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The Case Against DeSantis

Presidential hopeful and current Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has made waves in the past few years and is working hard to make his name known. He is adored by most Floridians and those on the right for his COVID-19 response and his Trumpist policies. Despite campaign ads and comments of his that have worked hard to align him with former President Donald Trump, what makes DeSantis so dangerous for the left is that he is seen as the younger, smarter version of Trump. DeSantis is revered for his ability to “act” and get policy through with an emphasis on quantity over quality. 

With almost every major news site and political organization predicting DeSantis to be a top contender for the GOP in the 2024 presidential race, it is time to break down what exactly he has done in office, why conservatives like him, why others think they like them, and why his perceived competency is nothing more than showmanship. 

COVID Response

No moment better represents DeSantis’ feelings towards the pandemic than in March 2022 when speaking at the University of Southern Florida. DeSantis berated the students standing by him for wearing masks, asked them to remove them, and told them it was pure theater that they had decided to wear them.

Florida’s COVID response, or lack thereof, has left many with an overall positive view of the state and DeSantis. Many people packed up their lives and moved to the Sunshine State to take advantage of the lack of lockdowns and mandates, and an overwhelming amount of visitors and residents take pride in how the pandemic had been handled. As someone who lived in Florida during the pandemic, I can say first hand that little to no time was spent in anything resembling a lockdown, as social gatherings and the majority day to day life seemed to continue unaffected by the reality of the virus.

While the appeal of living in apparent normalcy has biased those into thinking Florida had done its best, doctors and public health specialists watched in horror as hospitals filled and deaths exceeded those in states with more cities and larger populations. At one point, the state was averaging 242 virus-related deaths a day, which was “nearly as many as California and Texas combined.”

DeSantis made a point to downplay the pandemic at almost every chance he got. More than just blatantly ignoring health guidelines agreed on by specialists globally, he pushed policies and plans to directly oppose these guidelines. In June 2020, he announced his plan to have all public schools open at full capacity, and by July, it was announced all public schools were forced by law to be in-person and open for brick-and-mortar learning, with threats to funding for schools that couldn’t or wouldn’t.

The most recent news coming out of Florida and COVID was from the state surgeon general DeSantis had appointed, Dr. Joseph A. Ladapo, who recently released new guidelines regarding the vaccine. This official advisory posted to the Florida Health government website claims that within 28 days after receiving the vaccine, there was an “84% increase in the relative incidence” of cardiac-related deaths. Immediately the wording and implication of the advisory set off red flags and many experts have come out to condemn the warning. This is just one of many examples of DeSantis appointing biased and partisan candidates to roles that require nonpartisanship.

Florida residents who still support DeSantis’ actions during the pandemic and his refusal to do anything public health specialists recommended are living in a state of survivor’s bias; because they were not affected by DeSantis’ disastrous response, they are happy they got to live their life normally while those around them lost their lives. 

Public Education

Beyond the detrimental effects COVID policies had on public schools in Florida, DeSantis has made a point to directly require right-wing bias in public education. 

As an alum of Florida public education from elementary to high school, let me be the first to say that it’s a broken, financially segregated system that produces graduates who do not meet the education requirements to warrant a high school degree. Currently, there are such mass teacher shortages that DeSantis has recommended that first responders and officers with bachelor’s degrees fill these positions, as well as suggesting legislation that would allow military veterans with no degree to obtain temporary teaching certificates. 

In March of last year, DeSantis pushed two extremely controversial bills commonly referred to as the Stop WOKE Act and the Don’t Say Gay Bill. The Stay Woke Act essentially rides the wave of manufactured fear surrounding Critical Race Theory: college-level work discussing privileges and history of race relations that no public school in Florida even has the resources to properly teach if taught at all. The Act bans discussion of “CRT” in classrooms to prevent “indoctrination” according to DeSantis, but in reality, it is just another way the right continues to deny the existence of racism in modern America. The Don’t Say Gay bill similarly bans discussion in classrooms but instead targets the LGBTQ community. The bill prevents discussion of sexual orientation in classrooms. Florida Republicans defend it by arguing that discussion of sexual orientation is inappropriate for children. But both of these bills are unnecessary, stigmatizing, and serve only as theater to gain DeSantis attention nationally while damaging vulnerable communities for good measure. 

Furthermore, despite schools being in desperate need of more funding, resources, and teachers, the Governor has decided now is the time to target minority communities for national publicity instead. More than just bills that are aiming to reduce non-heteronormative or non-white discussions in classrooms, DeSantis has gone even further to mandate a “civics” training of his own. While most everyone, no matter their party alignment, can agree that civics is an important discipline that all citizens should be well versed in, pushing a right-wing agenda under the guise of civics training while banning any discussions that contradict this requirement is beyond authoritarian. Teachers were invited to a training seminar for this course where they were directed to blur history to downplay American atrocities like slavery, and slides from the seminars directly promoted conservative ideals like constitutional originalism. Not only is he pushing for biased educational requirements, but he is accusing anything contrary of being left-wing indoctrination to silence and distract from his blatant attempts to institute right-wing propaganda in schools.

