Its no secret (Gov-FL) Ron DeSantis is uncharismatic. The runner up for the Republican presidential nominee behind Trump can barely get a classroom sized crowd together to attend some of his mind numbing rallies. Unlike his predecessor, he lacks the charm to drive the religious zealotry of the MAGA movement to his polling stations. But can he make up for that charm with racism? The answer appears to be no.
Earlier this week Florida's Board of Education approved a new set of rules mandating the teaching of slavery's "upsides". This ruling cited the fact that slaves developed skills such as blacksmithing during their time in bondage. The implication of this statement echoing the idea that it was "worthwhile" and "beneficial" for black people to have been enslaved at any point in time. Does the Republican Party want to bring back slavery? Just read between the lines!
Yet DeSantis' over zealotry on this issue has caused backlash from members of his own party. GOP congressman Will Hurd stated that: “anybody that is implying that there was an upside to slavery is insane.” A rare voice of reason from inside the house. Does DeSantis believe slaves could take their skills to the job market? That the beatings, rapes, and mutilations done in the name of racial superiority were a "healthy tradeoff"? GOP presidential candidate Nikki Haley echoed Hurd's sentiment: “It’s the 21st century. And I think we can all agree that…there were no positives that came out of slavery." Fellow GOP presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy agreed stating: “obviously, we should be teaching kids about the awful legacy of slavery.”
DeSantis even drew the ire of the single black Republican in the Senate Tim Scott. “As a country founded upon freedom, the greatest deprivation of freedom was slavery. There is no silver lining…in slavery…What slavery was really about [was] separating families, about mutilating humans, and even raping their wives. It was just devastating." Scott stated to reporters in response to DeSantis.
The most visible silence comes from former President Donald Trump who has yet to comment on the morality of DeSantis' comments, although its unlikely anyone is holding their breath for his response.
As of August 1st, DeSantis has a 45.7% unfavourability rating according to FiveThirtyEight. A build up overtime from his lack of charisma being punctuated by his open disdain for other races and all things "woke". This result is shocking considering that less than one year ago, DeSantis was considered the golden boy of the right. Trump without the "baggage". Yet the polls today beg the question: "Is the baggage what made Trump... well Trump." You'll never catch a spicy tweet from DeSantis slamming Rosie O'Donnell or inspired 3AM early morning rants from Trump about Democratic witch hunts. Famous lines like "I've never seen a skinny person drink a diet coke." All of these Trumpian characteristics added to his authenticity. DeSantis is the Burger King to Trump's McDonald's.
Yet the primary claim to fame for DeSantis was his handling of the COVID pandemic. Famously, DeSantis touted himself as the anti-lockdown, anti-vaccine candidate. Trump, in contrast, promoted Operation Warp Speed which provided various researchers with government funding to help ensure a faster vaccine rollout.
DeSantis' COVID response made him a national figure valorized by conservatives and gained an endorsement from popular podcaster Joe Rogan who touts 11 million listeners per episode. The flip side of his COVID response was Florida ranking 13th among states in COVID deaths per capita. DeSantis has permanently prohibited mask requirements in Florida schools and businesses. This policy and general scientific ignorance has led to the reemergence of Leprosy in the United States. Leprosy is spread through moisture droplets passed through the air similar to COVID-19. Leprosy cases are surging in Florida according to the US Center for Disease Control (CDC) with reports stating that the state has become an "endemic location" for the propagation of the virus. In 2020, there were 159 new cases of leprosy. 81% of these cases were in Florida.
The cesspool of policies and right wing short sightedness that has defined the DeSantis administration in Florida has unleashed a near biblical punishment on the Christian Nationalist. The effects of Leprosy are debilitating resulting in severe nerve damage and disfiguration if left untreated. DeSantis' hands-off approach to disease control is not the right fit for an emerging disease with highly undesirable consequences located primarily in his state. Like the Lepers in the bible, more and more of his former GOP supporters, fundraisers, and colleagues are keeping their distance. Be it Leprosy or his "anti-woke" endorsement of slavery, people are turning their backs on the once promising runner up.