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DeSantis: A Conservative Living In The Real World

Political lesson from Viktor Orban that Florida governor seems to have learned: take the war against left ideological hegemony to the institutions
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I wish I had asked Viktor Orban last evening what he thought of Gov. Ron DeSantis. Why? Because DeSantis seems to be putting into practice some of the political lessons Orban has to teach the American Right. Yesterday Orban said that effective conservative governance has to recognize how power actually works today -- meaning, as I took him, that conservatives in political power have to recognize that the Left's hegemony over private-sector institutions, and some public ones (like state universities and public education), is an immense source of power that the Right doesn't really contest. Orban didn't speculate as to why the Right doesn't, but I will: we conservatives are still operating on an outdated classical-liberal model of governance, in which the private sector, as well as parts of the public sector (education), should be left alone. That's certainly defensible, and even admirable, if those institutions are led by good-faith liberals who believe in fairness, freedom of expression, and so forth.

But what happens when the old-school liberals have been replaced by woke Jacobins? The David French Republican way of looking at the world is outdated, and is guaranteed to deliver defeat after defeat -- including when conservatives are in power. As Orban said last night, you have to make up your mind that you don't care if the Left hates you, that you have a responsibility to your voters -- and then take the fight to them at the institutional level, either by fighting over who runs the institutions, or by creating countercultural institutions. What you cannot do is simply sit back and whine about how unfair they are, or keep hoping that if you continue to point out how they have abandoned old-fashioned liberalism, they will turn back. They won't. They really and truly hate us and what we stand for, and nothing is going to change that.

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Think about what's happening to poor Jack Philips, the Colorado baker. He was taken to court yet again, and lost yet again yesterday.

The Left -- specifically, LGBT activists -- torment this poor man. They will not be satisfied until he is crushed and bankrupted. There are, apparently, no other bakeries in Colorado. Now, you can say that Philips is the victim of an activist class that does not represent all on the Left. Even if that were true, so what? Who on the Left is speaking out in defense of Jack Philips? Even if they find the persecution of Philips by the woke brigades distasteful, they reason that it's a small price to pay to achieve Justice™. And anyway, he's a white Evangelical Christian, so the privileged SOB had it coming (they think).

The institutional Left believes it has the sovereign right to lay down the law and establish uncontested practices in the fields where it dominates, such as education. This explains the left-wing freakout over Gov. Ron DeSantis canceling the Advance Placement African American History class in Florida, not because he opposed teaching black history, but because he is not a fool: that is, he understands that ideologues who designed the course are jamming queer theory into the teaching of black history, via their theory of intersectionality, and as the elected chief executive officer of the State of Florida, he's not having it. He said in a press conference:

On Monday, DeSantis addressed the denial during a press conference in Jacksonville stating the state has an “education, not indoctrination” guideline all curriculums must follow.

“In the state of Florida, our education standards not only don’t prevent but they require teaching Black history, all the important things, that’s part of our core curriculum,” DeSantis said.

“This was a separate course on top of that for Advanced Placement credit. And the issue is we have guidelines and standards in Florida. We want education, not indoctrination. If you fall on the side of indoctrination, we’re going to decline, if it’s education, then we will do. So when I heard it didn’t meet the standards, I figured, yeah, they may be doing way more than that. This course on Black history, what’s one of the lessons about? Queer theory,” he said.

“Now, who would say that an important part of Black history is queer theory? That is somebody pushing an agenda on our kids. And so when you look to see they have stuff about intersectionality, abolishing prisons, that’s a political agenda. And so, that’s the wrong side of the line for Florida standards. We believe in teaching kids facts and how to think, but we don’t believe they should have an agenda imposed on them. When you try to use Black history to shoehorn in queer theory, you are clearly trying to use that for political purposes,” he added.

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This is exactly right. The institutions (e.g., the College Board) that used to be trustworthy have now been compromised by ideologues. They will never, ever stop on their own; they must be stopped. I know Ron DeSantis isn't the only GOP governor in the US who has a GOP state legislature behind him. These people who run the institutions believe that it is their metaphysical right to do so without challenge. As political scientist Eric Kauffman said last year, if conservatives aren't willing to fight the culture war now, there won't be any conservatives left to fight anything in the future.

These leftie lunatics on MSNBC and in the activist core are accusing DeSantis of trying to "exterminate black history." Nope. He just wants black history taught as black history, not used as a vehicle to deliver a broad woke worldview masquerading as history. Really now, who would say that an important part of black history is queer theory? Maybe the crackpot Jennifer Rubin at the Washington Post, who says DeSantis "has gone full blown white supremacist".