These bills and policies are not random and they are building on a much larger agenda push on the right, which is focusing on parental rights and school choice. School choice essentially “allows public education funds to follow students to the schools or services that best fit their needs—whether that’s to a public school, private school, charter school, home school or any other learning environment families choose.” But why would a Republican like DeSantis have such an interest in allowing families to access the resources they need? It all boils down to pandering to the parents in a “parents not government approach.” This approach attempts to give parents the chance to teach their values on these topics instead of having schools teach them. This highly appealing guise aims to please parents while making the political left out to be anti-freedom. The policy essentially restricts any conversation that parents may disapprove of or not understand and leaves it up to the parents to educate their children. Other than busy parents who may not have the time and resources to properly educate their children on the intricacies of racism and sexual education, this leads to a much more dangerous situation. Not only will this be detrimental to future generation’s education as well as mental and physical health. By not allowing schools to teach things like sexual education, accurate depictions of history, and everything else that may oppose the conservative worldview no matter how factual, undereducation will become an epidemic. 


Florida beaches are a national ecological marvel, constantly at risk of falling below sea level. This is a fact hard for anyone to deny in light of climate change, which is why even DeSantis has come out to admit it’s a real issue he is addressing. With the aftermath of Hurricane Ian still plaguing cities on the west coast of Florida, it has served as a rude awakening to many residents that high-category hurricanes are coming more frequently with increasing severity. 

More than just acknowledging climate change, DeSantis has coined a new Republican approach focusing on “climate adaption but not on mitigation.” In doing this, he is spending state funds on short-term solutions while also still being able to deny the root of the issue being carbon emissions. Unfortunately, a bare minimum recognition of the existence of climate change is not enough for Florida, and “bracing for impact” is not an effective climate change policy. But by doing this, DeSantis is praised for his admittance of the existence of the issue and for taking action despite not taking any substantive steps whatsoever. DeSantis’ never-ending approach to this issue will drown the state if not corrected soon. 

Justice System

With decades of police brutality and power abuse coming to light there have been calls to demilitarize and defund police institutions across the nation. Unsurprisingly the right has worked hard to make citizens feel unsafe and to push even stronger pro police policies, and DeSantis has done nothing but the same. 

DeSantis has vocalized his commitment to “making Florida the most law enforcement-friendly state in the nation” and has done so by signing bills like HB 3 which incentivizes Floridians to “join the law enforcement profession and incentivizes out-of-state law enforcement professionals to bring their skills to the Sunshine State.” Along with HB3, other policies passed have included:

  • Anti-Reform Policies: Policies that are working to protect the “bad actors” in law enforcement by “obstructing the public’s ability to have transparency, expanding the revolving door of mass incarceration, and promoting extreme fiscal waste of limited taxpayer funds.”
  • HB 1: Gives DeSantis’ office the authority to veto local government budgets that reallocate portions of funding related to law enforcement agencies. It also limited Floridian’s right to assemble, allowed law enforcement to surveil citizens without a warrant, and allowed arrests for behavior that is not illegal.

Aside from policy rollouts, DeSantis also personally replaced the more progressive State Attorney, Andrew Warren, with a far-right candidate of his own after Warren had signed a letter opposing laws that criminalize transgender people. DeSantis claimed he was neglecting his position and claimed that “these statements prove that Warren thinks he has the authority to defy the Florida Legislature,” despite there being no such laws criminalizing transgender people in the state for him to “defy.”


Beyond what DeSantis is often praised for, he is also no stranger to national controversies. Just last year he signed HB 5 which bans abortions after 15 weeks, publicly feuded with Disney, and misled immigrants into relocating from Texas to fail to prove a point regarding immigration.

The feud with Disney seemed like nothing more than DeSantis exerting power to punish Disney for the company’s standing against the homophobic legislation that had recently been passed. After the corporation publicly denounced the bill and stood in solidarity with the LGBTQ community, DeSantis signed a bill to abolish the self-governing district Disney resides and operates in. The Disney corporation also announced it would stop funding Florida politically in light of the legislation. DeSantis signed a law that would dissolve the district and end Disney’s self-government but has established no plan on how to enact this or who would be financially liable for the expensive shift of taxes—something that could fall heavily on taxpayers in the region. While DeSantis has claimed no local residents will be held accountable for Disney’s debt, he has yet to enact any law to protect those residing in the area. As of this month, DeSantis has essentially backed down with a new board upkeeping Disney’s privileges ultimately demonstrating the Governor’s bark-no-bite policy attitude.

The Martha’s Vineyard scandal seems so absurd and yet is still supported by those on the right. Governor Ron DeSantis hired a woman to go to Texas and trick migrants, using a fake brochure with resources the migrants would not qualify for, and had them board a plane with promises of housing and jobs, to then fly them to Martha’s Vineyard, leaving them stranded. Such a stunt demonstrated more than political opportunism, but pure, naked cruelty. This stunt was later connected to the exact same idea repeated by Tucker Carlson on his show. Beyond the exploitation, lying, and using real people as political props, DeSantis continues to prove he is nothing more than a puppet for conservatives in America by using extreme examples spewed by Tucker Carlson as a means of fixing Florida immigration. 

Don’t Make America Florida

Ron DeSantis would not make a good President. The Make America Florida Movement needs to be called out for what it is—a group of unempathetic Floridians who have not directly been harmed by the horrid excuses of policies that DeSantis has been pushing throughout his administration. The movement falls victim to his snake oil salesman-like techniques and his simple explanations that deny real complicated issues. The New York Times even described his views and acts as a “series of policy gambits that can feel precision-engineered to maximize liberal outrage.”

DeSantis recently won reelection against incumbent Charlie Crist and is officially a candidate for the 2024 presidential election. While he poses as a younger, quicker, modern Trump, it’s time the country calls his bluff and sees him for the lack of leadership he possesses.

Image Source: Lexi Mariash

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