Ron DeSantis: a 2024 Presidential Nightmare

The 2024 presidential election campaign is off and running and, sadly, the Republicans are in a good position to win the election.

Pres. Joe Biden is rumored to be planning to announce his intention to run for reelection in 2024. While some have raised concern that he will be 82 years old if elected, deeper concerns involve whether voters will support him — and other Democrats — if the economy further stumbles and inflation is not contained. This is especially the case given that women and young voters might not vote as the post-Roe anti-abortion condition becomes more normalized.

Donald – “Stop the Steal” – Trump was the first Republican to announce his campaign for nonconsecutive re-election.  Former UN Amb. Nikki Haley recently announced her intention to run.

A December 2022 Quinnipiac University poll found that only a third (31%) of registered voters surveyed hold a favorable view of Trump while nearly two-thirds (59%) have an unfavorable opinion of him. As CNBC noted, “That’s the lowest rating Trump has received since July 2015, shortly after he launched his first presidential bid ….”

However, other Republican pols are lining up awaiting to replace Trump as his bloated bubble loses air.  They include Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), former VP Mike Pence, former Sec. of State Mike Pompeo and Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R-VA). But the leader of the pack is Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL).

DeSantis handily won reelection in 2022 and, upon taking office in early January, moved aggressively to push his culture wars campaign that he had championed during his first term. His campaign is being waged on many overlapping fronts leading the Florida ACLU to note, “Florida’s Gov. Ron DeSantis has assumed the rank of general in the nation’s culture wars.”


DeSantis culture wars campaign has aggressively targeted American democracy.

He is a Harvard Law School graduate who more than likely knows that many of his actions over the last couple of years would be challenged in court and found unconstitutional. Yet he — and his allies in the state legislature – enacted laws to inflame the culture wars. And his strategy has been winning.

In April 2021, he signed the “Combating Public Disorder Act” (HB 1) into law. It made it illegal to protest or picket outside a person’s home and gives police the authority to arrest violators who don’t disperse after a warning. He claimed it was a way to quell violent protests.

In May 2021, DeSantis enacting a host of changes into Florida’s election laws. The voter-suppression efforts included limiting where drop boxes could be placed; restrictions on who can drop off a voter’s ballot; a mandate that drop boxes be staffed while open; new powers for partisan poll watchers; and requiring that voters to more frequently request to vote-by-mail forms.

That same month, DeSantis signed a law that prohibit what’s been dubbed “deplatforming.”  The law gives the state the power to penalize social media companies when they ban political candidates, such as when Twitter and Facebook banned Trump.

However, in September 2021, U.S. District Judge Mark Walker in Tallahassee, FL, issued a 90-page decision finding the act violated First Amendment rights of free speech and assembly as well as the Constitution’s due process protections. The ruling stressed that people engaged in peaceful protest or innocently in the same area when a demonstration turned violent could face criminal charges and stiff penalties under the law.

Not stopping at limiting democracy, DeSantis signed four bills aimed at preventing workers from being required to get vaccinated against COVID-19 – and this was in November 2021 at the height of Covid pandemic. His actions were intended to counter Biden’s vaccination mandate requirements.   DeSantis argued, “What Biden is doing is not constitutional. There has never been a federal vaccine mandate imposed on the general public.” He insisted that his anti-vax legislation was the “strongest piece of legislation that’s been enacted anywhere in the country” because it “respecting people’s individual freedoms.” Gone unsaid at his press conference was that he had received an initial vaccination.

DeSantis’ most aggressive front in the culture wars was directed at education and he approved four censorious bills related to K-12 and higher education.  As PEN notes, “Two of the bills are education gag orders …” and “[t]he other two bills propose new methods to monitor and regulate instruction.”

In December 2021, DeSantis issued the “Stop the Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees (W.O.K.E.) Act” (HB 7).  He claimed that it would give businesses, employees, children and families “tools to fight back against woke indoctrination.”

The ACLU, the ACLU of Florida, the Legal Defense Fund (LDF) and pro bono counsel Ballard Spahr brought suit against the WOKE Act, arguing that it “violated the First Amendment right to free speech in classrooms and the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause as the language quite openly targeted Black educators and students.”

