Floridians’ personal information. This prohibition would include the bidding, submitting a proposal for, or entering into or renewing a contract with a government entity if the contract would provide the company with access to an individual’s name in combination with a Social Security number, driver’s license, financial account numbers, medical history, insurance policy numbers, etc. Purchases of Agricultural Land and Land Surrounding Military Bases Governor DeSantis has proposed legislative action to prohibit purchases of agricultural land and land surrounding military bases by foreign countries of concern. There have already been instances of Chinese Communist Party-affiliated companies purchasing land near military bases in other states, including Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota. Florida is home to 21 military bases from every branch of the armed forces, and while the state has allocated money to purchase land nearest to some of these bases to increase security perimeters, more needs to be done to protect our domestic national security assets. As of 2019, foreign investors held an interest in 5.8% of Florida’s privately held agricultural land. This ranks Florida as the state with the fifth highest percentage of reported foreign-owned land. Thirty-one states have regulations in place for foreign ownership of agricultural land by law. In Iowa and Minnesota, no alien is allowed to acquire any interest in agricultural land. Prohibiting Foreign Funds for Universities Last year, Governor DeSantis signed HB 7017 to require the disclosure of foreign donations to state educational institutions in excess of $50,000. This “naming and shaming” approach was intended to expose the influence of groups such as CCP-funded Confucius Institutes, with further punitive measures for non-disclosure. But even sub-$50,000 donations from individuals and groups pushing the agendas of hostile foreign powers on college campuses can undercut academic integrity, warp the perspectives of many students, and sway the research and writing of many professors to align with the interests and values of the sources of that funding. That is why Governor DeSantis has proposed legislative action to amend Florida statutes relating to reporting requirements of foreign gifts to prohibit any gift to a higher education institution in Florida from any individual residing in or entity domiciled in a foreign country of concern or from any governmental entity within a foreign country of concern. A general bill on this topic could also impose additional restrictions, screening requirements, or pre-conditions on researchers from foreign countries of concern.|