DeSantis: A Conservative Living In The Real World
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 Orban didn't speculate as to why the Right doesn't, but I will: we conservatives are still operating on an outdated classical-liberal model of governance, in which the private sector, as well as parts of the public sector (education), should be left alone.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But what happens when the old-school liberals have been replaced by woke Jacobins? The David French Republican way of looking at the world is outdated, and is guaranteed to deliver defeat after defeat -- including when conservatives are in power.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.
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.
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.
Get weekly emails in your inbox
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.