Friday, January 19, 2024

ANNALS OF DeSANTISTAN: Nate Monroe: The reckoning for Ron DeSantis is here. (Florida Times-Union commentary by Nate Monroe, January 17, 2024)

What do you reckon?  An incisive column about former Congressman from St. Johns County from the Florida Times-Union: 

Nate Monroe: The reckoning for Ron DeSantis is here

By Nate Monroe, Jacksonville Florida Times-Union,

2 days ago

COMMENTARY | It was no great shock the squadron of bleary eyed government employees and legislators who schlepped up to Iowa failed to move the good people of that state to the floundering campaign of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, he of fake smiles and fake laughs and all around weird behavior. But the jarring presence of Florida state employees at the Iowa caucuses— including regulators like the head of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, and the leaders of important agencies like the Department of Children and Families and the Department of Juvenile Justice, all of whom are supposed to be carrying out non-political work — revealed the degree to which DeSantis has deformed the notion of public service in Florida.

And for what? So Ronald Dion DeSantis could limp out of the Iowa caucuses merely 30 points behind Donald Trump? Was it worth it? How many tens of millions did DeSantis burn, how many ruinous culture-war battles did he wage, how many times did federal and state judges need to clean up his messes, how many colleges did he need to ruin, how many lives did he need to blithely toss aside — all so he could end up out of money and out of time? Did you see his pallid face Monday night? Did his ticket look punched to you?

Taciturn, awkward: Plenty will suggest, with some justification, that DeSantis's peculiar demeanor did him in, or that he failed to articulate the case against Trump, that he tried to be Trump but wasn't Trump — the fundamental error all the Trump derivatives who fill the ranks of the Republican Party these days seem to make.

But DeSantis began planting the seeds of his humiliating downfall years ago, even before he became Florida governor. See, here in Northeast Florida, the region DeSantis once represented in Congress, there are some pretty well-known stories. One is about his lack of personal loyalty: After winning a congressional seat in 2012, DeSantis froze out the consultants who ran his campaign. There was no real reason for it. This is simply what he does.

And after he won the race for governor in 2018, he did it again. DeSantis ousted a coterie of advisers, including Susie Wiles, who helped him salvage his once-faltering gubernatorial campaign and had become the architects of his surprisingly moderate first act in office. It wasn't enough to merely oust Wiles, a Jacksonville consultant who'd become a trusted confidant of mayors, governors and a president. DeSantis's administration sought to make her unemployable, to humiliate her.

Again, there wasn't really a reason for this except that DeSantis seems to possess crippling paranoia about the people around him. For this reason he has virtually no inner circle, save for Casey, his wife, the former host of a mid-morning talk show on First Coast News in Jacksonville. The pandemic completed this closure. Beset by media coverage he considered unfair, facing a complex problem for which there were few clear answers, and nurturing a powerful personal ambition, DeSantis began filling his administration's ranks with loons and yes-men — incompetent, conspiratorial, but intensely loyal to the man offering them lucrative government employment. They helped him craft laws stifling speech and expression that immediately hit roadblocks in the federal courts; they made him crueler, more distant, more online — distinctly un-Floridian — until he had become an abstraction, somehow even less relatable than his bionic predecessor, Rick Scott.

These are the allies who swooped to DeSantis's aid in Iowa this week. Characteristically, this all ended in embarrassment.

And who was it that Trump called out during his victory speech, that diminutive figure standing at the periphery of his entourage on stage? Susie Wiles, the adviser DeSantis cast out, is one of Trump's most trusted confidants. Oops.

This was not inevitable, but faced with inflection points in his career, DeSantis has always chosen poorly. He values loyalty over competence. He does what's easy over what's hard but right; during the pandemic, contrary to the mythology peddled by his campaign, DeSantis merely outsourced the hard decision-making about school closures and mask mandates and business closures to city and county officials, who made brave calls with virtually no guidance from their state leadership. DeSantis always chooses cruelty over kindness, dog whistles over empathy, divisiveness over grace.

These moral compromises have turned him into a husk. Last summer, when Jacksonville needed a leader in the wake of a series of racist murders at a Dollar General, it only got this listless vessel of a man. It was "unacceptable," he said of this shocking act of violence. DeSantis had nothing left for his own people. So he decamped to Iowa, eventually taking a large portion of the leadership of Florida's government with him. His campaign, under the badly mistaken impression that exposing its icy leader to as many people as possible would increase his odds, visited all of Iowa's 99 counties.

It, of course, made no difference. This prince of the modern conservative movement had turned into a pumpkin long ago. All that money, his reputation, all that time he could have been making a difference in Florida — to lower its debilitating cost of living, to extend health care to millions who are without it, to fight for consumer protections and against overdevelopment and algal blooms — gone forever. Sure, he can continue to soldier on, as he pledged to Monday night, while his broke campaign shrivels in front of us all. But this goose is cooked right and good.

This tragedy is not DeSantis's to claim. The tragedy is what Floridians had to lose just so this man could get trounced by a scofflaw.

Nate Monroe is a metro columnist whose work regularly appears every Thursday and Sunday. Follow him on Twitter @NateMonroeTU.


Charles said...

Maybe they're learning that the best way to get reelected is not to pull the stuff him and Trump pulled. Don't act like you're fighting some civil war 2.0 and just work with the other side, engage in democracy, and stop with all the propaganda and pandering to the lowest common intellectual denominator. Surely this can't be effective forever and this is no way to lead a state or a country. This is shameful behavior. History will judge these people.

Joshua said...

He's cooked his goose, smoked his turkey, roasted his duck, and cooked his chicken. Let's move onto the next empty suit shill for the wealthy already. Next general of the right wing police state.