Intolerant, authoritarian, the governor of Florida would be a catastrophic – and terrifying – candidate for supreme office.
Ron DeSantis is not (yet) officially a candidate for the 2024 US presidential election, but with about two years to go – and even allowing for the fact that a million things can change between now and then – his candidacy seems inevitable. This is a welcome prospect for his supporters – no one has ever had more billionaire donors than him – although, it must be said, just because you have the support of (for example) Elon Musk doesn't mean you have to become president. In fact, it would be a good indicator of the opposite. In Ron DeSantis' case, it's a virtual certainty.
So I know what you're going to say: wouldn't it still be better to send him to the White House than Donald Trump? The answer is no! No reason to rejoice here!
Let's be clear, this is in no way an argument for giving Trump, officially a candidate for the third time since last November, a second term; this man should be forbidden once and for all to come within 300 meters of the Oval Office, humanity would not be worse off if we never heard from him again, or better, if he disappeared forever. No, the point is to show that Ron DeSantis – who recent polls indicate would beat Trump to the punch in a hypothetical Republican primary – is not much better. And that it would be wise not to hand him the reins in Washington.
So what exactly is the problem with this guy? Uh… where to begin?
He thinks it's perfectly normal to treat human beings like cattle
Remember when the state of Florida sent a bunch of planes to Texas, baited Venezuelan migrants with promises of shelter, work, and basic services, told them they were headed to Boston, before actually landing them on the little island of Martha's Vineyard? All so that the governor could score a few measly points with Fox News and everyone else who thinks it's cool to treat people from other countries as subhuman? You should, since it happened very recently, it was sickening, and it's likely the kind of media stunt DeSantis would be happy to pull regularly, on a grand scale, if he were president.
He's dangerously anti-science
After taking the Covid-19 pandemic seriously for three weeks by declaring it a public health emergency and ordering a statewide lockdown, DeSantis then decided that science was good for morons. "We will never do another containment," he declared in April 2020 – as Americans were dying every day – lifting all school, business or government restrictions in the process, and prohibiting municipalities from implementing their own public health measures, such as mask requirements.
After initially urging people to get vaccinated against the virus, he backed down, refusing to reveal whether he himself had received a booster shot. He enacted a law prohibiting businesses from requiring proof of vaccination, including in high-risk environments such as cruise ships. He ordered pay deductions for teachers who required masks; held a press conference with someone who claimed that COVID vaccines changed RNA; and offered $5,000 to unvaccinated police officers to move to Florida. In September 2021, he appointed Joseph Ladapo as the state's Public Health Administrator, apparently having enjoyed the slew of articles the doctor had written promoting hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin, opposing mask use and containment, and questioning the safety of vaccines. Subsequently, Ladapo recommended that healthy children not be vaccinated against Covid-19, against the recommendations of the National Public Health Agency (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics, and cited a study that most experts believe is deeply biased, also recommending that men between the ages of 18 and 39 not be vaccinated.
In December, DeSantis announced that he had filed a formal petition with the Florida Supreme Court to convene a grand jury to investigate "crimes and wrongdoing" related to the Covid-19 vaccines, insinuating in his petition that those who had promoted the life-saving vaccine – like the CDC and Joe Biden – had likely done so in exchange for financial compensation. The announcement came about a month after the Palm Beach Post pointed out that "coronavirus has killed more people in Florida aged 65 and older than in any other state in the nation" and that "public health experts outside the state attribute the trend to the DeSantis administration's counterproductive Covid-19 policies," which the governor "began instrumentalizing public health.
He wants to make it harder to vote and has had Floridians arrested as part of one of his political moves
Like many Republicans, DeSantis is a big proponent of disenfranchisement and has passed a series of laws making it harder to vote for the candidate of one's choice, including limiting the use of ballot drop boxes, hindering Floridians' ability to vote absentee, and preventing the distribution of food or water to voters lining up for sometimes several hours outside polling places. According to USA Today, a judge ruled the measures "unconstitutional and particularly discriminatory against minority voters," but that did not stop DeSantis from creating an Office of Election Crimes and Security to investigate alleged voter fraud. At a press conference in August to brag about his work in cracking down on alleged fraud, the governor told reporters that more than a dozen people had been arrested for voting illegally in the 2020 election, before warning, "This is just the beginning."
The exact number turned out to be 19, the majority of whom were black people who thought they were perfectly within their rights. In reality, DeSantis essentially exploited the confusion generated by a Florida amendment that allowed some former prisoners to vote. Police body camera footage obtained in October by the Tampa Bay Times shows an officer expressing surprise himself at the charges against the man he was responsible for handcuffing, confessing over the phone, "I've never seen such charges in my life."
He is against free speech, especially if it allows for the claim that the United States has not always been kind to non-white people
Republicans love nothing more than to make grand tirades about their undying love of free speech and the First Amendment, but it doesn't take much scratching to figure out that what they really want is for people to be "free" to say only things they agree with. Perhaps the best example of this contradiction is the ridiculously named "Stop WOKE Act," a law DeSantis passed in April designed to ban conversations about race in schools and businesses, and to allow students and employees to sue if they feel that a classroom lesson or workplace training is causing them "guilt, anxiety, or any other form of psychological distress" due to their membership in a particular ethnic group. While the law never uses the term "white", it was clearly written with their best interests in mind. DeSantis recently said it was wrong to teach students that America "was built on stolen land," which he disputed in an October debate.
