There's someone running against Trump who's somehow more problematic than the former president.

For years, most of us figured there couldn't be anyone more polarising than Donald Trump in US politics.

He wanted to build the wall, he blocked refugees and travellers with passports from Muslim-majority countries from entering the US, said a variety of extremely sexist remarks about women, was "the central cause" of the Capitol riots and has been found liable for sexual abuse

This is, of course, just the tip of the iceberg.

Alas, he's now running again for US president in 2024. But there's a fellow Republican that could be Trump's undoing. So, what do we know about this new candidate running for the Republican presidential nomination?  

His name is Ron DeSantis, Florida's Governor who is well known for his ultra-conservative politics and harsh laws, vowing to destroy anything he deems "woke". This week, he confirmed he's also vying for the Republican presidential nomination.

Once considered 'Trump-lite', DeSantis is now slowly but surely making his brand even more conservative than Trump's politics. And that's a hard thing to do.

Watch: a look back at when pro-Trump protestors stormed the US Capitol. Post continues below. 

Video via ABC.

To get us up to speed on who the hell Ron DeSantis is, we've collated a bunch of quick facts about the Florida Governor, and why his candidacy is so concerning. 

Strap yourselves in.

DeSantis aggressively opposed COVID-19 restrictions.

During the pandemic era, DeSantis made a lot of headlines and built his brand off the back of this global profile. For context, the Ivy League-educated former member of Congress was elected as the Governor of Florida in 2018.

During the pandemic, he staunchly — and I mean staunchly — opposed a number of precautionary measures aimed to improve public health safety. He wasn't a fan of masks, nor lockdowns, and shared a bunch of anti-vax commentary at the time.

A report from the Tampa Bay Time revealed DeSantis's state surgeon general had altered scientific data in order to justify DeSantis' official position that young men should not receive the COVID-19 vaccine. And last year it was confirmed Florida will now formally recommend against COVID-19 vaccinations for healthy children. 

You get the vibe. 

DeSantis has beef with Disney.

Okay, this is bizarre. 

It all began last year when media giant, Disney, criticised a state bill being pushed by DeSantis, that has now become known as the 'Don't Say Gay Bill'.

In 2022, the state of Florida banned the discussion of gender identity and sexual orientation in public school classrooms for children between kindergarten and the third grade. It was a law approved by DeSantis. This year, that law was extended to all school grades, meaning there will be no lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity from grades four through to 12.


DeSantis pushed for this legislation as part of his "war on woke" culture. 

Now here's where Disney comes in.

The Walt Disney World Resort, also called Walt Disney World or Disney World, is an entertainment resort complex in Florida. For years, they've been in charge of their own district and have had special self-governing status. 

When Disney's then-CEO criticised DeSantis over what critics call this 'Don't Say Gay' bill, DeSantis responded by axing Disney's self-governing status position. This gave DeSantis the authority to appoint a new tourist board with oversight of the area — and that did not make Disney happy. 

Disney has since sued DeSantis and his new tourist board, and in response, DeSantis has counter-sued.

Perhaps the biggest irony of all is that DeSantis married his wife, Jill Casey DeSantis, at Disney World in 2009.

Along with the 'Don't Say Gay' bill, DeSantis has banned African American studies in schools.

Just a month ago, DeSantis backed legislation that bans the teaching of AP African American studies in Floria schools. 

As for why this decision was made, DeSantis said the curriculum was "woke", "contrary to Florida law" and an exercise in "indoctrination".

As per Politico, the curriculum explores the African American experience through multiple academic lenses, such as history, literature, music, philosophy, economics, and art.

A small part of this curriculum are topics such as intersectionality, activism, Black queer studies, incarceration and movements for Black lives — topics that critics suggest some conservatives have taken issue with.


Ron DeSantis. Image: Getty. 

He wasn't always this conservative in his politics. 

This is the part of DeSantis' career that is particularly intriguing.

In the early stages of his time as Governor, his politics weren't nearly as alt-right leaning as they appear to be now.  

In his first 14 months in the job, DeSantis boosted pay for public school teachers, pardoned the Groveland Four in a longstanding case of racial injustice, enabled the state's legalisation of medical marijuana and appointed a Democrat to lead the Division of Emergency Management. 


But what many US political commentators have said is that COVID-19 marked the moment DeSantis' politics shifted. 

As one former Republican congressman from Tampa Bay said: "As a country, as a culture, COVID divided us, and he [DeSantis] had to choose sides."

This year, Florida prohibited transgender people from amending their birth certificates and receiving transition-related care, such as hormone therapy and puberty blockers for minors. This was a decision approved by DeSantis.

He's also currently trying to restrict public schools teaching students about sexuality, sexually transmitted diseases and all other related topics until they're in grade six. Part of this would mean students being prohibited from asking questions about menstruation — including about their own first periods — which frequently occur before the sixth grade. 

Another political point of contention in Florida right now is access to abortions and the legalities surrounding it. In April, DeSantis signed a ban on abortions after six weeks of pregnancy. The new measure does include exceptions for rape, incest and human trafficking — if there is proof of the crime. 

His friendship with Donald Trump appears to be wavering.

From friends to foes, Trump and DeSantis are now in a race against one another to win the Republican presidential nomination. 

Back when DeSantis was running for Governor in Florida, it was Trump who tweeted his support and gave DeSantis a boost in the polls. Subsequently, in his victory speech DeSantis thanked Trump, adding: "I think we'll have a great partnership."


But as DeSantis' profile began to rise, along with talk of him running for President in 2024, Trump became very vocal.

"If I faced him, I'd beat him like I would beat everyone else. Average Republican governor with great Public Relations," Trump said. Trump also suggested that DeSantis' six-week abortion ban may be "too harsh".

This week, when DeSantis confirmed his bid for the Republican presidential nomination, he made a subtle dig at his former ally.

"We must end the culture of losing that has infected the Republican Party in recent years," DeSantis said. "The tired dogmas of the past are inadequate for a vibrant future. We must look forward, not backwards."

However, if looking back tells us anything, it's that there doesn't yet appear to be much political difference between DeSantis and Trump. They both wholeheartedly back a conservative agenda. The only difference so far is their chosen delivery and method to create a "non-woke" America. 

Both Trump and DeSantis' bids for the Republican nomination represent an equal danger in destabilising US politics once again – and it's the extremity of the latter's political decisions in particular that we'll need to keep playing close attention to, particularly if he makes it to the Presidential race. 

Feature Image: Getty/Canva/Mamamia. 

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