A slate of rightwing extremists won control of the Sarasota school board. A group of Proud Boys celebrated with the winners. The right-wingers were endorsed by Governor Ron DeSantis.

DeSantis endorsed 29 candidates in school board races, 25 of them won. They share his goals of banning teaching about racism and gender identity.

VICE News wrote:

A trio of “anti-woke” GOP candidates claimed victory in elections for the Sarasota school board this week, boosted by endorsements from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and support from a far-right group founded by members of the Proud Boys.

During celebrations on Tuesday night, two of the newly-elected board members were photographed at the official victory party with two of the Proud Boys, one of whom posed flashing the OK sign, a known white-power dog whistle….

Ziegler and Marinelli did not immediately respond to VICE News’ request for comment on their links to the Proud Boys, but Sarasota Watchdogs, which Hoel and Radovich co-founded, denied the sign was racist.

“We are simply grass-root volunteers that pushed for a change from the tyrannical liberal school board,” the group told VICE News in a Facebook message.

As a result of the clean sweep on Tuesday night, the school board in Sarasota has gone from having a 3-2 liberal majority to having a 4-1 conservative majority. And Sarasota is not an outlier: It’s one of five school boards in Florida that flipped to conservative control this week. Another of those was the Miami-Dade school board, which is now the nation’s largest school district to be overseen by elected conservatives

As well as securing the backing of the Proud Boys and DeSantis, the candidates were supported financially by rightwing activist groups like Moms for Liberty and the 1776 Project PAC, which says it is “dedicated to electing school board members committed to abolishing CRT from the public school curriculum.”

Like many GOP candidates standing for school board positions this term, the ZEM candidates have focused their campaigns on hot-button GOP issues like critical race theory and anti-trans ideology.

Rolling Stone wrote that the school board races were a huge victory for DeSantis, who is ready to run for president if Trump steps aside.

DeSantis has made his mark on the national stage with his “parental rights” agenda that rejected Covid lockdowns, banned classroom discussions of systemic racism, and curbed lessons on sexuality in schools with the passage of the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill. The school board candidates he backed for Tuesday’s elections are all proud evangelists of his cultural crusade against any and all means of “wokeness” — a crusade detractors warn unfairly targets LBGTQ students and students of color.

“Parental rights” are to Ron DeSantis what election conspiracies are to Donald Trump: A signature issue reshaping his party. Tuesday’s races were the proving ground for Desantis’ shadow 2024 pitch, with results that showed some promise, if not conclusively so: 16 candidates won outright, while eight advanced to a runoff. As the national media focuses on the win-loss record of Trump-backed candidates, DeSantis has his own. And where Trump’s hand-picked winners are a harbinger of his continued potency among Republicans, DeSantis’ signify something else altogether: His ability to both grow and draft off of a movement.

To enter the Sarasota shriners’ hall on Sunday afternoon was to time travel to a not-so-distant future — one in which Ronald Dion DeSantis is running for president, should Trump allow it. Navy-colored DeSantis caps outnumbered Trump’s signature red ones, and the governor upped the score by tossing more with autographed bills from the stage. Some in the crowd promoted a decidedly DeSantis-focused strain of MAGAism: “Make America Florida,” their T-shirts read.

The “MAF” faithful listened, spellbound in a thick heat, as their governor railed against “woke” for nearly an hour. He warned that woke teachers “will change their [children’s] gender behind the parents’ backs” unless stopped by his agenda. He condemned woke school board candidates for “running on injecting sexuality into elementary school.” He said the line “educate, not indoctrinate” twice, both times to rapturous applause…

The rally in Sarasota was part of DeSantis’ four-stop sprint across the state to give his school board candidates a last-minute boost. It drew out the coalition they’d need to win: The mother of two who homeschools her children because, as she told me, “a lot of what’s going on is very scary — the school shootings, they’re getting the LBGTQ shoved down their throats.” The grandmother who confessed that she is “so concerned about our children being affected by pedophilia in the schools.” The high school teacher who praised how Sarasota interpreted the “Don’t Say Gay” bill’s parental consent requirements: “If my 10-year-old son wants to be called ‘Stephanie,’ I’d want to know,” she said.

DeSantis is a demagogue who figured out that the route to power is eased by attacking Blacks, denouncing those who teach the factual history of racism, and scaring the public about LGBT people. It’s fertile ground, he finds, to accuse teachers and liberals of being pedophiles who want to “groom” children and turn them gay or transgender.

Florida has a serious teacher shortage, and DeSantis wants to hire veterans and first responders, regardless of their lack of training or education or experience. DeSantis has no intention of improving education. He will demagogue the issues and demonize minorities and ride that program as far as it will take him.