Ron DeSantis is getting *exactly* what he wanted

“It’s outrageous,” Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey said of the move. “They lure people, like human traffickers lure people, to buses and not knowing where they’re going. They have no concern — they’re supposed to be defenders of human life. They have no concern for these people’s lives.”

DeSantis couldn’t have written the script better politically.

The point is that DeSantis made this bet on Martha’s Vineyard solely to draw attention to himself and the Biden administration’s opposition to border policies. To be honest, it was a news story. And it’s not the first time he’s done something like this.

* In the spring of 2022, the DeSantis administration rejected 41% of proposed math textbooks because they allegedly “indoctrinate” children. “Some publishers tried to slap a coat of paint on an old house built on Common Core, and indoctrinate concepts like racial essentialism, especially, oddly enough, to elementary school students,” DeSantis said in a statement explaining the move.
* At a news conference at the University of South Florida earlier this year, DeSantis reprimanded students for wearing masks indoors. “You don’t have to wear those masks,” he said. “I mean, please take them off. Honestly, it’s not doing anything. We have to stop this Covid theater. So if you want to wear it, fine, but it’s ridiculous.”

* DeSantis revoked Disney’s special self-governing status in Florida following criticism of the company’s passage of state legislation banning discussion of gender and sexuality among youth in public schools. “You are a corporation based in Burbank, California, and you will use your economic power to attack parents in my state,” DeSantis said. “We see that as a provocation, and we will fight against it.”

Each of these events made national headlines. Each of them received harsh criticism from the left. And each of them received equal praise from the conservative right.

That’s exactly what Martha’s Vineyard is all about. While DeSantis was blasted by Democrats, he went to defend the right. “DeSantis was right to send migrants to Martha’s Vineyard. We must bring the border crisis to Democrats,” read the Fox News website.
DeSantis’ anger — on both sides — is the point. He has built a political brand on what he believes to be political correctness and awakening. (DeSantis signed a bill earlier this year “designed to protect Floridians from discrimination and wake up indoctrination”). To maintain and polish that image, he has to do even more outrageous things, like the Martha’s Vineyard movement.

The point is — whether DeSantis likes it or not — his anger machine is moving. By many measures, his knack for stirring up controversy has emerged as the second most popular Republican in the country, behind Donald Trump. He is considered the heavy favorite to win a second term against his Democratic opponent, former Gov. Charlie Crist, in November. And he is considered the only candidate who can credibly challenge Trump in the 2024 Republican primary.

Which is somewhat ironic. As Trump reminds anyone who asks, he helped make DeSantis in 2018 by endorsing him in a primary fight. And DeSantis has quite clearly modeled his approach to politics on the headline-grabbing strategy used by Trump.

In fact, what DeSantis is offering Republican voters is Trumpism without Trumpism. In DeSantis, you get all the vitriol that Trump’s presidential campaign and presidency built on, but without some of the former president’s more embarrassing lapses and personal tics.

And, like Trump, covering DeSantis presents a significant challenge to the media as well. DeSantis – and so does the court – want mainstream media scorn for Martha’s Vineyard-like gambits. He knows that the more negative attention he receives, the more popular he is with the Republican base and the more money he can raise for his future political endeavors.

Not covering someone like DeSantis — the governor of a big state with national ambition — is out of the question. But how DeSantis – and his mistakes – are portrayed by the media needs serious thinking as we approach 2024.