In December 2022, the court found the Stop W.O.K.E. Act violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments. The judge found, “The law officially bans professors from expressing disfavored viewpoints in university classrooms while permitting unfettered expression of the opposite viewpoints.” The judge added:

Defendants argue that, under this Act, professors enjoy ‘academic freedom’ so long as they express only those viewpoints of which the State approves. This is positively dystopian. It should go without saying that ‘[i]f liberty means anything at all it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.’

In March 2022, he signed into law HB 1467 – aka the “K-12 Education” measure — that DeSantis dubbed the “strongest curriculum transparency legislation in the country.”  The law gives parents and guardians more freedom to challenge the types of books that are in school classrooms, libraries and on school reading lists that are “pornographic” or “not suited to student needs and their ability to comprehend the material presented, or is inappropriate for the grade level and age group for which the material is used.”

This was followed by the “Parental Rights in Education” (HB 1557) – aka “Don’t Say Gay” — act that banned state public school teachers from discussing sexual orientation or gender identity in class.

In April 2022, DeSantis signed the “Individual Freedom Act” that would censor protected speech in workplaces and classrooms by banning teaching about systemic racism and gender and race discrimination. He noted, “In Florida, we will not let the far-left woke agenda take over our schools and workplaces. There is no place for indoctrination or discrimination in Florida.”

Also in April, DeSantis signed Senate Bill (SB) 7044 that attacked college professors with tenure and eroded academic freedom. The premise underlying the legislation is that higher education faculty are the enemy and must be subjugated. “The bill takes aim at tenure, the principal safeguard for academic freedom in higher education,” warns the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). It warns the act initiates “a five-year review for tenured faculty despite the fact that faculty in Florida are already subject to regular, extensive performance reviews.”

Most recently, the DeSantis’ state education department blocked a new Advanced Placement course on African American studies from being taught in high schools. “It’s not fair that to say that somehow abolishing prisons is somehow linked to black experience, that’s what black people want,” the governor said. “I don’t think that’s true at all. I think they want law and order, just like everyone else wants law and order.” Speaking about incorporation “queer theory” into the course syllabus, he railed, “When you try to use black history to shoehorn in queer theory, you are clearly trying to use that for political purposes.”


The next presidential election will occur in November 2024, but Republican pols are already positioning themselves for the campaign showdown.  Axios details three recent polls that show that Trump is leading the pack with DeSantis trailing way behind.  However, much can happen during the next year-and-a-half.

DeSantis brings a proven record of rightwing leadership to his likely presidential campaign.  He served three terms in Congress (from 2013 to 2018) and was one of the founders of the House Freedom Caucus, the rightwing faction in the House Republicans.  He was a staunch opponent of so-called entitlements and other forms of federal aid, including opposing the Affordable Care Act in 2013 and to cut $250 billion from Social Security and Medicare spending; in 2017, he voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act and to cut taxes on corporations, high-earners and wealthy heirs.

DeSantis raised $205 million for his 2022 governor reelection campaign suggesting a likely well-funded 2024 presidential campaign.  As one source noted, his “war chest is almost bottomless. And it’s padded with donations from officials he appointed to positions throughout the state.”  He has been backed by the James Madison Institute, a right-wing think tank that promotes limited government, and the Foundation for Government Accountability, which backs restrictions on welfare benefits.

Among his leading rightwing backers has been Christopher Rufo who, Vanity Fair reports,“directly advised DeSantis’s policy team on its Stop WOKE Act, which this April officially banned public schools and private workplaces from discussing racial and gender issues.” Rufo noted, “For years, many conservatives understood culture war as lamentation: They believed that complaining about progressive ideology and hypocrisy was a victory in itself. … Governor DeSantis understands culture war as public policy.”

And DeSantis’s war is being waged!

David Rosen is the author of Sex, Sin & Subversion:  The Transformation of 1950s New York’s Forbidden into America’s New Normal (Skyhorse, 2015).  He can be reached at; check out