Will DeSantis run for president? The candidate I saw during the Florida debate is worrisome.
Carli Pierson, USA TODAY – October 30, 2022
If there were a recipe to make another Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis it might go something like this: Grab some playground bully off the shelf with a heaping teaspoon of science denial, a swig of race-baiting and a lump of LGBTQ bigotry for good measure.
If it sounds nasty, that’s because it is (recipe and politics).
As a former Floridian who visits as often as possible, and because I have close family that still lives there, I care deeply about what goes on in the Sunshine State and worry about where DeSantis is heading politically.
Not everyone agrees with me. During the first and only gubernatorial debate with former Republican Gov. and now Democratic Congressman Charlie Crist on Monday night in Fort Pierce, DeSantis got a concerning amount of applause for his hateful, misleading and divisive comments. Before the debate, DeSantis was also leading in the polls and has proved to be popular in Florida.
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After the debate, he went back to being favored to be a GOP candidate running against former President Donald Trump (should he run) in the 2024 presidential election. It’s with that in mind that I’m writing about the debate. What kind of candidate would DeSantis be for the 2024 campaign? And, God forbid, what kind of president?
The debate was a good window into that.
What DeSantis said during the debate
I didn’t ever imagine myself saying this because I am an atheist, but as I watched Monday night’s debate, I found myself praying Crist becomes governor again. No matter how much I dislike millionaires getting into politics, DeSantis’ far right ideology makes me nervous. But how will more centric and independent voters feel about his rhetoric?
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DeSantis made some really troubling comments during the debate. He also has a record of troubling, bigoted leadership that has no place in 2022 America, or 2024:
►When asked by local news anchor Liz Quirantes about his “Stop WOKE” Act and his Florida Parental Rights in Education Act – which critics have called the “Don’t Say Gay” law because it bans classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity for students in kindergarten through third grade – DeSantis went on a tangent dog-whistling about keeping Florida free. He also stooped to his habitual race baiting saying, “I don’t want to teach kids to hate our country,” and claimed that it was false that the United States was built on “stolen lands.”
►DeSantis proudly rebuked science claiming that a 15-week-old fetus is “fully formed” (it’s not), and his abortion law makes zero exceptions for rape and incest, even though 86% of Americans believe that there should be. The governor also touted his rejection of health experts’ advice during the worst months of COVID-19 by insisting that he had to keep Florida’s tourism industry open, (he also banned school-mask mandates).
►He disparaged LGBTQ teens and their families seeking gender-affirming care, calling it “genital mutilation” and comparing it to a tattoo.
Let’s count: Exactly how many people does Dr. Oz want involved in an abortion decision?
DeSantis isn’t mature enough to be governor or president
DeSantis, like others in his party, seems to be unable to realize that he is (and would be if elected) the governor of all Floridians, not just the ones who agree with him. But his radical positions send progressives, moderate Democrats and even independents running in the opposite direction.
That won’t stop if he decides to run for president.
DeSantis’ inability to answer Crist’s question about whether he would serve the full term, if elected, made it painfully clear that he doesn’t care about being governor – he wants to be president. Rather than answering the question honestly, he mumbled something and then reverted to his inner playground bully by calling Crist a “worn-out old donkey.” A “yo mamma” joke would probably have had the same effect: Rally the base; make everyone else cringe.
DeSantis doesn’t really want to be governor for much longer and he doesn’t want to listen to American voters – he wants to be president so he can push his radical agenda from the White House.
Carli Pierson, a New York licensed attorney, is an opinion writer and a member of the USA TODAY Editorial Board.