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DeSantis hasn’t even scratched the surface of the harm he’s capable of

Ron DeSantis' record in Florida shows that he is just as unfit for higher office as former President Donald Trump.

Now that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has officially kicked off his presidential run via a fittingly chaotic Twitter Spaces attempt at an announcement, he will attempt to walk a political tightrope. That balancing act will require him to be seen by Republican donors as “electable” and be seen by Republican primary voters as “MAGA without the mess.”

The GOP knows that in 2024, it needs to rally behind an electable candidate. Here’s the TL;DR: DeSantis isn’t that candidate. His record in Florida shows that he is just as unfit for higher office as former President Donald Trump. 

The GOP knows that in 2024, it needs to rally behind an electable candidate. Here’s the TL;DR: DeSantis isn’t that candidate.

As a Florida state lawmaker for the past decade, I have seen firsthand how DeSantis’ policies hurt our state’s families. At every turn since he became governor, DeSantis has prioritized the wrong things. He heralds his dangerous agenda as a “blueprint” for the rest of the country and claims that his policies are making Floridians “more free,” but the opposite is true.

The governor’s “Florida Blueprint” has been a disaster for everyday Floridians — from the property insurance crisis that is pricing people out of the state or forcing many who stay to dip into their retirement funds just to stay afloat, to the draconian attacks on our rights and freedoms. How is Florida “more free” when politicians are regulating our bookshelves and censoring educators from teaching historical truths? What kind of blueprint for the nation is it when Florida, once considered the ideal for retirees in their golden years, according to AARP, ranks dead last in the country for long-term care for elderly people and people with disabilities?

Rather than advocating for policies that will actually help families, seniors and others who are stressed about the rising cost of living, DeSantis leans into culture wars aimed to fan the flames of division. He has staked his political rise on attacking the LGBTQ community, gutting classroom libraries, emboldening white supremacist hate groups, making it harder for people to vote, eroding access to reproductive care — all in an attempt to further marginalize the already vulnerable. 

Despite gun violence topping the list of Americans’ public health concerns, DeSantis recently signed permitless carry legislation that will make it easier for criminals to access guns in Florida. The facts clearly show an increase in fatalities and gun crimes in the dozens of states that have passed similar laws. Such recklessness should not be rewarded with an election to the most powerful office in the land. Everyone ought to feel safe at schools, grocery stores, the movies, entertainment venues and where they worship. Regardless of ideology, this is something every elected official ought to work toward. The last thing this moment calls for is more untrained, unvetted, potentially dangerous individuals with guns.

In the dead of night last month, DeSantis signed one of the strictest abortion bans in the country, even though a poll taken a year ago shows that 67% of Florida residents (and most Florida Republicans) think abortion should be legal in all cases or in most cases. Even Trump called the near-total ban “too harsh.” DeSantis says he wants to keep the government out of people’s lives, but as governor, he’s been hellbent on restricting Floridians’ freedom to control their own bodies and lives. Given his choice of surgeon general here in Florida, if DeSantis were to be elected president, he would certainly try to put a right-wing zealot in charge of the Food and Drug Administration and thus attempt to further erode Americans’ access to safe, effective reproductive care, including birth control. 

DeSantis has also signed a multitude of voter suppression bills, all in an attempt to stifle minority voters’ voices. That’s in addition to his championing and signing a bill that gives opponents to civil rights free rein to hit protesters with their vehicles, in that it gives civil immunity to drivers who drive through a group of protesters who may be blocking a road. Our rights to protest, exercise our franchise and speak freely ought to be protected, but those rights have been under constant attack in DeSantis’ Florida.

DeSantis’ shameful record predates his time as governor. When he was in Congress, he voted to cut more than $250 billion from Social Security and Medicare.

Florida has one of the country’s highest rates of uninsured people and some of the highest out-of-pocket health care expenses in the nation, but DeSantis has refused to expand Medicaid. Florida is now left as one of only 10 states that have failed to expand coverage, leaving almost 400,000 non-elderly adults without health coverage. DeSantis has chosen political games and posturing over responding to the needs of the people he is supposed to represent. 

DeSantis’ shameful record predates his time as governor. When he was in Congress, he voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act and its critical protections for people with pre-existing conditions, increase the age of eligibility for Medicare and Social Security, and cut taxes on big corporations and the ultrawealthy.

But his misplaced priorities aren’t the only reasons to oppose him. DeSantis’ authoritarian behavior knows no bounds. He has abused his power by bullying political opponents and removing duly-elected officials from office. He claims that such actions are about “law and order” when his real goal has been shutting down anyone who disagrees with him. How will that dictatorial approach translate on the national level?    

DeSantis’ strategy is an elaborate ruse to portray himself as electable. He’s anything but. The governor’s extreme agenda and track record won't withstand general election scrutiny. It’s no wonder that longtime Republican strategist Rick Wilson describes DeSantis’ Florida as “the petri dish of bad ideas.” 

Don’t be fooled by DeSantis. He's just as much of a danger to our democracy and the country as the indicted former president, and he shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near Pennsylvania Avenue.