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Is Ron DeSantis a Robot? An Investigation (in Pictures)

The Florida governor seems to have a hard time acting fun and normal in public.

Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images

Many politicians have gotten away with behaving slightly weird, if not totally unsettlingly, especially in recent years. Perhaps that’s helped by the former president being as absurdly unusual and villainously criminal as he is. But still, Ron DeSantis is finding a way to make sure his bizarre behavior not only cuts through the headlines but remains burned into our minds forever.

As the Florida governor gets closer to finally announcing his run for president, he has had more and more time in the public eye, which means more opportunities to show how normal and fun he is—in case his vicious agenda against queer people, migrants, women, students, and teachers didn’t already win you over.

Last week, as DeSantis was soft-campaigning in Iowa, he made some friendly banter and refocused people’s attention on his … jovial behavior.

The moment brought back memories of just weeks ago, when DeSantis had a warm back-and-forth with Piers Morgan, in which the Florida governor robotically laughed while denying reports of his eating chocolate pudding with three fingers.

There was also the time DeSantis short-circuited in Tokyo when he was asked about his falling poll numbers in the 2024 primary.

To be clear, DeSantis’s aesthetics are just incidental. Emotion and expression aren’t bad things for a politician to display, even if you laugh like a Chuck-e Cheese animatronic. What’s more important is how little emotion or sorrow DeSantis seems to genuinely express about the pains of our world. Mass shootings, climate disaster, the plight of migrants; the struggle for people to find out who they are and who they love—all things any good-willed politician might express some sort of something about; instead, DeSantis is the front-runner in exacerbating those pains.

So while he may not end up winning the presidency, DeSantis can take solace knowing his leadership in hurting millions of people, with a show-stopping personality to match.

Republicans Literally Laugh Off Idea of Taxing the Rich to Fix Budget

As the debt ceiling crisis continues, we get ever closer to the threat of a national default. And Republicans seem determined to take us there.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy laughs
Win McNamee/Getty Images

Republicans have said they want to reduce government spending and increase U.S. revenue—but not if it inconveniences rich people, apparently.

When a reporter asked House Speaker Kevin McCarthy if he would consider raising taxes on wealthy Americans, he answered with a short “No” before the question was even finished. Republicans standing around him groaned and shook their heads. They then began laughing when McCarthy asked where the reporter was earlier.

McCarthy explained that wealth taxes weren’t necessary because the United States has a revenue of 20 percent of gross domestic product, as opposed to 17 percent in previous years. Instead, inflation was due to the Democrats spending $6 trillion after winning the presidential election in 2020.

McCarthy’s statement about revenue is technically true: The U.S. revenues in 2022 totaled 19.6 percent of GDP, according to the Congressional Budget Office, compared to the annual average of 17.4 percent in the five decades prior. Most of that revenue comes from income taxes.

But raising taxes on the wealthy, even by a little bit, would produce huge amounts of revenue. In 2021, Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders proposed charging billionaires a 3 percent wealth tax, and households and trusts worth between $50 million and $1 billion a tax of just 2 percent per year.

This would only apply to a tiny fraction of Americans, but it could produce about $3 trillion in revenue over the next decade, University of Berkeley economists predicted.

In his budget, President Joe Biden proposed increasing taxes on wealthy Americans and corporations and using the revenue to expand health care, childcare assistance, and housing aid. Not only have Republicans fought this plan, but their own budget proposes punishing lower-income Americans to benefit the wealthy.

Republicans’ solution to the debt ceiling crisis is focused on mere pennies in comparison to what a wealth tax would do. The bill calls for work requirements for Medicaid, food stamps, and cash assistance programs—which would barely make a dent in U.S. debt. Work requirements would save the government only about $1 billion per year, according to the CBO, nowhere near how much actually needs to be recouped. And that’s assuming, of course, that such requirements actually work.

The U.S. is just weeks away from defaulting on its debt, but Republicans and Democrats remain at a logjam over how to solve the problem. The GOP seems ready to take it out on the backs of people who can least afford it.

Some Rare, Temporary Good News From the Supreme Court on Guns

The Supreme Court has declined to block an assault weapons ban in Illinois ... for now.

Supreme Court building
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The Supreme Court refused Wednesday to block Illinois’s law banning assault weapons, a rare bit of good news as the U.S. continues to struggle with skyrocketing gun violence.

A total of 10 states and Washington, D.C., have laws banning assault-style weapons. Illinois joined the list in January when Governor J.B. Pritzker signed a bill prohibiting the possession or sale of such firearms, as well as high-capacity magazines. The ban came six months after a mass shooter opened fire on a Fourth of July parade in a Chicago suburb, killing seven people with a legally purchased semiautomatic weapon.

