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What Can a Culture Warrior Do as Chair of the Republican Party of Florida?

The election of Christian Ziegler as chair of the Republican Party of Florida offers an opportunity for change that can give conservatives the upper hand in the culture war against the progressive Left, writes Tho Bishop, Communications Director of the Mises Institute.

Florida has become the center of Republican politics, so it is not surprising to see this weekend’s Republican Party of Florida Chair race immediately receive national attention. The election of previous Vice Chairman Christian Ziegler resulted in Politico framing it as a victory for Donald Trump, something the former president pounced on with a Truth Social post shortly after.

Ziegler’s victory represents something far more interesting than a presidential proxy war. The Republican Party of Florida is about to show the nation what it means to have a culture warrior as head of a modern state party.

First, it is worth explaining why Ziegler’s victory is seen as a boon to Mar-a-Lago in the expected Sunshine State-led Republican presidential primary. As Politico’s Matt Dixon noted, Ziegler is a political consultant with business ties with Trump loyalists Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie. In contrast, his opponent, and new vice chairman, Evan Power, is a Tallahassee-based lobbyist who served as an effective attack dog against both Andrew Gillum and Nikki Fried during their races against DeSantis.


However, the most interesting dynamic of the race was what the two men had in common: wives close to DeSantisWorld. This resulted in Governor DeSantis, speaking after the chair’s election, joking that he refused to endorse in the race at the risk of making either of them mad at him.

The more public of the two has been Bridget Ziegler, who has become one of the leading figures in the fast-growing Moms for Liberty organization and was endorsed by DeSantis in her re-election to the Sarasota school board. Given that Floridian education has become one of the most active battlegrounds in the governor’s culture war, this overlap makes Ziegler’s election to the RPOF Chair interesting.


In the runup to the Saturday election, Ziegler made his case to voters identifying himself as someone who has evolved into “almost a one-issue voter” with an emphasis on cultural issues. In his pitch to the RPOF body, along with more standard platform items such as party training and fundraising pitches, Ziegler vowed that the party would “stand up for parents, not perverts.”

In doing so, his chairmanship provides the opportunity for the Republican Party of Florida to become a complementary force to the current battles that DeSantis is waging in the state rather than becoming a political body divided by an assumed clash between the two most prominent Florida Republican politicians.

Ziegler is replacing Florida Senator Joe Gruters, who previously served as chairman of Donald Trump’s two Florida campaigns. An influential Florida politico in his own right and someone who has identified with the McCain-y label of “Maverick,” Gruters was certainly no one’s idea of a culture warrior. He was subject to criticism from Christian and conservative groups for various pieces of sponsored legislation.

Ziegler is also taking the reins of a state political party at a time when the relevance of political parties is an open question. In an age of multi-million-dollar Super PACs, candidate-focused political clubs, and online organizations, some have become skeptical of the practical value of traditional party structures. In many ways, Donald Trump’s own victory is viewed as a sign of party decline. In contrast, Trump allies, most prominently Steve Bannon and the America First-aligned Republicans for National Renewal, have actively sought to translate MAGA-energy into capturing Republican Party positions.

The culture war may be vital in making state and county parties great again.


A key factor to DeSantis’s effective leadership on the culture war front is his willingness to identify non-explicitly political institutions as effectively political institutions accurately. During COVID, this meant applying civil rights-style protection to the unvaccinated, the rare example of this legislative framework working to benefit traditionally Republican voters over traditionally Democrat voters.

It is in education where DeSantis’s model truly shines. Along with a more aggressive use of state legislation to shape approved educational materials in state-funded K-12 schools, the DeSantis-led Republican Party has escalated its involvement in nominally non-partisan school board races (with Florida Republicans pushing to remove the NPA facade from these elected seats.)

Moreover, higher education has become the particular focus of the governor’s office, with New College, conveniently located in Ziegler’s Sarasota, as the test case for the most ambitious reform to a state-funded institution of higher education in recent history.


If the effectiveness of the DeSantis model is grounded in the recognition that the realms of the political are not limited to partisan elected races, then the purpose of modern political parties should be to support the newly identified proxy wars.

In some ways, the Republican Party of Florida is already taking steps to this end. At the same meeting that elevated Ziegler to Florida Chair, the party voted to change party documents to strengthen further county party endorsements in non-partisan school board and city races. Hopefully, we will see a Republican Party that is prepared to organize to oust leftwing school board members and city officials that allow venues to host the repulsive sights of sexualized drag queen shows marketed to school children. Such a model would be more sustainable in the long term than the current approach of relying upon the governor to perform the role of state enforcer to such behavior.

Additionally, just as Moms for Liberty has effectively organized grassroots involvement in the public forums provided by school boards, the Florida Republican Party can provide organizational support for the governor’s initiatives in the state university system that lack the same sort of electoral scrutiny.

In his RPOF address, DeSantis highlighted the importance of recent changes made to tenure – which requires professors to face employment review every five years – as well as new proposals to rein in the power of faculty ideological bias in future hiring procedures. An RPOF that can utilize its county chapters to document anti-conservative discrimination in state universities and colleges can provide value in this important crusade.


If the state party can identify additional ways to provide meaningful support to conservative governance within Florida, it will help address one of the most substantial criticisms of the DeSantis-style heavy executive model: its reliance on the governor’s attention. The progressive Left's strength comes from ideologically aligned groups' ability to organize within non-elected institutions. Can the Republican Party provide meaningful value in the other direction?

Last Friday, George Soros correctly identified the potential conflict between DeSantis and Trump as one that could devastate the Republican Party. This dynamic is felt nowhere more than in the Sunshine State. The Florida Republican Party was fortunate to emerge from a close leadership battle with an authentic unity ticket featuring both candidates that had broad respect from the caucus.

The tension of the times offers a genuine opportunity for transformative leadership.

If Chairman Ziegler can operationally embrace the culture war elements that served both of Florida’s most influential political leaders well, he has the opportunity to do what they have done: create a model that Republicans around the country can replicate.

Tho Bishop is Communications Director for the Mises Institute, host of the podcast Radio Rothbard, and Chairman of the Bay County Republican Party. Previously he served as Deputy Communications Director of the House Financial Services Committee for Rep. Spencer Bachus and Rep. Jeb Hensarling. His work has been published in a variety of outlets, including The Federalist, The Hill, ZeroHedge, Daily Caller, and Business Insider.