Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is crisscrossing the nation promoting his much-ballyhooed new book, The Courage to Be Free: Florida’s Blueprint for America’s Survival. And it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand the author’s purpose, where he intends to land, and how he is planning to get there. The title says it all. He desires to move the country in the same liberty-centric direction he has taken the Sunshine State, with exceptional results and broad approval.
But what voters may find most intriguing in the newly released volume is his long-awaited narrative about his relationship with the man he is likely to take on head-to-head in a battle of titans seeking the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, Donald Trump. DeSantis takes mostly the high road, limiting his criticism of Trump primarily to the former president’s pandemic policies while noting the “unique star power” of the 45th president. He acknowledges that – as Trump has said with the opposite purpose of depicting DeSantis as disloyal – Trump was able to “provide me with the exposure to GOP primary voters across the State of Florida, and that he and Trump “had developed a good relationship” when DeSantis was a member of Congress. And he goes Shakespeare on us in aligning with Trump on the Russia collusion hoax, describing it as “little more than a tall tale, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
Ron DeSantis v. Donald Trump: Frenemies to the End
The 44-year-old Florida governor emphasizes the historic nature of the Trump presidency: “Since Ronald Reagan flew back to California … the GOP grassroots had been longing for someone who rejected the old-guard way of doing business and who could speak to their concerns and aspirations … Trump supported policies that appealed to the base in a way that GOP leaders in the D.C. swamp had been either incapable of doing or unwilling to do.” On the matter of Covid, DeSantis does criticize Trump for extending Covid-19 lockdown measures beyond the initially-promised 15 days and for signing the coronavirus relief bill into law. And he brings up Trump’s donations “to liberal candidates like Hillary Clinton, Chuck Schumer, and Harry Reid; and his support for liberal abortion laws and restrictions on gun rights.”
When asked recently about consistently provocative characterizations of him by Trump – calling him “Desanctimonius,” now shortened to “DeSanctus,” and implying he was somehow involved with teenage girls – the governor responded by saying he doesn’t “spend [his] time trying to smear other Republicans.”
The book describes elite media as the “praetorian guard of the nation’s failed ruling class” and decries social media censorship, all under the banner of his favorite subject, “wokeness.” He has said that Florida is “where wokeness goes to die.” And he has backed up his talk with aggressive action, most famously his near-legendary takedown of Disney for its intrusive opposition to DeSantis’s bill denying teachers the right to instruct very young children about sex – contemptuously dubbed the “don’t say gay” bill by progressives bent on deconstructing America’s patriarchal society. But DeSantis, typically, could not care less. On Monday, he terminated Disney’s control of a special-tax district near Orlando, FL, and personally named the new members to the state-controlled board that now governs it. Indeed, Disney found out the hard way that Ron DeSantis hardly shies away from asserting his power, as when he declared, “There’s a new sheriff in town, and accountability will be the order of the day.”
DeSantis also proposes many bold administrative reforms, foremost of which is to move some federal agencies out of Washington, and convert 50,000 federal employees now classified as career civil servants into “at-will employees who serve at the pleasure of the president.” That would rate as an alternative way to drain the Swamp.
The title and text of the book further demonstrate how DeSantis is hardly lacking in confidence – not surprising given his recent landslide re-election in the Sunshine State and the magnet his state has become for liberty-minded Americans seeking refuge from the heavy hand of Blue America. He’s confident enough to skip CPAC, the most high-profile event on the conservative calendar where Trump will be front and center, in favor of an appearance at a competing event for The Club for Growth – likely because that highly respected free-market advocacy organization severed its ties to Trump after 2020 and appears poised to endorse DeSantis if he does the expected and takes the presidential plunge.
True to the axiom that you are often defined by your enemies, The New York Times called the book ”courageously free of anything that resembles charisma, or a discernible sense of humor … read[ing] like a politician’s memoir churned out by ChatGPT … Take out the gauzy abstraction, the heartwarming clichés, and much of what DeSantis is describing in The Courage to Be Free is chilling — unfree and scary.” Much Like Donald Trump, Ron DeSantis may best be defined by the antagonists who are starting to bombard him with the same pejoratives aimed at Trump from the moment he rode down that golden escalator.
As DeSantis echoes his book’s narrative with speeches across the land this week, he touts with specificity what his Sunshine State has become: ‘We are No. 1 in these United States in net in-migration … No. 1 fastest-growing state … No. 1 in new business formations … No. 1 in tourism … No. 1 in economic freedom … No. 1 in education freedom … No. 1 in parental involvement in education … and No. 1 in public higher education.’ He calls his Florida a “refuge of sanity” and “citadel of freedom,” and he has indeed succeeded in boldly and defiantly constructing a fortress of liberty in a single state. If it wasn’t already crystal clear before this book was released, it certainly is now, that he intends to do the same for the nation writ large.
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