“This assault weapons ban is a step in the right direction,” Pritzker said at the time. “But there’s no magic fix, no single law that will end gun violence once and for all. So we must keep fighting, voting, and protesting to ensure that future generations will only have to read about massacres like Highland Park, Sandy Hook, and Uvalde in their history books.”

Gun rights advocates in Illinois sued to block the law, saying the measure violates their Second Amendment Rights. But the Supreme Court issued a one-sentence unsigned order on Wednesday declining to block the measure.

But the fight in Illinois is not over. There are six cases challenging the law working their way through the appeals process.

The Supreme Court also refused in January to block New York’s expanded gun restrictions, while the legal challenge to the law plays out. The decisions are not necessarily indications that the justices support gun control, however. The court ruled 6-3 in June to strike down a form of gun carry restriction that only six states use, dramatically expanding gun access nationwide. Instead, the New York and Illinois rulings are more likely a sign that the high court is giving lower courts more time to weigh the potential effects of the June ruling.

Meanwhile, the effects of increased gun access are wreaking havoc on the U.S. People are being shot just for approaching the wrong house. There have been 226 mass shootings since the start of the year, according to the Gun Violence Archive. Many states have weakened gun restrictions, and violence soon follows.

Ron DeSantis Signs Drag Ban So Extreme It Could Cancel All Pride Parades in the State

The bill is so vaguely worded that Pride in Florida this year is sure to look different.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis
Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill Wednesday that will effectively stop all Pride parades and festivals in the state, a massive attack on LGBTQ visibility.

The new law prohibits government entities and employees from issuing permits to organizations that may hold “adult live performances” in the presence of minors. Anyone that does can be charged with a misdemeanor. The law is so vaguely worded, and the punishment so high, that at least one Pride Parade has already been canceled this year.

The measure would also ban businesses from allowing minors to attend an “adult live performance,” which is defined as a show performed in front of a live audience that “depicts or simulates nudity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement, or specific sexual activities … lewd conduct, or the lewd exposure of prosthetic or imitation genitals or breasts.” Any business that breaks this law will face a fine of up to $10,000 and could lose its license.

The law’s supporters say that they are not targeting drag queens but instead trying to protect children. But Democratic Representative Fentrice Driskell pointed out that Florida already has laws in place to protect children.

“Even though the plain text of the bill may not say ‘drag’ … there’s a greater context happening here, and we all know it,” she said, just before the bill passed the House last month by a vote of 82–32, along party lines.

Critics have slammed the bill as being overly broad, which could have unintended consequences. Republicans admitted that the measure would prevent performances of The Rocky Horror Picture Show and the musical Hair.

But the measure will also have an intended consequence: “erasing” LGBTQ people from existence. Florida Republican Representative Randy Fine said outright that if passing the bill “means erasing a community because you have to target children, then, damn right, we ought to do it!”

Florida is now the second state to pass a law attacking drag performances, which have become a particular target for the right wing in recent years. In March, Tennessee became the first state to pass such a law, although the measure was blocked by a judge before it could go into effect on the grounds that it was overly broad and violated free speech rights.

DeSantis also signed an anti-trans bill the same day, which allows the state to remove trans kids from their families if they receive gender-affirming care. You can read more about that bill here.

Ron DeSantis Signs Law Allowing Trans Kids to Be Taken From Their Families

The state can now kidnap kids in Florida.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis waves and looks over his shoulder
Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a horrifying bill Wednesday that will let the state take transgender minors away from their families if they are receiving gender-affirming care.

The new law will allow the state to take custody of a child if they have been “subjected to or [are] threatened with being subjected to” gender-affirming care, which includes puberty blockers and hormone replacement therapy. Florida courts could modify custody agreements from a different state if the minor is likely to receive gender-affirming care in that second state. The text refers to gender-affirming care as “sex-reassignment prescriptions or procedures” and qualifies this care as a form of “physical harm.”

Medical facilities would have to give the state Department of Health a signed attestation that they neither provide gender-affirming care to any patients under the age of 18 nor refer people to providers that do. Their medical license renewal is contingent upon sending in this attestation.

But the bill also targets trans adults: Only physicians are allowed to offer gender-affirming care (not nurse practitioners). Anyone who violates the law could be charged with a misdemeanor.