This is the kind of thing, and the kind of people, that anyone who challenges wokeness has to deal with. The normie conservatives live in the world of yesterday, when the Left was still dominated by old-fashioned liberals. Ron DeSantis and Viktor Orban live in the world as it is, and act accordingly.

UPDATE: Daniel Kalder, writing in UnHerd from Texas:

In fact, as recent reporting from John Sailer of the National Association of Scholars shows, the ideological monoculture in Texas universities has only grown more entrenched since the last time the legislature gathered in Austin. Mandatory “diversity statements” are commonplace, even if all you want to do is teach the flute. Instruction in the catechisms of intersectionality is similarly widespread, while acolytes of Ibram X. Kendi and Robin DiAngelo lead the faithful in the study of their scriptures; the School of Information at UT Austin has called for mandatory training in “anti-racist pedagogy”.

All of this, meanwhile, has happened under the nose of boards whose every member was appointed by governor Greg Abbott. Texas Republicans, it seems, are remarkably laissez faire when it comes to what the taxpayer is funding in public universities. If they are not swayed by eloquent arguments from liberals such as Jonathan Haidt, who has stressed the importance of intellectual and political diversity to the health of the academy, you might think that the desire to perpetuate their own species would cause them to pay more attention. 

Kalder says DeSantis is taking Texas Republicans to school on how to fight the culture war we actually have. More:

But when it comes to the culture war Texas Republicans seem stuck in the ‘90s, focused on God, guns, abortion and free markets. DeSantis, however, is a 21st century man who appears to genuinely despise the ideas he rails against, and that gives him the edge.

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Theodore Iacobuzio
Theodore Iacobuzio
"Now, you can say that Philips is the victim of an activist class that does not represent all on the Left. Even if that were true, so what? Who on the Left is speaking out in defense of Jack Philips? "

How about the judge in the case. That's the real villain here, it seems.
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Fran Macadam
Fran Macadam
Yet he's all in on Anerica's wars, which are now also hijacked to spread Woke ideology over the whole world, by absorbing all under this fools based international order.

The only prominent politician in our warmonger duopoly calling for the tanks not to be sent in this latest escalation with the goal now expanded to regime change in Russia - including Victoria Nuland's demanding unconditional surrender before any peace - and the immediate cessation of the war on our part - is Donald Trump. Clear and unequivocal.

How about that? His criticism of the Forever war, unique among the candidates, is why I voted for him the first time. Given this latest unequivocal denunciation of what's leading to World War III, I'd vote for him in a heartbeat for this alone.
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    Theodore Iacobuzio
    Theodore Iacobuzio
    Trump: yes, but somebody forgot to hide his remote clicker so he never had to do any work. He had his chance and he blew it.
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      Fran Macadam
      Fran Macadam
      The TV remote control theory for letting loose the dogs of war?

      Trump is not Chauncy Gardiner.
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        Theodore Iacobuzio
        Theodore Iacobuzio
        Oh, come on. The things in which he was successful (judicial appointments, e.g.) all he had to do was sign off. Anything that required work (the wall, serious reform of our foreign policy) he'd rather be watching Sean Hannity tell him how great he was. He had a once in a fifty-year chance to effect the change HE RAN ON and he blew it.
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          Fran Macadam
          Fran Macadam
          Last worst hope; so now no hope at all!
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    Bernie
    Bernie
    Fran, I’m also concerned about the possible consequences of NATO’s increasing weapons to Ukraine. But you are a pacifist above all else and your thinking is driven by this overarching view. You don’t think the U.S. was justified in entering WWII, even after the attack on Pearl Harbor, based on your exchange of comments with me years ago.

    Rod, I agree with this post. I’m for DeSantis. He has done the hard job of actually GOVERNING one of the largest and most prosperous states, being re-elected with a 19-point lead. He lives in the real world and can effectively lead - and the 22 million Floridians agree. He has what is a vanishing trait among politicians - common sense. He recognizes insane wokeness and has the leadership capability to lead fair-minded people to see it without fear of being branded as bigoted or backward.
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      Fran Macadam
      Fran Macadam
      I'm not a pacifist, but trying to make me out as one to justify this world war is a non-sequiter.

