It made me laugh to see him try to walk the line between signaling to the GOP base that this new law is, of course, about facilitating school prayer and not quite saying that explicitly lest he run afoul of the Establishment Clause. That starts with the language of the bill, which makes the minute of silence sound like some moment of zen you’d find on a meditation app.
DeSantis also made a point of not signing the bill in a Christian religious setting, knowing that Dems would attack him anyway for pandering to the party’s primary voters ahead of 2024. He went to a Jewish community center instead and delivered some remarks about Israel, the Holocaust, and the minute of silence. If he’s going to get ripped for trying to smuggle prayer back into public schools, he can at least say that he had religious diversity in mind.
Even though it’s Christians specifically whom he needs to win over to compete in a national primary.
He did finally drop the pretense that the bill is strictly secular in intention during his remarks to the audience. Watch, then read on:
It’s not visible in the clip but apparently there was a “protect religious liberty” placard on the podium. I’m a little surprised that he and the Florida legislature tried to be cute with “minute of silence” thing instead of just passing a balls-out “prayer in schools” law. Granted, that would be unconstitutional under current Supreme Court precedent, but overturning precedent is what 6-3 conservative SCOTUS majorities are for. And even if he lost, who cares? For DeSantis, as for Trump, there’s no downside to fighting culture-war battles. If you win, you’re a hero to the base. If you lose, at least you’re a fighter.
In this case, the meditation-sounding language is designed to avoid a court battle instead of invite one. That’s uncharacteristic for a guy who’s fighting tooth and nail in court against letting cruise lines require vaccine passports for safety reasons, but I suppose his mission is accomplished either way. He wanted to signal to righties that he’ll advance their cultural priorities here and he did that even if the bill isn’t as brazen as it might have been.
Everyone understands that the point is to encourage school prayer even if it doesn’t say so overtly.
Meanwhile, looking ahead to his 2022 gubernatorial race, Newsweek just caught his likely Democratic opponent practicing an embarrassing — but revealing — double standard:
Nikki Fried, Florida’s agriculture commissioner, a rising star among state Democrats who hopes to defeat Governor Ron DeSantis next year if she wins the primary, sounds like a tried and true progressive on her English-language website.
She touts being an advocate for criminal justice reform, taking on the NRA, and fighting to protect the environment.
But as of Friday, all of that was missing from her Spanish-language website.
Asked about the discrepancy by Newsweek, Fried’s team quickly added the language in Spanish and fleshed out her biography on the page within two hours of the initial request for comment.
Fried knows her state’s recent electoral history, particularly Trump’s shockingly comfortable win there last November on the strength of Latino support in Miami-Dade County. We’ve reached the point in Florida’s rightward shift that Democrats are grasping for ways to seem more conservative to voters who are supposed to be part of their own coalition. Which makes DeSantis’s “minute of silence” pander even more understandable. A religious cohort like Latinos is destined to appreciate the governor doing what he can to make public schools a tiny bit more hospitable to faith. Maybe they’ll remember in 2024.