Minors who have already begun transitioning will be allowed to continue to do so, but they are no longer allowed to receive care via telehealth, including for prescriptions. Their doctors have to tell them about the “risks” of gender-affirming care, and patients will have to sign an informed consent form, which the ACLU has pointed out often contains misinformation. Doctors who violate any of these new rules could be charged with a felony.

Republicans across the country have introduced bills targeting gender-affirming care, but this is one of the most extreme measures yet. The people who support these bills insist that they are trying to protect children, but forcibly taking a kid from their loving family sounds more likely to traumatize them. What’s more, by passing legislation that describes LGBTQ health care as something that should be penalized, lawmakers are putting people of all ages at risk of real harm.

DeSantis also signed an anti-drag bill the same day, which is expected to end all Pride Parades in the state due to its vague wording. You can read more about that bill here.

Trump Says He Deserves Credit for Every State Abortion Ban

The Republican Party’s front-runner is bragging about getting rid of abortion rights. When people tell you who they are ...

Donald Trump

Republicans have lost election after election in no small part because of their assault on, and now successful erosion of, abortion rights in America. From the crash of the predicted “red wave” in the midterm elections to numerous referendums protecting abortion in red states, to a key victory in Wisconsin just last month, attacking people’s bodily autonomy is a continually losing issue for Republicans. And Donald Trump, the party’s leading 2024 nominee, is now bragging about getting rid of people’s right to choose.

“I’m the one that got rid of Roe v. Wade,” twice-impeached, criminally indicted, and liable-for-sexual-abuse former President Trump boasted on Newsmax.

The comments came in response to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis criticizing Trump for not giving a definitive answer on whether the former president would sign the same six-week abortion ban that he had.

Trump, who up to this point seemed to have a comfortable hold on his relationship toward DeSantis, seems to be bungling his response now. Since his remarks on Tuesday, Trump has only doubled down on eroding abortion rights, an unpopular position among most Americans, while also trying to maintain his posturing that in doing so, he opened up room for the opposing sides of the debate to “negotiate.”

“I was able to kill Roe v. Wade, much to the ‘shock’ of everyone,” Trump posted on Truth Social Wednesday, “and for the first time put the Pro Life movement in a strong negotiating position.… Without me there would be no 6 weeks, 10 weeks, 15 weeks, or whatever is finally agreed to,” he continued, curiously showing he has no concern with what an actual outcome might look like. He oddly—and, at least, candidly—positions himself as someone who doesn’t care what people’s actual abortion rights are, as much as purports himself to be an effective mediator between the two sides.

“Without me the pro Life movement would have just kept losing. Thank you President TRUMP!!!” he finished.

Trump’s shakiness previews a likely continued messy debate between Trump and DeSantis. Up to this point, the Florida governor has not been avidly boasting about his radical move to ban abortions beyond six weeks—which, again, makes sense given how unpopular the policy is. But now DeSantis will likely see Trump’s vacillation as a gap for him to attack. The outcomes of such a circumstance bode very badly for the GOP. Trump may triple down on saying he was the one to get rid of Roe v. Wade, which basically writes the Democratic attack ads themselves. Or Trump may continue to appear confused and apathetic on the issue, which could actually generate some level of momentum for DeSantis or other candidates, making the entire primary much more competitive and potentially divisive. Trump may prevail in any case—but he’ll either come to be seen by the general public as the icon of the attack on abortion rights or, by Republicans, as weak and potentially marred by a much more competitive primary.

Go forth, DeSantis, take your shot.

Democratic Mayoral Win in Jacksonville Is a Huge Middle Finger to Ron DeSantis

Donna Deegan will lead Florida’s largest city after her victory.

Donna Deegan
Screenshot courtesy of News4JAX
Donna Deegan became the first female mayor in Jacksonville history.

Jacksonville has only had a Democratic mayor once in the past 30 years. Jacksonville’s county, Duval, has voted for Republicans in every election since 1976—until it narrowly voted for Biden in 2020. And now a Democratic candidate will be leading Florida’s largest city again.

On Tuesday, Jacksonville made history and sent shockwaves across the state and even country in electing the city’s first female mayor in its almost 200-year history: former journalist Donna Deegan. Deegan also beat a DeSantis-endorsed Republican by four points.

Deegan was born and raised in Jacksonville and has been a longtime news anchor for the city, having begun her career as an anchor in 1984. A three-time survivor of breast cancer, Deegan also created the Donna Foundation, which supports local women living with the disease.

Her platform focused on broad topics: “Good Infrastructure,” “Good Health,” and “Good Economy,” but within those buckets, Deegan was not afraid to point to systemic issues that need fixing—from stopping “a handful of well connected people” from benefiting from city contracts, and opening deals up to minority-owned businesses, to fixing crumbling infrastructure in “neglected neighborhoods.”

