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DeSantis is on a roll with his ‘anti-wokeism’ message

Feb 02, 2023

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is grabbing a lot of headlines these days. He’s contested COVID-era lockdowns and sent immigrants to Martha’s Vineyard. Now he’s trying to ban an AP course in Black history and beefing up a culture-war parenting bill. And it seems to be paying off. In an average of head-to-head polls taken since the midterm elections, the Florida governor is beating out former President Donald Trump by 48% to 43% for the 2024 nomination. Of course, none of that means much so far in advance of the election, but as Straight Arrow News contributor Matthew Continetti argues, it does indicate that DeSantis’ “anti-wokeism” message is working.

Trump covered somewhat similar ground in his presidential announcement last November. Unlike DeSantis, he used the word “woke” just once. DeSantis said it four times at his inaugural. 

Most of Trump’s announcement speech defended his presidency. Interestingly, he did not mention his creation of an originalist majority on the Supreme Court or the pro-life policies he enacted while in office.

Just as he did in the early days of the 2016 campaign, Trump is playing up immigration. He links the border crisis to rising crime and the ongoing epidemic of fentanyl and methamphetamine overdoses. 

For months, Trump has been promising to impose the death penalty on drug dealers. In January of this year, he released a plan to deploy the U.S. military against Mexican drug cartels. 

DeSantis faces an immigration challenge of his own. Hundreds of Cubans and Haitians have been arriving in the Florida Keys, overwhelming the humanitarian capacity of frontline communities. 

Last fall DeSantis made headlines and earned additional conservative support by arranging for Venezuelan asylum seekers in Texas to be sent to the liberal enclave of Martha’s Vineyard.

Now the border crisis has come home to Florida. It’s another chance for DeSantis to demonstrate leadership ability and executive competence. Plenty of people will be studying how the governor responds to this latest development. And I can think of one DeSantis constituent in West Palm Beach who will be watching closely indeed.

Republicans and conservatives dismayed at the happenings on Capitol Hill may want to turn their gaze southward. On January 3, as the race for Speaker of the House went to multiple ballots for the first time in a century, Ron DeSantis began his second term as governor of Florida. 

As I watched the dual proceedings on a split screen, there is no doubt that the Floridians were having a lot more fun than the Washingtonians. DeSantis’ inaugural address reaffirmed Florida’s centrality in Republican politics and the state’s pivotal role in the future of the GOP. 

Florida is home to the two leaders in the horse race for the 2024 Republican nomination. Governor DeSantis and former President Donald Trump. If DeSantis launches a presidential bid, the debate between these two men will frame the early stages of this election cycle. 

It will reveal where the Republican Party as well as the country is headed. Both DeSantis and Trump are conservative populace. 

The question is what flavor of conservative populism will dominate the GOP in the years to come. The culmination of Florida’s political realignment arrived last November. DeSantis followed up on Trump’s single point margin in 2016, and three point margin in 2020 – with a 19 point victory of more than a million votes. DeSantis won Hispanic voters and the Democratic stronghold of Miami Dade County. The success extended across the ballot. No Democrat was elected to statewide office. Republicans picked up four US House seats, and Senator Marco Rubio won reelection by 17 points. 

DeSantis emphasized competence. In his speech, he pointed to the rapid reconstruction in less than three days of the Pine Island bridge in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian last September. 

The implied contrast is with Trump, whose achievements were often obscured by many, many words. DeSantis’ reference to infrastructure was telling as well. Trump of course promised to build a wall on the southern border. It remains incomplete. DeSantis mentioned his record of job creation, but spent the bulk of his inaugural address discussing cultural issues. 

He blamed Democrats for embracing the politically correct ideology known as “wokeism.” He went after COVID-era lockdowns and school closures. He made an oblique reference to Florida’s controversial parental rights and education bill, which prohibits teaching sexual orientation and gender identity to Kindergarteners through third graders. 

DeSantis said that he will defend children against those who seek to rob them of their innocence. The line drew his largest round of applause. 

Trump covered somewhat similar ground in his presidential announcement last November. Unlike DeSantis, he used the word woke just once. DeSantis said it four times at his inaugural. 

Most of Trump’s announcement speech defended his presidency. Interestingly, he did not mention his creation of an originalist majority on the Supreme Court or the pro-life policies he enacted while in office.

Just as he did in the early days of the 2016 campaign, Trump is playing up immigration. He links the border crisis to rising crime and the ongoing epidemic of fentanyl and methamphetamine overdoses. 

For months. Trump has been promising to impose the death penalty on drug dealers. In January of this year, he released a plan to deploy the US military against Mexican drug cartels. 

DeSantis faces an immigration challenge of his own. Hundreds of Cubans and Haitians have been arriving in the Florida Keys, overwhelming the humanitarian capacity of frontline communities. 

Last fall DeSantis made headlines and earned additional conservative support by arranging for Venezuelan asylum seekers in Texas to be sent to the liberal enclave of Martha’s Vineyard. 

Now the border crisis has come home to Florida. It’s another chance for DeSantis to demonstrate leadership ability and executive competence. Plenty of people will be studying how the governor responds to this latest development. And I can think of one DeSantis constituent in West Palm Beach, who will be watching closely indeed.

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