      Clearly there will always be wars until the end of time. That is how the unregenerate settle their differences at some level of disagreement. Since the default condition of the human soul is not spiritual transformation, war will always be the easy temptation, only tempered by fear of self destruction by the the sane unregenerate. For those who know God's Holy Spirit, the lesson taught by Jesus about loving enemies, not just neighbors (which clearly much of humanity does not) and how He acted differently from Peter in the garden, should inform our behavior. We ought to be the salt and light in a fallen world and keep the unhappy state of mankind from becoming unbearable, by pointing out realities and consequences, as well as alternatives.

      A major flaw is your simplification in bringing up that old war weary chestnut, that every war the US elites desire is one against Hitler, and anyone disagreeing is Neville Chamberlain in 1938. That is hardly an appeal to a serious examination of satisfying the criteria of Just War Theory. That process reveals our country's participation in going to war fails on all counts. Of course, by dissembling one can justify anything but that's dishonesty masquerading as morality to do what is wanted the consequences be damned. Those consequences will always ensue from reality not the delusion of desire.
      schedule 2 months ago
      Fran Macadam
      Fran Macadam
      Specifically, as to World War II, it's not accurate to start analysis right at 1939 as if nothing before had consequences and the war just came out of nowhere. It is more accurate to see how it was really a continuation of World War I and the unresolved consequences of America's entry on one side, allowing victory at the end of mutual exhaustion in a war that had no good causes on any side, but whose leaders slept walked into escalation then destructive mass murder.

      The forces of revengeful punitive measures on Germany at Versailles, coupled with Wall Street's obliteration of the world economy that wiped out the German middle class, along with the feckless German leadership amidst Weimar decadence led to the despair in allowing the Nazi rise.

      I would recommend Nicholson Baker's Human Smoke as an antidote to simplistic thinking and showing how blame for war is not so easily assigned as if in a Marvel movie, but on all sides.

      I also note the American Conservative's own retiring Pat Buchanan sees the last century's wars in a similarly clear eyed analysis.

      One could certainly draw a line from 1945 until now, when America's armies still occupy all the defeated countries, and seek to extend that military right up to Russia, and according to the latest announcements, right to Moscow.
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        Fran Macadam
        Fran Macadam
        And what is the animating policy? The Wolfowitz Doctrine of 1992, which posits that in order to survive, Washington must rule the world and vanquish all nations.
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        Bernie
        Bernie
        I don’t think my comment to you was inaccurate or dishonest. I consider you a pacifist. I can’t imagine an example of when you would think it was just or necessary for a nation to fight a war. Please cite one if I’m wrong.
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          Fran Macadam
          Fran Macadam
          Is this one just? That's what's relevant.
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        JON FRAZIER
        JON FRAZIER
        Yes, WWII in Europe emerged from the vengeful peace at Versailles-- which was not a US operation at all, indeed Woodrow Wilson, whatever his other sins, argued against it. It was however less the 1920s inflation (long over with by the time the Nazis came to power) than the catastrophe of the Depression which left one third of German men unemployed which fueled the rise of the Third Reich. As for the supposed "decadence" of the times Rod loves to harp on that but it was pretty small potatoes: a wild partying culture in a few cabarets in a small number of cities. You can find similar decadence in any era. The US in the 1920s had its share of "roaring" partying too, with illegal booze and gangster bloodshed thrown in the mix, but we did not turn to Nazis when the good times came to an end.
        The war in the Pacific was a different. The US and Japan were on a collision course for many years and that was going to become an open conflict at some point. Perhaps id either nation had not become imperialistic in regards to the Pacific war would have been avoided, but that's asking for the United States and/or Japan to have fundamentally different nations with different histories.
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          Theodore Iacobuzio
          Theodore Iacobuzio
          "....Woodrow Wilson, whatever his other sins, argued against it."

          If you mean he "argued against it" in Paris, well, he lost that argument, didn't he? He died trying to sell this bill of goods to the American people. Does that consist of arguing against it?

          "...a wild partying culture in a few cabarets in a small number of cities."

