MIAMI — The horrific and incompetent handling of the spread of coronavirus in Florida has finally exposed Governor Ron DeSantis for what he is: an extremist ideologue who is also not very good at his job.
Since his narrow election in 2018, DeSantis has enjoyed high approval ratings and the perception of being a moderate Republican governor. Of course, for anyone paying close attention, this was nonsense.
From the very beginning of his ascent to the Florida governorship, DeSantis ran as a Trump acolyte. He received his endorsement after repeated appearances on Fox News in which he defended Trump against any sort of criticism. The pandering to Trump’s base was so on the nose during the election that DeSantis released a cringeworthy as in which he teaches his toddlers how to build a wall, reads them Trump’s The Art of the Deal, and dresses them in MAGA clothes.
His platform while running was extremely right wing. Opposing common sense gun policies that would prevent tragedies like the Parkland shooting, criminalizing undocumented immigrant families, supporting for-profit prisons and immigration detention centers, and opposition to any sort of meaningful regulations for industries that are destroying our environment were staples of his campaign.
Upon taking office, DeSantis pursued his hardline right wing agenda. He rammed through the Florida Legislature a bill to criminalize immigrants at the behest of President Trump. He signed a bill restricting some Floridians who paid their debts to society from getting their right to vote back under Amendment 4. He supported arming teachers in our classrooms and defunding our public schools. He started a “presidential protection fund” to “protect” Trump from impeachment.
If only DeSantis had that much initiative in helping the people of Florida since the outbreak of coronavirus.
As of Friday morning May 15, Florida had 43,210 confirmed cases and 1,875 deaths due to the virus. Those statistics are muddled because Florida has not had widespread available testing and the Florida Department of Health asking the Florida Medical Examiners commission not to release their comprehensive list of coronavirus deaths.
You read that right, the state of Florida is acting like dictatorships of the past in refusing to provide accurate information that will allow public health experts to make informed decisions that will impact the wellbeing of our communities.
It’s the abysmal handling of unemployment benefits for those who are suffering through this crisis that has catapulted DeSantis to national disgrace. There seems to be an endless amount of stories from people struggling with the state’s unemployment system, which was set up for failure by DeSantis’ Republican predecessor Rick Scott.
From March 15 up until last week, 1,829,812 unemployment claims had been submitted and 1,115,023 of those were “confirmed unique claims.” The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (FLDEO) announced last week that only 481,497 claims have been processed. The rest are stuck trying to get any sort of response from the state.
DeSantis continues to show a lack of leadership through this crisis.
He deflects responsibility on the messy handling of unemployment claims by saying that it’s the fault of applicants submitting wrongful information while overlooking that there is no option to edit an application or way of connecting with FLDEO. He shows up at press conferences and struggles to put on a face mask. He declared professional wrestling an essential business for some bizarre reason. He failed to close Florida’s beaches at the outbreak of the virus during Spring Break.
This lackluster performance in the midst of this crisis has hurt DeSantis. While a number of other governors across the country have seen an increase in their approval ratings, DeSantis has seen his numbers drop. For the well-being of Floridians, we can only hope that Floridians continue to realize that their governor is not looking out for their best interest and is not prepared to handle a crisis.
Thomas Kennedy is a communications fellow for Community Change Action. He was a member of the Bernie Sanders 2020 campaign and tweets from @Tomaskenn.