THE COLUMN: The Shadow President

Under the British parliamentary system there is something known as the Shadow Cabinet, which consists of the leadership of the Out party, whichever it may be. Right now, with Boris Johnson having hung onto his prime ministership despite ample reason for the Tories to have dumped him when they had the chance, and should have, the shadow PM is Keir Starmer, the former editor of a radical Trotskyite magazine Socialist Alternatives, although he seems to have modified his fire-breathing leftism since his college days and is now considered "soft Left." As such, Starmer is Leader of the Opposition, and stands at the head of an entire replacement cabinet; should the current government fall or be voted out at the next scheduled election in May of 2024, the British public already knows who's going to be in charge and what they're going to get.

Here in the U.S., the picture is far less clear. Our cumbersome presidential election system, which now begins the day after the midterms and drags on for nearly two years of jockeying and primaries and media flaps and get-out-the-vote shenanigans, and even then doesn't end on Election Day, produces nothing but a single candidate by the spring of the election year. Then more mystery: who will be the running mate? Which rivals or friends or party hacks might wind up in the prospective cabinet? Nobody knows for sure until the announcements are made, the veep before the vote and the others afterward if the ticket is successful. Even then, there is still a nearly three-month "transition" phase before any of this can legally take effect; by the time Inauguration Day rolls around, half the country is already heartily sick of the new guys and the media is openly wondering who'll be running four years later.

The clock is ticking, Joe.

This cycle, things are a bit different. With the Biden administration visibly failing—the hero's welcome given to former president Barack Obama recently spoke volumes about where the real power in Washington lies these days—and speculation rife about whether or even how quickly a senescent, feeble president can be replaced and by whom, the time has never been riper for the Republicans to have a shadow president of their own. As it happens, they have two. 

First, of course, is Donald Trump, the recent president, who appears to be determined to get his old Oval Office back, running on a campaign of I-wuz-robbed grievance. The final three months of the Trump administration were an epic mess, beginning on Election Night when the nation went to bed with Trump comfortably ahead in all the swing states he needed to win to put him over the top, and waking up to one of the most extraordinary reversal of fortunes in our history. 

The mishegoss continued with the flurry of rejected lawsuits seeking in effect to overturn the posted results, including the Supreme Court's disgraceful refusal to hear the one constitutionally based suit, brought by the state of Texas contesting the results in four battleground states (Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin), they were absolutely obligated to hear. But the Roberts Court dodged the issue, saying that Texas "lacked standing" to bring the case.

The icing on the cake was the Jan. 6 demonstration during which Trump said: "We have come to demand that Congress do the right thing and only count the electors who have been lawfully slated, lawfully slated. I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard." And the rest, as they say, is ongoing history. Trump may feel he is "owed" support because of his loss or his endorsement of various candidates, but as they say in Washington, if you want a friend, get a dog. 

I wuz robbed.

The other is Florida governor Ron DeSantis, a former Congressman who won a squeaker election against, in retrospect, a manifestly unsuitable Democrat candidate in Andrew Gillum, whom DeSantis beat by half a percentage point. Following the election, "Gillum was found inebriated and with a man, who had identified himself on websites as an escort, who was treated on scene for a possible overdose. Crystal meth also was reportedly found at the scene." Florida thus dodged a bullet, DeSantis got a leg up on the other politicians of his generation (he's 43, Trump is 75), and in just a couple of years has transformed himself into a national figure. How did he do it?

As the old saying goes, it's better to be lucky than good, but DeSantis has been both. Practically since he took office, events have broken his way, starting with the unnecessary hysteria over Covid-19 that, in the final analysis, was the thing that destroyed the Trump administration. After briefly flirting with lockdowns, DeSantis reversed course, bit the bullet, ignored media flapdoodle over "cases," and made Florida the free-state alternative to such draconian fascist entities as New York and California. Florida boomed as its rivals faded, hemorrhaging population and losing economic and political clout while the Sunshine State and also Texas happily welcomed the refugees.

