Could Ron DeSantis be more dangerous than Donald Trump? Henry McLeish

Florida man is frighteningly different from Trump
Florida governor Ron DeSantisFlorida governor Ron DeSantis
Florida governor Ron DeSantis

Is Ron DeSantis more dangerous than Donald Trump? On the face of it, a ridiculous question, but in the USA, anything is possible.

Ron DeSantis’s entry into the race to become the Republican Presidential candidate in 2024, held out the prospect, for a GOP, lacking identity and direction, of a candidate that would deliver Trumpism and MAGA (Make America Great Again) without the chaos, law-breaking and personal baggage of the former President.

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The prospect of a Trump detox looks increasingly unlikely, not because of the chaotic Twitter campaign launch, allowing Trump, to rename his enemy as “Ron DeSaster,” or his enormous poll lead, but because of the man behind the so called “Florida” miracle and the tortured world he represents.

Molly Jong-Fast, writing in “Vanity Fair,” said, “to call DeSantis a culture warrior, dangerously understates what the man is capable of. The Genghis Khan of social issues, marginalising vulnerable groups in a classic authoritarian trope.” Echoing similar concerns, Dustin Seibert, in the Huffington Post remarked, “No one is more dangerous than Ron DeSantis-including Donald Trump,” and “the Florida Governor appears more focussed in his one-man crusade to bring the country back to burning witches. A direction that should terrify most reasonable human beings.”

A cursory glance at his “CV” seems to reveal a textbook candidate. Aged 44, DeSantis was born in Jacksonville, Florida. His wife Casey is a former newscaster, who has helped shape both his ambition and public image. They have three young children: Madison, Mason, and Mamie. Ivy League educated at Yale University and Harvard Law School, he was a Lieutenant Commander in the US navy and spent time as a lawyer in Guantanamo Bay, a period for which there is limited information. A member of Congress for three terms, he became Governor of Florida in 2018, a position he consolidated in the 2022 midterms with a spectacular landslide victory, which enhanced the likelihood of him standing for the Presidency. Interestingly, his Catholicism rarely gets a public outing.

In his recently published book, “The Courage to be Free: Florida’s Blueprint for American Revival,” DeSantis speaks to Americans who embrace values of white Christian nationalism, previously the flag, faith, family, and freedom fraternity now described by the Los Angeles Times as “a corrosive brand of politics, authoritarianism and morality.” Many progressives label him as, “the most dangerous figure in American politics.”

DeSantis is the ultimate culture warrior. Backed by a compliant state legislature, Florida is fast resembling a theocratic and authoritarian state where, “Woke goes to die”, you “Don’t say Gay”, and “don’t say Period” (means what you think it means), discussion of transgender rights and sexual orientation is outlawed in the classroom, popular school books are censored, abortion is banned after six weeks of pregnancy, before most women know they are pregnant, concealed guns are permitted with no permit or training, critical race theory is banned, and juries in Florida have the right to impose the death penalty without a unanimous vote: this is what authoritarianism looks like.

DeSantis, also gerrymanders electoral boundaries, suppresses votes, and is fiercely anti-immigrant. This tyranny of hate is waged against dissenting voices, especially minorities. But real vitriol is reserved for his war against teachers, students, LGBTQ, abortion, universities, and of course Disney World-the House of Mouse- who dared criticise his “don’t say gay” legislation and is now the subject of his vitriol, despite employing 75,000 workers and contributing 75 billion dollars to the Florida economy each year.

Florida man is fast becoming Neanderthal man. Disrespecting the freedom of others is the result of an unchained ego and an unfathomable contempt for human rights. DeSantis shares Trump’s lack of humility, narcissism, misogyny and transphobia. But Florida man is frighteningly different from Trump, he has a brain, is savvy, understands government and knows what he is doing. The Florida Governor, according to the Huffington Post, “is more informed, functional and calculating which makes him much more dangerous than Trump.” Hating “leftist ideology,” DeSantis believes it has infiltrated public schools, universities, news media and major corporations and must be stamped out.

This ultra-authoritarian agenda provides an insight into what America could look like if DeSantis makes it to the Oval Office: a religious, moral, and cultural warrior, where God, holy war, revival, and crusade underpin his campaign rhetoric. Terror, hatred, and destruction, more accurately define his beliefs. Trump has never been discussed in these terms.

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The Governor’s spending on public services is meagre. Writing in TIME magazine, William Kleinknecht said, Florida continues to languish toward the bottom of state rankings assessing the quality of health care, school funding and long- term elderly care. Teachers’ salaries are among the lowest in the nation.” Starved of desperately needed investment in public services, rich and older citizens, and corporations’ benefit from low taxes in this haven of white privilege.

During the Covid 19 Pandemic, “do nothing DeSantis”, restricted mask and vaccine mandates, and opposed lockdowns. Florida had the third highest number of Covid deaths in America.

DeSantis claims he wants America to be Florida, but in truth Florida looks more like the Republic of Gilead in Margaret Atwood’s, “The Handmaid’s Tale.” An account of a dystopian world where a woman’s primary worth comes through motherhood, “blessed be the fruit.” God’s Law is brutally enforced. A totalitarian America, run by fundamentalist Christians, imposes a puritanical theocracy, and a police state that oppresses women and regulates all aspects of human life with constant surveillance. Sounds familiar? This is DeSantis’s vision for America?

On the horns of a dilemma and facing the first televised debate on August 23, the GOP has two front runners, in a rapidly expanding field, both uniquely unfit to occupy the Oval Office. But remarkably, one of them has been there before.



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