Notably, Deegan’s victory comes in the aftermath of an election cycle in which Ron DeSantis cruised to reelection by almost 20 points—in Duval County, DeSantis won by 12. And yet, in this election, DeSantis’s own endorsed candidate, Daniel Davis, lost to a Democrat by four. That is a 16-point partisan swing, just since November.

The results are all the more eye-popping when considering that Davis is no political stranger around Jacksonville. From 2003 to 2010, he served on Jacksonville’s City Council, even serving as council president from 2007 to 2008. In 2010, he advanced to represent parts of the county in the Florida state House. While serving in the legislature, he also was appointed president of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, a position he has held since.

Up to this point, Jacksonville had been America’s largest city with a Republican mayor; now it becomes yet another city that Republicans are growing to be more and more out of touch with. The Republicans deployed the traditional playbook they’ve grown so used to, and it failed them.

A Davis-approved ad attacked Deegan for saying she attended Black Lives Matter protests after the killing of George Floyd in 2020. DeSantis himself also endorsed Davis as “the proven law and order conservative Jacksonville needs to tackle the city’s greatest challenges and seize its biggest opportunities.” And as DeSantis continued to whine about and attack the media, Deegan, a former journalist, cruised to victory.

It seems the assumption that such tactics (whipping up racist fearmongering around police reform; attacking journalists) would impress “conservative Jacksonville” in fact played a part in making it reliably conservative no more.

Meanwhile, DeSantis ended the night 0–2 on his endorsement record, as his preferred candidate for Kentucky’s gubernatorial race, Kelly Craft, also lost her election to Trump-endorsed Attorney General Daniel Cameron, who famously refused to hold the cops who killed Breonna Taylor accountable.

Republicans Make 2024 Stance Clear With Radical Abortion Ban in North Carolina

Republicans overrode a veto to push through the extreme measure.

Allison Joyce/Getty Images
People gather to protest against the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health on June 24, 2022, in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Republicans have made their position for 2024 clear, forcing through an extreme abortion ban overnight in North Carolina that will decimate reproductive health access in the South.

Similar measures are also being considered in the Nebraska and South Carolina Republican-majority legislatures.

North Carolina Republicans voted late Tuesday night to override Democratic Governor Roy Cooper’s veto of a bill banning abortion at 12 weeks. They were able to squeak the restrictions through after Representative Tricia Cotham switched her political affiliation to Republican. She had previously expressed support for abortion rights, but pulled an abrupt about-face in early April that two of her former aides described as a “deeply petty, personal” decision.

The new abortion restrictions, which go into immediate effect, technically ban abortion after 12 weeks, but in reality, the window could be much shorter. People would also only be allowed to get a medication abortion until 10 weeks of pregnancy, and to get one, they would have to go to three separate, in-person appointments that are 72 hours apart.

Under the new law, abortions are technically allowed up to 24 weeks if the fetus has a “life-limiting anomaly,” but the anomaly must be “uniformly diagnosable,” even though such defects are rarely so clear-cut. Doctors also have to tell patients that such anomalies do result in live births with “unpredictable and variable lengths of life,” meaning they will have to try to convince patients to carry the pregnancy to term if there’s a chance the baby will live—even if only for a few moments.

The law also mandates that the legislature would have to appoint a rules commission to overhaul abortion clinic regulations by October. New rules could potentially force clinics to undergo costly (and unnecessary) changes, even permanently shutting them down if they are unable to comply. It would also require health care providers to care for infants “born alive”—which health experts agree rarely occurs and could negatively impact post-birth care—and could restrict access to abortion based on a patient’s reason for wanting one.

Abortion bans are really about control. The ability to control the lives of others. Women did not ask for your oversight. We did not ask for your approval. Women do not need to be protected. Stay out of our exam rooms,” Democratic Representative Julie von Haefen said during the debate.

Representative Diamond Staton-Williams pointed out that “if we genuinely believe in the sanctity of life, we need to recognize our medical professionals as the experts they are. The doctor’s office just isn’t big enough for the entire N.C. House to fit in.”

Chants of “Shame!” broke out after the House voted to override the veto. Cotham made an “I’m watching you” gesture at the protesters as they were escorted out.

After Roe v. Wade was overturned, North Carolina became an abortion haven in the South due to its previous law allowing abortion up to 20 weeks. The new law, combined with Florida’s hugely unpopular six-week ban, will devastate abortion access in the region.

