Donald Trump, a towering figure in the Republican Party, has asserted his dominance with primary victories in Iowa and New Hampshire, setting the stage for an imminent win in South Carolina. This trajectory makes the 2024 Republican presidential nomination almost certainly his.
In this political showdown, Trump has effortlessly overshadowed Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, once considered a significant challenger within the party. DeSantis's rise to prominence was fueled mainly by mainstream media and traditional conservative circles, positioning him as a formidable opponent to Trump's influence.
However, the perceived threat from DeSantis, similar to that of former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, was overstated mainly. This narrative, predominantly spun by the news media and political consultants in Washington D.C., overlooks a key question: Why would Republican and MAGA voters settle for substitutes when they could support the original? DeSantis, characterized by a peculiar demeanor, strained social skills, and a notable lack of charisma, found these traits to be significant hurdles in an era dominated by television and constant media coverage.
Following DeSantis's decision to withdraw from the campaign and his subsequent deference to Trump, he faced widespread ridicule and mockery from the media, commentators, and the public. This reaction, while momentarily satisfying for Democrats and others seeking some form of triumph over Trump's persistent influence, overlooks the severe implications of DeSantis's actions and policies.
His tenure as Governor has been marked by controversy and harm, affecting not only Florida but also other Republican-led states that have emulated his policies.
DeSantis' Controversial Policies
During the COVID-19 pandemic, DeSantis's approach resulted in the unnecessary loss of tens of thousands of lives in Florida.
Under his direction, the state, much like other Republican strongholds, has pursued a draconian educational policy. This includes banning the comprehensive teaching of Black American history and other complex aspects of the nation's past in favor of a "patriotic" curriculum designed to avoid discomforting white students.
The regime in Florida extends to book bans, targeting educators who dissent from right-wing ideologies and dismantling respected educational institutions like the New College of Florida. Furthermore, DeSantis has aggressively sought to roll back the civil and voting rights of Black Americans, employing tactics reminiscent of the Jim Crow era, such as "election police," racist gerrymandering, and effectively reinstating poll taxes.
His administration has also tacitly supported right-wing extremist groups, using Florida as their operational base. DeSantis's policies have also infringed upon women's reproductive rights and freedoms, and he has been implicated in the coercive transportation of Latin American migrants and refugees from Florida to other states, a move criticized as human trafficking.
DeSantis' Growing Influence
His administration has mainly targeted the LGBTQ community, attempting to erase their presence from both public and private spheres. Such actions have led to significant human costs, including forced migration out of Florida, public humiliation, job losses, and a spectrum of other traumatic experiences.
Journalists and commentators, like Jeff Sharlet and Will Bunch, have highlighted the severe impact of DeSantis's policies. While his failed presidential campaign might be viewed as a punchline, the real-life consequences of his governance in Florida are far from humorous.
Despite being marked by failure, DeSantis's experience in the 2024 primaries serves as a learning curve, potentially making him a more formidable figure. With his profound legal knowledge and understanding of institutional vulnerabilities, he poses a more significant threat than Trump in the long-term political landscape.
The ridicule directed at DeSantis overlooks the more significant issues at stake. As Malcolm X wisely pointed out, actual progress involves recognizing the harm done and actively working to heal the wounds inflicted. The focus should shift from mockery to seeking justice for those adversely affected by DeSantis's policies, a task far more demanding than simple laughter.
It's a call to confront and ultimately dismantle the culture of cruelty that has been exacerbated by the current neofascist and right-wing movements in America and beyond.