DeSantis has been lucky in his enemies as well. Incredibly, the now-"woke" Walt Disney Company—the embodiment of family friendly entertainment since its founding in 1923 through its founder's death in 1966 and up until recently—has decided that the Florida Parental Rights in Education bill (which DeSantis enthusiastically signed) preventing state teachers from discussing human sexuality, sexual orientation and "gender identity" with children in kindergarten through third grade is the hill the company wants to die on

“Florida’s HB 1557, also known as the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, should never have passed and should never have been signed into law,” the statement reads. “Our goal as a company is for this law to be repealed by the legislature or struck down in the courts, and we remain committed to supporting the national and state organizations working to achieve that. We are dedicated to standing up for the rights and safety of LGBTQ+ members of the Disney family, as well as the LGBTQ+ community in Florida and across the country.”

Disney’s public opposition to the law follows an employee walkout in protest of CEO Bob Chapek’s mishandling of the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

Don't say it. Don't even think it.

Disney, however, is a private company operating under an extremely generous sweetheart deal with the state of Florida regarding its theme park and environs in Orlando, so you'd think its corporate executives like Chapek wouldn't want to poke the alligator that protects them. But Woke is just another name for Stupid, so naturally Disney blundered right into the governor's wheelhouse.

An escalating fight between Disney and Florida over the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill has pushed state lawmakers to threaten to strip the company of special privileges that essentially give it the sovereignty to act as its own government. Backed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, some Republican lawmakers have called for the repeal of a 1967 law permitting the creation of the Reedy Creek Improvement District. The legislation affords Disney the authority to act as its own county with the ability to impose taxes, adopt ordinances and provide emergency services on land that’s home to its sprawling theme park resort, among other powers of self-government.

“As a matter of first principle, I don’t support special privileges in law just because a company is powerful,” DeSantis said March 31 at a news conference. “They’ve lost a lot of the pull that they used to have, and honestly, I think that’s a good thing for our state. You should not have one organization that is able to dictate policy in all these different realms, and they have done that for many, many years. If that stops now, which it should, that would be a good thing for Florida.”

That's not all. For years, Disney has been given super-duper-special treatment in Congress over its copyrighted characters like Mickey Mouse, which should have reverted to the public domain as long ago as 1984, but have been steadily extended through 2024 as an act of favoritism to Disney. Now Congress is taking another look

A number of Republican lawmakers have signalled they may block Disney from renewing copyright on an iconic Mickey Mouse cartoon as punishment for the company’s stance on Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill. Rep Jim Banks, chair of the Republican Study Committee, is circulating a letter among the GOP caucus in which he tells Disney CEO Bob Chapek of his intention to oppose any future extension of Disney copyrights, National Review reports. Disney’s rights to its Steamboat Willie Mickey Mouse, first seen in a 1928 short film, are due to expire on 1 January 2024, although more recent depictions will remain protected by separate copyrights.

No matter how agitated Disney's woke workforce is, this is a fight Disney can only lose and DeSantis can only win. Disney and other work corporations exist in a fantasy-fueled Twitterverse in which nothing is more important than extending the Left's fetish about sexual license unto the generations. That Disney's core audience—the suckers who shell out a fortune to partake of the dubious joys of Disneyland in California and Disney World in Florida—is dead set against the sexualization of children is just another reason to do it. The usual suspects in the media, naturally, are overwhelmingly in favor of the law's repeal, as a glance at Google will readily confirm, and as can be seen by their insistence on siding with the Democrats and calling it the "Don't Say Gay" bill—three words that aren't in the bill and certainly not in the title.

With enemies like the company that bought Harvey Weinstein and the mainstream media, DeSantis doesn't need friends. Meanwhile, the governor has the wind at his back: more than a dozen states are considering similar bills, putting the Florida governor in the de facto driver's seat on the issue. From Covid to the Chinese suborning of America's institutions to the sitting daffy duck called Disney, DeSantis has staked out positions in direct opposition to the Biden Democrats—exactly what you'd expect from a Shadow President who's looking forward, not backward. 

Obama was 47 years old when he became president; DeSantis, should he run, and win, would be 46. Trump will be 78. You do the math. 

Diary of an Acclimatised Beauty: Masking

At long last, one appreciable benefit of the much-hyped coronavirus! After Annabel and I each tested positive, every last one of her house guests were sent packing. Peace and quiet rule the day. Her husband also slipped away (just in case) and the usual August attrition (housekeeping staff that might otherwise take a long holiday) simply did not happen. With resorts closed and half the world out of work, they were all too happy to stay on.

