In this video still, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is shown speaking at a press conference in front of students whom he encouraged to remove their face masks due to ineffectiveness.
Column By John Young
Vindictive. Vengeful. Vituperative. Vitriolic. Vainglorious. Venal. Volatile.
That’s just from the V section for Ron DeSantis.
Not “visionary.” Not “virtuous.” Just mean.
Tragically, his style of spite sells to some in the age of Trump. As New York Times columnist (and Reagan conservative) Bret Stephens quips, “It takes a creep to beat a bigger creep.”
DeSantis pretty much has made his name by spitting on Abe Lincoln’s “malice toward none.” He is unapologetically snide toward humongous blocs of Americans (and to a whole lot of people desperate to be Americans).
His rep as a public servant is built on being petty, on throwing his weight around, on threatening corporations, educators, and public health officials. Toward imposing his ideology, he does the opposite of what conservatives once said government should do: Back off.
That won’t happen. DeSantis is the Evel Knievel of divisive politics, hitching up his white riding boots; snapping his red, white, and blue collision helmet in place; planning his next stunt.
In 2024, if Republican voters abide, that would be to sling-shot Ron’s Meatball Mobile across the Grand Canyon.
To which someone should advise: Look out below. The landing side of the canyon won’t be so receptive to one who has declared war on more than half the country.
A recent poll of Republicans found that for 55 percent, “fighting wokeness” is a greater priority than securing Social Security. Music to Evel’s ears. But what about people on the other side of the canyon?
DeSantis has gone all-in on every MAGA culture war issue: the most hurtful immigration policies; the most militant stance against academic freedom; the most anti-LGBTQ policies.
And on abortion: a ban at six weeks, before many Floridian women would even know they were pregnant.
Combine these policies with a personality straight out of a scrap metal yard.
Colleagues’ reviews of DeSantis from his time in Congress range from “Who dat?” to “Gives me heebie-jeebies.”
Writes former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan, DeSantis “carries a vibe that he might unplug your life support to recharge his cellphone.”
DeSantis has had many of what one would call “signature moments” as governor.
I find the one that most captures the essence of him was when, on-camera for a photo op amid the pandemic, he upbraided high school students behind him for wearing masks.
You might choose as his essential moment his sending a team of fraudsters to San Antonio to con Venezuelan migrants into a plane ride to be dumped in Martha’s Vineyard.
Let us hope DeSantis didn’t read The New York Times’ harrowing report of how Greece, under anti-immigrant Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, herded Somali refugees onto a speed boat, then miles out at sea deposited them on an inflatable dinghy and set them adrift in Turkish waters.
DeSantis no doubt will sputter, “Why didn’t I think of that?”
As international atrocities go, Florida now is following the lead of Iran, Russia, and North Korea in enforcing state policy on what educators can think, say and do.
That the mere presence of young Amanda Gorman’s inauguration poem “The Hill We Climb” in an elementary school would ever be a matter of controversy shows the type of anti-learning hysteria that DeSantis has stirred among his friends on one side of the canyon.
DeSantis’ battle against Disney is one of the dumbest political gambits imaginable in a raw quest to govern the thought processes of an employer. It now looks to cost Florida thousands of jobs. For what?
“The Courage to Be Free” is the name of the book DeSantis wrote, with a theme that sounds more like martial law than liberty for all.
In a review in The New York Times, Jennifer Szali writes that DeSantis’ epistle seems to “insist that Americans should stop worrying and let him do all the thinking for them.”
This seems ill-advised for one who has no idea what awaits him on the other side of the canyon.
Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The opinions expressed in this editorial are those of the author.