          One of which was Berlin, which became the international capital of boy bonking, after Kabul, I suppose. Cf. Auden, Spender, Isherwood.
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          JON FRAZIER
          JON FRAZIER
          The American people were irrelevant to the Treaty of Versailles. It was not something we were voting on by public referendum. And more importantly it was the European nations-- Britain and France mainly-- that matters in this regard. There's no way the US can be held to blame for that treaty, or the start of the war in Europe. "Blame America first" was ridiculous when the Left was doing, and it's ridiculous when the Right does it now.
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      JON FRAZIER
      JON FRAZIER
      I'm considerable less favorable to DeSantis after his stunt of flying immigrants up to Martha's Vineyard. I expect better from serious politicians that frat-boy style pranks using vulnerable people as props to embarrass political rivals.
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Theodore Iacobuzio
Theodore Iacobuzio
"Old fashioned liberals". Yes where did they all go to? THEY NEVER WENT AWAY. Lord Keynes said that marxism is utilitarianism à outrance. If the greatest good for the greatest number means that peasants in the eight figures have to die starving, well, there you go. Anybody who comes after will be better off and Trotsky's dream of a world composed of literary intellectuals can come true, so let's start collectivizing. It's not simply that today's Left is another generation. It's just that they've followed the logic.
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    Bogdán Emil
    Bogdán Emil
    I don't want to be dangerously trite, especially addressing a learned man, but I'll venture it: uniform thinking is impossible, friction and fracturing and tribal divisions are inherent, philosophically, politically, theologically, and would unpleasantly remain served up on a hideous plate, even if you cleansed the Universe of all Liberals and Leftists. Nay, it's not a bug, Mr. Iacobuzio, it's a feature.

    In this world there are a few constants. Someone once referred to death and taxes, and I would add to those awareness, and the slippery slope.
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      Theodore Iacobuzio
      Theodore Iacobuzio
      Well, "learned". J.M. Keynes isn't exactly esoteric, but the compliment is nice, thanks.

      Yes, take your point. But ideas do matter. I've written more than once that when the late great Florence King wrote that SSM was a bad idea whose time had come, I knew she was right. And that's because supposedly responsible liberals didn't have any ground under them for a coherent defense of marriage as historically constituted. They had morphed private tolerance and compassion, which are on the level of I/thou, into public policy and without noticing it. In the same way you went (in 100 years, for goodness' sake--Santayana wrote about it) from the marketplace of ideas to the controlled economy of ideas, from defend your right to say it to the gulag we currently inhabit. And it's because liberalism was never about its ostensible tenets (since the Enlightenment decreed that truth was unavailable anyway) but about its goals, initially destroying the Catholic Church, and eventually

      ...ruin the great work of time,
      And cast the kingdom old
      Into another mould.

      Have to live up to my reputation for learning.
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Peter Pratt
Peter Pratt
Texas has a very weird form of conservativism. Historically, most conservatives in Texas were Democrats. Republicans, like George HW Bush, were big business supporting liberals. With Reagan, most of the conservatives became Republicans, but most of the Republican party in Texas is more aligned with big business than the people. As such, I am not surprised at all that Governor Abbott is not standing up to woke business and that his appointees are pushing DEI.

Most people in Texas don't understand that their Republican state leadership will just sell them out. Add in the strong presence of Koch backed libertarians inside of state and you get a huge mess where the wishes of the people fall behind the demands of big business.
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    Fran Macadam
    Fran Macadam
    I generally fall into the category of anabaptist fundamentalist Christian, libertarian and populist. Somewhere in mostly common cause with Ron Paul. He's saying just the same things about this mindless, evil lurch to World War. This time the United States is the dishonest party. Although the Wolfowitz Doctrine adopted as policy in 1992 is quite open about military and financial conquest of the whole planet in the name of security. That dictatorship over the world is necessary to ensure elite US objectives.
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    JON FRAZIER
    JON FRAZIER
    Re: most of the Republican party in Texas is more aligned with big business than the people.

    That's true quite generally, not just in Texas. From its very inception the GOP has been the Party of Business regardless of whatever other causes the party took up.
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Paul Emmons
Paul Emmons
>Mandatory “diversity statements” are commonplace, even if all you want to do is teach the flute.

The link discussed state universities in Texas, upsetting enough to see in a State that I'd hoped was relatively resistant to these trends. But I am reliably informed that such mentalities and mandates have even invaded venerable private-sector bastions of the fine arts such as The Juilliard School. One silver lining in the cloud is how easily their proponents will suddenly start devouring one another for alleged inadequate loyalty to The Cause.

PBS Evening News contrasted DeSantos's statement with a defense of the course from a black scholar. He spoke fairly eloquently, but it was just a dance around the question asked of him: why does it include queer theory? He never actually answered the question.

I probably don't agree with Gov. DeSantis as to every jot and tittle, just as I don't always agree with you, but I hope that he runs for President so that I can vote for him. This juggernaut must be stopped.
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Fran Macadam
Fran Macadam
I do hope Ron DeSantis comes to his senses and has the courage to try to stop World War III. But since most people are suffering from war fever, regardless of affiliation, pragmatism means probably not.
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