"Humanizing DeSantis' And The Ugly Agenda Of Mama Casey

Ron DeSantis and Casey DeSantis

Gov. Ron DeSantis stands alongside his wife Casey

Florida first lady Casey DeSantis is doing her best to perform a rescue mission for her husband Ron’s struggling presidential campaign, holding her first solo campaign event to launch “Mamas for DeSantis” and nabbing aNew York Times puff piece at the same time. But while the Times frames Casey as her husband’s “humanizer-in-chief,” the “Mamas for DeSantis” kickoff video shows the nasty direction the Florida governor’s campaign is going as he stagnates in a very distant second in the polls.

At the Iowa event promoting the new initiative, Casey trotted out a series of cute anecdotes about her kids, a staple of campaign events for both her and Ron. The Times dutifully led with that, going on to detail her central role in her husband’s campaigns from the beginning. Further down in the long piece, it touches briefly on just what “Mamas for DeSantis” is all about.

In her remarks, Ms. DeSantis attempted to position him as an avatar for the conservative anger at school administrators and school boards that exploded during the pandemic.Much of her remarks were focused on a loose social agenda often described as “parents’ rights,” a hodgepodge of a movement that includes efforts to limit how race and L.G.B.T.Q. issues are taught, attacks on transgender rights, support for publicly funded private school vouchers and opposition to vaccine mandates.

A “loose social agenda” and “a hodgepodge of a movement”—to, you know, eliminate teaching about the role of race and racism in U.S. history, ban mention of LGBTQ+ people in schools, demonize trans people, gut public education, and undermine public health. La la la, just a loose hodgepodge, nothing to see here, moving on.

It’s all about love and maternal protectiveness, she explained to her campaign audience and, conveniently, the Times’ audience as well. “I care about protecting the innocence of my children and your children,” she said Thursday. “As long as I have breath in my body I will go out and I will fight for Ron DeSantis, not because he’s my husband — that is a part of it — but because I believe in him with every ounce of my being.”

“Innocence” is key here, and translates as “ignorance” when it comes to the existence of people different from their families.

The “Mamas for DeSantis” video—a scarier and more effective one than the campaign’s recent bizarre anti-LGBTQ+ video—showed clearly how, as much as this is an effort to humanize Ron via Casey and milk the media skills she honed as a local TV news reporter, it's based on dehumanizing other people. The tone is grim: Mothers, the ones who count, are under assault as they try to protect their precious children.

The opening scenes are from early in the pandemic—a woman being arrested for refusing to leave a public playground, a child crying as a mask is forced on its face, and, even worse, Dr. Anthony Fauci. Apparently the DeSantis campaign thinks there’s a rich vein of support to mine from the category of women still dwelling on the restrictions they faced in the early days of a deadly pandemic that at the time had no effective treatments or vaccines. Planning to die mad that the experts did their best to save lives and it involved you wearing a mask in shared spaces? Ron DeSantis is the candidate for you!

“In America, we’ve witnessed a lot, and put up with enough,” Casey narrates. “We’ve been forced into silence. Into compliance. Told that we must trust the science.” Masks are not gags, but okay, Casey.

Then it’s onto scenes of trans women athletes, as Casey’s voiceover says, “We’ve been told that we must deny truth, back down, and look the other way.” The “truth” being claimed here is that trans women aren’t women, see? It’s a hateful message so accepted by the target audience that she doesn’t even have to spell it out.

“Enough is enough,” the video continues. “When you come after our kids, we. fight. back. Because there’s nothing we won’t do to protect them. They’re not yours.” Here it shows clips of Casey and Ron with their children, then a woman saying “These are our kids,” and President Joe Biden saying “Our nation’s children are all our children,” the idea being that it is offensive to suggest that the nation has an interest in the welfare of all children. Each Mama for DeSantis is here only for her own children, no one else’s (but each Mama for DeSantis should also get to name a set of books to be banned for everyone’s kids). Then the video turns to Pride marchers chanting, “We’re coming for your children,” a tongue-in-cheek response to bigotry presented here as serious and terrifying.

But there’s an answer to all these terrible oppressions!

“We will not allow you to exploit their innocence to advance your agenda. We are no longer silent”—were you ever, really?— “We are united, and we have finally found our fighter.” Yes, it’s Ron DeSantis, initially shown bathed in golden light, smirking, and then in speech footage, saying nasally, “We’re not going to let you impose an agenda on our kids. We’re going to stand up for our kids.”

“He’ll do for America what he did for us in Florida,” Casey’s voiceover pledges. “Schools: open. Parents’ rights: defended. School choice: universal. Critical race theory: prohibited. DEI: stopped. Child mutilation: illegal. Girls’ sports: saved. Communities: protected. Our economy: growing. Freedom: guaranteed.”

This is the agenda. That’s it: gutting public education, banning any acknowledgement of racism in the U.S. at any point in history, erasing people of color and LGBTQ+ people from the public eye, preventing medical care for trans kids and keeping trans women from participating in sports. Hate, hate, hate, hate. And, as an afterthought, the growing economy—with, of course, no acknowledgement that the nation’s economy as a whole has continued to grow.

“But winning the fight in Florida is just the beginning. We must protect parents’ rights, the innocence of our children. We must restore sanity in our society. We need every mama and every grandmama in every corner of the country to stand up and back by electing Ron DeSantis president of the United States of America.”

She’s capping a video that seethes with rage and hostility toward people not like her, actively dehumanizing young trans people, with the claim that this isn’t a political agenda, it’s just “sanity.” And media coverage, like that Times article, that paints Casey as the relatable, charming half of a political power couple while glossing over the substance of what she’s saying, helps make that case, normalizing these views as side issues in the real work of campaign reporting: describing the personalities of the candidates and their wives. The harm Casey and Ron DeSantis want to do to other people’s kids matters more than the cute anecdotes about their own kids, dammit. It’s telling, though, that a campaign working so hard to humanize its candidate thinks the way to rise from distant second place is to go this ugly this early.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.


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