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DeSantis’ Florida, conservative lab…and stepping stone to the White House?

His 2024 presidential bid is almost a secret, but Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is resisting getting into the ring prematurely. The Republican seeks to make his country a laboratory of conservative ideas, hoping that it will push him towards the White House.

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A rising star of the far right, this former naval officer makes headlines almost daily in American newspapers, locked in his fight against the politicians, corporations, and professors he describes as “wake-ups.”

Clearly accusing a group of “elites” of imposing their progressive ideology on a society that rejects it, the forty-year-old vowed to make his state a fortress.

The first rounds were launched in early 2022, when Ron DeSantis restricted elementary school teaching of subjects related to sexual orientation or gender identity. This measure, very controversial, was called by its opponents “Don’t say gay” (“Don’t talk about gays”).

“Tomb of the Wookiee”

A few months later, the governor argued vigorously for banning a high school course on African-American history, accusing its authors of wanting to indoctrinate children.

“Florida is the graveyard of Wokism,” he proudly declared last November, following his re-election with flying colors as governor of this southeastern state.

A former college baseball player, married with three children, this Catholic embodies authority and the traditional family, values ​​that appeal to Republican voters, like Katie Campbell, a 48-year-old former teacher.

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“I’m conservative, and I don’t think we should talk about sexual orientation or gender identity in class,” says the mother of three, a member of the school board of her county, North Miami.

On the left, we condemn the systematic attack on freedom of expression and education, which has notably led to dozens of books being withdrawn from school libraries in recent months.

“DeSantis is using the Florida education issue to campaign on something that has nothing to do with Florida education,” warns Amy Reid, director of the Gender Studies Program at University of New York.

Its campus was the latest target for DeSantis’ team, which has reconfigured its notoriously progressive board to give it a conservative majority.

“Build your brand”

Anger from the American left, applause from the right, and media coverage galore: the effects of Ron DeSantis’ policies remain untouched. And offering the governor, who is publicly flirting with the idea of ​​a 2024 presidential run, is an interest many candidates dream of.

So far, the recipe has been a winner.

Almost unknown to the Battalion before his upset gubernatorial win in 2018, Ron DeSantis has highlighted his state with his staunch opposition to vaccination and mask requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Businesses and schools reopened in Florida much earlier than in the rest of the country, drawing praise from Republicans. Now, this conservative is seen as the biggest challenger to Donald Trump for the Republican nomination.

As evidenced by the title of his memoir – “The Courage to Be Free: Florida’s Blueprint for America’s Revival” – Ron DeSantis’ eyes are fixed on the White House.

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“Florida created a model of governance that produced tangible results,” he writes in the book, which is available on shelves Tuesday, while embodying the kind of scorn against the parochial elites who push our country to the brink.

But for Charles Zeldin, a professor of political science at Nova Southeastern University, based in Florida, the Republican is “in no rush to announce his candidacy.”

“He’s building his brand,” the professor analyzes, “and it’s easier to do that by saying he’s focused on Florida.”