I do like her husband, but Annabel’s never quite the same around him despite this being her family’s estate. And really how much can one listen to him bang on about their ownership/non-ownership of the non-tidal river that he insists was once a tidal river? Where one really has to excuse oneself is when he goes on about a marked wall. If only said wall had not come down eons before any of us were born. Basically, I have the run of the place as Annabel is still keeping to her bed despite showing no ongoing symptoms.

With all this alone-time I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m not meant for yoga. Firstly it’s the clothes—something one would have worn in the 1980’s except now with a myriad of extra seams, and in muted unflattering colours. And also… just why? Second, who wants to admit to doing yoga? If asked how did you spend your day—who is responding with “bound ankle pose”? Even the dogs were laughing at me. But worse yet is the barmy dialogue that runs through my head… including the Greggs Vegan Sausage Roll advert  Not exactly zen. I have better powers of concentration in church even when I can’t understand what’s being said.

I need something now to calm me from yoga stresses and work might be just the ticket. So allow me beauty readers, to say you’ve given no thought whatsoever to the wearing of masks—I need a filter for my Instagram account! I thought I’d done my part in helping all of you create a skin-clearing tonic from ordinary household products for the mask-acne that was cropping up, but now that you’re braving the outside world—do stop in front of a mirror. Please!

Does this mask make me look fat?

Unless it’s absolutely necessary the disposable surgical masks look worse than those the health minister suggested we craft from leftover t-shirts. Think about it—since when do we look to the medical profession for fashion inspiration? Second, do not look to bank robbers either. Plain black masks are scary no matter the task, and even Cary Grant didn’t sport one in To Catch a Thief so neither should you. Even from a distance, these are off-putting. Understandably, I can’t forever raid my mother’s closet for couture, nor do I suspect can most, but do consider a scarf in a pinch, especially if you will be meeting someone other than the delivery chap.

Printed faces masks almost always look sloppy—like repurposed children’s pyjamas—something else to be avoided. Photos and printed slogans are also a no-no. If you wouldn’t like to be photographed in a t-shirt with a slogan why would you now slap it on your face? And that goes double for campy cartoons. When is the last time you sported a Mickey Mouse Band-Aid and received a meaningful compliment? More likely you apologised for wearing it and blamed a friend for having nothing but kiddie plasters in the cabinet.

It's all so...  Mickey Mouse.

And please, dear readers, what is up with the bling masks? If adding a sparkle headband or sequin belt to your outfit doesn’t work, neither does the mask. Do consider it is now the first thing anyone sees when looking at you -- your eyes take a distant second. If you still think I’m being too harsh consider how much time you invested in choosing the right shade of lipstick and multiply that by the surface area of an already ugly accessory. Simple is best, light colours are best and a good quality fabric and stitching can only improve upon what is already an unpleasant undertaking.

Some of you have written to me about lipstick, hence your preference for the black bank-robber masks. Are you really choosing a dark-coloured mask so you can accommodate having lipstick smeared around the inside?

Our mothers managed well enough—it’s called popping into the loo for a touch-up when you arrive. Or carry a small mirror and a truly luxurious colour—trust me you’ll feel just like Liz Taylor. Your other option is a trip to the pharmacy for one of their indelible lip glosses. The colours may disappoint but nothing at the department store can come close to the lasting power of these discount shades—clearly Maybelline saw this coming.

I checked in on Annabel who seems to be doing just fine, sipping on a raspberry martini and eating puffed water lily seeds. In case you are wondering… they taste like every other gluten-free snack -- salted puffed cardboard. She had a lilt in her voice and I heard the name Paulo, so I’m just going to assume this is her masseuse and head upstairs to my rooms.

Just then Judith called. She has an annoyingly uncanny way of knowing exactly what I’m doing even when we are divided by oceans or miles. Must be a mother thing. She just happened to mention that she’d read hot yoga was dangerous. Of course I knew this already, hence it having been banned in some countries, but I wouldn’t pursue it due to its impact on the environment anyway. That said, I’m not sure how she imagined I was practising hot yoga on Annabel’s croquet lawn. And then she said that many religions take a dim view of yoga owing to its pagan origins and faint resemblance to idol worship.

Well, that settles it for me then. Goodbye forever yoga. You understand… it’s for God and country.