"We don't say gay"
It's hard to imagine anything more terrifying coming out of Florida in recent years than the dystopian, anti-LGBTQ+ legislation officially known as the Parental Rights in Education Act. Dubbed the "We Don't Say Gay" law by its critics, it was signed into law by DeSantis in March 2022 and prohibits teachers from discussing any gender identity and sexual orientation from kindergarten through third grade (the law also prohibits discussion of these topics "in an age-inappropriate or developmentally appropriate manner" through 12th grade).
Even before the law goes into effect, the damage it has already done is chilling. Intentionally broadly written, according to its critics, to raise the spectre of potential lawsuits in front of school districts, the law is already having an effect: a teachers' union reported that school officials at their school had advised their members not to wear rainbow clothing, remove "safe space" stickers from their classrooms, or remove photos of their same-sex partners from their desks.
As Georgetown Law School's Journal of Gender and the Law pointed out after DeSantis instituted the law,
"According to the text of the law, if a student is asked to draw a picture of his or her family and draws both of his or her dads and shows the picture to the class, a student's parent would be able to sue the school if he or she felt that this constituted an inappropriate discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity."
Yet, even though it is absolutely insane, intolerant, and dangerous, DeSantis is extremely proud of his law, and even more problematic, he is attacking anyone who dares to oppose it. Which brings us to our next point…
His priority: "kicking the liberals in the ass"
After Disney spoke out against the "We Don't Say Gay" law and its delusional bigotry, DeSantis went on a rampage against Florida's largest employer for having the audacity to say it didn't seem like a great idea. In retaliation, the governor signed a bill abolishing Walt Disney World's "private special district" status, a move that could result in a spike in the group's Florida property taxes. This may seem rather odd, especially from a member of a party that prides itself on "lowering taxes" and defending "free speech," but it's worth remembering that DeSantis is part of a new breed of conservatives whose one and only priority is "bashing liberals."
In the same vein, DeSantis literally forced the Special Olympics to drop the requirement that participants be vaccinated, even though the organization has "repeatedly stated," as ABC News did, "that vaccines save lives, especially among people with intellectual disabilities, who are at risk for complications and death from HIV. The requirement was dropped after DeSantis threatened the nonprofit with a $27 million fine.
He is against abortion
Even before the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, DeSantis passed a law banning abortions from 15 weeks of pregnancy, with no exceptions for rape or incest (abortion was previously legal statewide until the end of the second trimester, making it a blessed land for pregnant women from neighboring states). Since then, DeSantis has said he favors further restricting the medical procedure and, after the Supreme Court overturned Roe, pledged to expand "pro-life protections."
He supported Donald Trump until it was no longer politically expedient to do so
DeSantis may now be on the outs with the former White House resident, but not so long ago he was all about his beloved MAGA president. In 2018, he was credited with one of the most embarrassing political ads in the history of the genre, in which he could be seen reading Trump's book, The Art of the Deal, to one of his children and teaching the other to say "Make America great again." While he was careful not to join the chorus of those who claimed that the 2020 election had been stolen from Trump, he cheerfully supported many midterm candidates who regularly made such comments.
He doesn't see the need for the Respect for Marriage Act
Saying that a bill protecting gay and interracial marriage rights at the federal level is not necessary is not exactly the same as saying you don't support gay and interracial marriage rights, but… it is! While DeSantis may not have seen the "need" for Congress to pass the Respect for Marriage Act, it was not lost on those who care about the protections it entails, and they did pay attention. It is also worth noting that DeSantis seemed more concerned about how the law might put "religious institutions [that do not believe in same-sex marriage] in an awkward position" than that same-sex couples might be put in an awkward position if the federal protections disappeared. On the other hand, again, this guy has banned the discussion of homosexuality in schools.
He has made life difficult for those who protest injustice and easy for those who don't care about justice and drive into protesters.
In April 2021, DeSantis signed a "riot" bill that, among other things, grants civil immunity to people who decide to drive their cars into protesters blocking a road. The law, written in the wake of the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests, also penalizes local governments that interfere with any effort to stop riots; prevents alleged rioters from being released on bail before appearing in court; and promises jail time for anyone who would destroy a plaque, memorial, painting, flag or other structure commemorating historical people or events (such as Confederate statues).
He is pro-gun
A few months ago, DeSantis blasted Florida Democrats for trying to hold a special session on the issue of gun violence, saying it would be "shooting a bullet in the kneecap" of law-abiding citizens. In December, he said he hoped the state legislature would make it legal to carry a gun without a permit in 2023, adding that it was a measure he had "always supported." Not surprisingly, the NRA gave him an A+.
According to people who know him, he's a bad guy and has been for many years
A former college teammate, who otherwise praised DeSantis' intelligence, described him to the New Yorker: "Ron is the most selfish person I've ever dealt with. He's always loved to embarrass and humiliate people. I think I can speak for everyone else when I say he was the biggest asshole we knew." We'll repeat to put some emphasis on that, "He always loved to embarrass and humiliate people." An indisputable quality to make a good elected official!