South Carolina, which currently allows abortion until 22 weeks, is still debating a six-week ban. Democrats filed 1,000 amendments to the bill to try and block it. In Nebraska, Republicans got just enough votes to add a 12-week abortion ban to a bill banning gender-affirming care. That measure must still go up for a final vote.

The Cyclist Who Heckled White Supremacists in D.C. Wanted to Make Sure They Got the Message

His name is Joe Flood, and he was glad to have delivered the truth about what people in Washington, D.C., think of the white supremacist group.

Photo Courtesy of Joe Flood
Washington, D.C. resident Joe Flood went viral for his heckling of a Patriot Front rally.

When members of the white supremacist group Patriot Front marched on Washington, D.C., on Sunday, they were met by a single, acerbic counterprotester on a bike.

Joe Flood, a Washington-based writer, was out having coffee Sunday morning when he saw on Twitter that Patriot Front was having a rally on the National Mall. The Southern Poverty Law Center describes Patriot Front as a “white nationalist hate group” that formed after the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017.

Since he wasn’t far away, Flood hopped on a Capital Bikeshare bicycle and pedaled over to the Mall, where he found the rally of about 100 people in front of the Washington Monument.

“They snuck into D.C. a couple times before, and they would march around and do photo shoots and stuff, and I didn’t want them to get away this time without someone counterprotesting them and confronting them,” Flood told The New Republic.

What happened next is possibly the greatest string of insults known to man.

“I wanted them to know that they’re racists and fascists, and D.C. doesn’t like fascists,” Flood said. He called them “losers,” “incels,” “cosplayers,” and “a joke.”

The group leader was wearing a fitted blue jacket with brass buttons, cowboy boots, and a “cavalry-style hat,” so Flood shouted that he looked like “General Custer’s illegitimate son.”

“He just stopped and looked at his shoes,” Flood said, laughing. “I’d really got him with that one.”

When Flood said the group was wearing “Walmart khakis,” even the police officers deployed to the rally laughed.

The Patriot Front members then marched from the Mall to Judiciary Square, flanked by about 50 police officers on bicycles. Flood rode alongside them, leapfrogging ahead to continue shouting at the group. A few other counterprotesters joined him as they reached the end of the Mall. Once they reached Judiciary Square, the Patriot Front members put their signs into two U-Haul trucks and then got on the metro to leave.

He has now gone viral for his heckling skills, but Flood said it’s important to remember: “America is not for one group, it’s for everyone. And that’s what makes this country great. And then the fact that there are white supremacists who think that this country belongs to only one group of people, I just find completely offensive.”

Patriot Front “were a joke, basically, but they’re an evil joke,” Flood told TNR. “As a friend of mine said, ‘It’s funny till it isn’t.’ So that’s why I wanted them to know that what they were doing was not OK, and that people in D.C. hated them.”

Why Is Dianne Feinstein Still in the Senate?

In a new conversation, the California senator seemed completely unaware that she wasn’t in Washington, D.C., for over two months.

California Senator Dianne Feinstein
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Dianne Feinstein seems to think she was never on a leave of absence from her job.

On Tuesday, Senator Dianne Feinstein, flanked by a team of staffers, fielded some questions from the press after voting on the Senate floor, reports Slate.

She reported that she was “feeling fine,” though suffering from a nondescript “problem with the leg.”

She was then asked by a reporter what the response from her colleagues has been like since her return back to the Hill.

“No, I haven’t been gone,” Feinstein responded. “You should follow the—I haven’t been gone. I’ve been working,” she continued.

She was then asked if she meant she had been working from home.

“No, I’ve been here. I’ve been voting,” she insisted. “Please. You either know or don’t know.”

The comment is curious given the gravity of how consequential Feinstein’s absence—and indeed, lack of voting—has been over the past few months. Feinstein has been absent from the Senate since February 27, having been hospitalized in early March for a case of shingles.

During that time, Democrats were unable to advance court nominees. Her absence has been used by senators like Dick Durbin as justification for why Supreme Court ethics legislation cannot be advanced. Republicans, aided by weak politicians like Joe Manchin, have been able to vote to pass inane resolutions like overturning an Environmental Protection Agency rule to reduce truck pollution.

When Feinstein was asked Tuesday about members who have called for her resignation, she deflected and was apparently wheeled away.

Slate asked Senator Sheldon Whitehouse about whether there was any optimism for Feinstein to return to being a fully functioning, contributing member of the Judiciary Committee.

“I’m gonna leave that to the medics,” he responded.