Florida Governor Ron DeSantis dropped out of the 2024 Republican presidential race after a disappointing second-place finish in the Iowa caucuses. But what does this mean for his home state, where he still has three more years to serve as governor?
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A Wounded and Vengeful Governor
Some observers fear that DeSantis’ bruised ego and bitter rivalry with former President Donald Trump could lead him to lash out at his political opponents and pursue a vindictive agenda that harms Floridians.
The Miami Herald Editorial Board released a scathing op-ed on Sunday, cautioning that Florida is currently burdened with “a governor who holds grudges and is determined to demonstrate his authority” and “a former president who incites rebellion and seeks vengeance for his previous defeat in the election four years ago.”
The act of DeSantis threatening to veto a bill that aimed to allocate taxpayer funds for Trump’s legal expenses was highlighted by the editorial board as an instance of his vengeful political tactics. Following DeSantis’ enigmatic message on X, stating “But not the Florida Republican who wields the veto pen…”, the bill’s sponsor decided to withdraw it.
The veto warning was perceived as a direct attack on Trump, who backed DeSantis’ opponent in the presidential campaign, as well as on Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, who openly backed the bill and supported Trump instead of DeSantis.
“It’s no secret that DeSantis can bear a grudge,” the editorial board wrote. “His penchant for paybacks and vindictiveness is well known in Florida, with Disney as an example.”
The board was discussing DeSantis’ endeavor to utilize the authority of the legislature in order to penalize Disney for criticizing his LGBTQ policy in the previous year. DeSantis put forward a legislation that aimed to revoke Disney’s tax benefits and prohibit it from obtaining any state agreements or funding. Although the legislation was dismissed by legislators, it demonstrated DeSantis’ readiness to employ his position to resolve personal grievances.
A Divided and Disillusioned State
DeSantis’ failed presidential bid could also have negative consequences for Florida’s political and social climate, which is already polarized and tense.
DeSantis emerged as a prominent advocate for Trump’s unfounded allegations of election fraud and his endeavors to invalidate the outcome of the 2020 election. He went as far as endorsing a contentious election legislation that enforced fresh limitations on voting accessibility and mail-in ballots, a move that critics argue was intended to hinder Democratic voters.
DeSantis further embraced Trump’s polarizing language and approaches regarding immigration, healthcare, education, and the environment. He implemented measures to prohibit sanctuary cities, opposed the expansion of Medicaid, enforced a ban on mask mandates and vaccine passports, and disallowed the teaching of critical race theory within schools.
DeSantis’ actions have alienated many Floridians, especially those who belong to marginalized groups or who have suffered from the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a recent poll, DeSantis’ approval rating among Florida voters has dropped to 44%, while his disapproval rating has risen to 49%.
DeSantis’ withdrawal from the presidential race could further erode his support and credibility among his base, who may feel betrayed or abandoned by him. It could also embolden his opponents, who may see an opportunity to challenge his authority and agenda.
A State in Need of Leadership and Vision
Florida faces many challenges and opportunities in the coming years, such as recovering from the pandemic, addressing climate change, improving education and health care, and diversifying its economy. To meet these challenges and opportunities, Florida needs a leader who can unite the state, inspire confidence, and offer a clear and positive vision for the future.
Unfortunately, DeSantis does not seem to be that leader. Instead of focusing on the needs and interests of Floridians, he seems to be more concerned with his own political ambitions and grievances. Instead of building bridges and finding common ground, he seems to be more interested in burning bridges and creating divisions.
Florida deserves better than a wounded and grudge-bearing governor who is out to prove he still can exert power. Florida deserves a governor who can lead with integrity, compassion, and wisdom.