All DeSantis' behavioral logic points to Randy Fine, not Manny Diaz, as next commissioner
Bill Montford would be a smarter pick than either. But I don't think DeSantis can silence his inner troll.
Ron DeSantis has become very predictable. Faced with any significant decision, he asks himself: What can I do to troll the “libs” and “the media” and then fundraise/run to Fox News glory off of their outrage? Governing effectively never enters the thought process because cable news trolling is the entire point of his governorship.
Applying this logic, I predict Ron DeSantis will choose Brevard County buffoon Randy Fine as your next Education Commissioner.
Fine is the state representative who pushed to withhold $200M from children in local school districts who imposed mask mandates. This includes his own county of Brevard, where he so viciously harangued a school board member online that she unsuccessfully sought a restraining order against him. He’s the guy who said “because we can” when somebody asked him why he was pushing some terrible piece of legislation. He’s Florida’s #1 anti-education troll.
All that and more makes Fine the Joseph Lapado of education — and thus the natural choice for DeSantis. This says much more about DeSantis than Fine.
You can read about Fine’s small-time rage-boating here and here and here. It’s tiresomely familiar to anybody — including Republicans — who has had to fend off the Putinist/civic harassment wing of the Republican Party that DeSantis and Polk County’s CCDF book-banners embody.
A true troll — or another head of Jeb’s DoE/Jefferson hydra?
Appointing Fine as chief education troll would break with the conventional wisdom that the job is Senator Manny Diaz, R-Academica’s.
It is true that Manny would be somewhat trolly in the same sense Richard Corcoran was — a seasoned “choice” grifter turned loose to pillage and punish a state that likes its traditional public schools but keeps voting for dudes who want to destroy them and hoover up the tax money. But that outrage is already baked in to the Diaz move; and it won’t move the Fox News troll needle for DeSantis.
Moreover, there are actual scandal/political problems with for DeSantis with Manny. Let’s list a few:
Manny is going to own the shit show testing/progress monitoring bill implementation — both as the senator who drove it and the Education Commissioner who implements it. Gov. DeSantis promised a much better testing experience. When the experience gets worse, it will be sitting Education Commissioner Manny Diaz who made a liar out of him.
[I’m doing a strikethrough on the whole section below because it appears DoE has already awarded the contract for the Manny/DeSantis assess-and-punish platform, without really spelling out that’s what it did. The companies are called “Cambium” and “Renaissance.” And they won an “invitation to negotiate” on March 1st, before the assess-and-punish platform was law. In this case, it appears my gossip and scuttlebutt were wrong.]
Also, all gossip/scuttlebut I hear suggests that a company called NWEA has the inside track on the new online “assessment” platform. NWEA has a product called called MAP Growth, which you can read about here. And here’s a whole NWEA study about how awesome MAP Growth supposedly works in Florida. I hear various rumors of various usual suspect “stakeholders” with business connections to NWEA; but I have not found anything concrete yet. I’m open to guidance. Also, go google “NWEA” + “Common Core” if you want a chuckle. On the heels of DoE/Jefferson, which is a huge procurement scandal, I’m looking forward to writing about the assessment procurement/bid scandal in waiting while Manny Diaz is commissioner.
Manny is neck deep in the DoE/Jefferson scandal itself. As a lawmaker, he steered the contract and money to his employer, Academica, which then failed and bailed on Jefferson County. That vacuum lead to the giant bid scandal that followed. Manny also blamed the people of Jefferson County for Academica/Somerset’s failure.
And finally, if you’re Ron DeSantis, don’t you have to ask yourself: is there really any difference at all between Manny Diaz or Ralph Arza or Richard Corcoran or Trey Traviesa or Academica executives or the Florida Charter School Alliance or Patricia Levesque or John Kirtley or the rest of Jeb Bush’s foundation?
I mean, convicted criminal witness tamperer Ralph Arza, who was once too racist and “disgusting” for Ron DeSantis’s 2018 campaign, might as well be Richard Corcoran or Manny Diaz. That’s how closely aligned that whole little clique is. There is zero daylight between Diaz, Arza, and Corcoran as political/social allies or as parties to the Jefferson County mess.
Is DeSantis happy to cut off Corcoran’s head just to have Manny’s identical head grow in its place? I don’t know. A lot depends on whether DeSantis pushed Corcoran out; or if Corcoran really wanted to leave. I don’t know the answer to that.
But I do think something happened between February 5, when Corcoran sent a defiant and condescending letter to Jefferson County officials and February 8th, when he utterly surrendered to them — without really saying a word — at the state Board of Education meeting. Corcoran was a puppy with his tail between his legs at that meeting. Why? Again, I don’t know.
But if Corcoran’s incompetence and scandal was wearing consciously thin for DeSantis, I don’t think that’s good news for Manny or anybody else’s head on the Jeb hydra. DeSantis can get better trolling out of Fine with none of the established grifter risk from the hydra.
Understanding Ron DeSantis by his behavior, Fine seems a more logical choice than Diaz.
A much smarter choice DeSantis is too emotionally damaged to make
Based on his behavior, I think Ron DeSantis is just as emotionally damaged as Trump — but in a very different way. Trump is ruled by his surface emotions and visceral in-person reactions. He’s deeply personally needy. He trolls with what he says and how he performs — and his inconsistency and unpredictability — more than through what he actually does.
DeSantis is different; he trolls with his official power much more than with his mouth. He does things that are designed to make people react angrily so he can say “haha triggered you, lib.” That’s basically his entire reason to exist. I see no Machiavellian cleverness. Instead, I think he just enjoys the thrill of seeing how far his natural supporters will accept his raw dominance and sees it as his best path to power.
People tend to think of that as smarter or more disciplined than Trump. I disagree. DeSantis is less scattershot; but he also locks himself into stupid things and lacks any of Trump’s performative charisma and twisted charm. Emotionally, Trump is over-full; DeSantis is over-empty. Personality-wise, DeSantis reminds me of Putin before he invaded a country without provocation with a military not up to the task.
That’s all prelude for saying a smart, disciplined, Machiavellian DeSantis would appoint somebody like Bill Montford as Education Commissioner.
Frankly, I don’t think all that much of Montford as a leader. I think he’s pro-public education — but largely unwilling to fight or take a risk for it openly. In that sense, he’d be a great boring hire for a strategic DeSantis.
He would calm the risky, growing political backlash to CCDF-ism and Fine-ism, by pushing a “back to normal” agenda. He would provide bipartisan cover to both DeSantis and the Jeb hydra as the bad testing bill gets implemented. And he would likely rebuild DoE into something that functions after three years of Corcoran’s destruction. Montford would likely eliminate DeSantis’ number 1 vulnerability for re-election — which I continue to think is education.
But I think DeSantis is much too emotionally damaged to reason in that way.
And that leaves Randy Fine — which would lead us into very uncharted political territory and is likely to further inflame the book-banner, don’t say gay backlash.