Ron DeSantis is completely out of touch with ordinary Americans

Last Friday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis traveled to the early caucus state of Iowa for his first appearances in the 2024 presidential campaign and did something virtually unknown in the annals of the presidential campaign — he didn’t talk about the national economy (jobs and healthcare were also not discussed).

The absence of these bread-and-butter campaign issues from DeSantis speeches is emblematic of a larger problem facing the GOP — Republican leaders are gripped by the grievances of their party’s most extreme members and deeply out of touch with the concerns from ordinary Americans.

DeSantis instead dished out heaps of red meat while focusing on a narrow set of culture war issues and grievances of little concern to most voters.

He gushed about his attacks on The Walt Disney Company and their supposedly bright agenda. He accused “the left” of wanting to indoctrinate schoolchildren and boasted about removing critical race theory from Florida schools, requiring students to spend a day a year learning about the evils of Communism, and Diversity, Education and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives from Florida’s public universities.


Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis greets attendees and signs books after his remarks as he arrives on March 10.

Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

He called Florida “a citadel of freedom” during the COVID-19 pandemic for speaking out against school closures, mask requirements or vaccination requirements. “We have refused,” DeSantis said, “to let our state sink into some sort of ‘Faucian dystopia,'” since he also implied that the COVID vaccines were not effective. (More than 86,000 Floridians have died from COVID, the 13th highest per capita death rate in the country.)

He spoke harshly about crime and illegal immigration, even credit for using taxpayers’ money to send 50 migrants (who were legally in the country and in Texas, not Florida), into the liberal bastion of Martha’s Vineyard. He claimed the army was immediately called to have them deported, which isn’t remotely true but sounds great to liberal-hating conservatives.

At one point he spoke of banning “Zuckerbucks” from campaigning in Florida. I follow politics pretty closely and I had no idea what that meant. It turns out to be another standard far-right complaint about nonprofits like those funded by Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg that donate to electoral organizations.

If you spend six to eight hours a day watching Fox News, these GOP talking points will probably sound familiar. But ordinary Americans are likely to draw a blank. Or they just won’t agree with the Florida governor.

Take DeSantis’ incessant attacks on “Wokeism,” for example. In his inaugural address in January, he called Florida “the place where the awakened go to die,” and in Iowa he said he was working on passing legislation that would create “protections against awakened banking” (whatever that actually means). would.

And yet, according to a recent Ipsos/United States today According to a survey, 56 percent of Americans have a positive association with the term “woke” and understand it to be “informed, enlightened and aware of” social injustices. Only 39 percent have a negative connotation with the word. For hard-core conservatives, “awake” is a four-letter word. But not for the rest of the country.

And for all of DeSantis’ attacks on Disney, the company is actually more popular than Florida’s governor in his own state. A November 2022 poll found that Disney had a 55 percent preference, compared to just 38 percent of respondents who agreed with DeSantis.



Florida Governor Ron DeSantis makes his first trip to the state of Iowa for a book tour at Rhythm City Casino Resort in Davenport, Iowa, on March 10, 2023.

Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

But even if Americans are aware of DeSantis’ complaints list, they don’t seem to care. According to a recent Quinnipiac poll, 29 percent of Americans and 43 percent of Republicans say inflation is the country’s most pressing problem. DeSantis didn’t talk about it in Iowa.

While DeSantis likes to brag about his COVID record in Florida, President Biden’s handling of the pandemic is the issue he votes best on. In Iowa, DeSantis said public health experts have been wrong about the “efficacy of MRNA shots,” which is a roundabout way to question the effectiveness of COVID vaccines (these comments also contrast sharply with his initial demands that Floridians should get vaccinated).

DeSantis’ odd boast of his lax stance on protecting Americans from a virus that has killed more than 1.1 million Americans may be catnip in the conservative fever swamp — but it’s hardly a winning message in the presidential campaign. In fact, even now, three years into the pandemic and long after battles over vaccination requirements have subsided, a majority of Americans support such requirements.

The obvious response to all of this is that DeSantis’ focus is on the Republican presidential primary — and all that matters is winning over the most conservative voters. And while that’s certainly his near-term priority, winning presidential candidates must articulate campaign messages that resonate with their key supporters but also have broad appeal.

DeSantis got the first part down – the second not so much.

Indeed, in Iowa, he has gone out of his way to belittle and demonize his political opponents—because today, Republicans love more than hymns to law and order, anti-immigrant immigration, and attacks on Dr. fauci the left.”

Just a month ago we saw this very issue on the national stage at the State of the Union address. President Joe Biden used his speech to Congress and the American people to talk about healthcare, job creation and saving consumers junk fees from credit card companies, airlines and perhaps the private sector’s most hated company – Ticketmaster.

In the GOP’s response, Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders railed against the “mob awakened” and warned that Americans must stand up to liberals who “demand that we participate in their rituals, salute their flags and salute their fake ones.” Having to worship idols…while big government works with big tech to take away the most American thing there is – your freedom of speech.”

Um OK.

The misplaced agenda of the GOP is also evident in the country’s legislature, as Republicans practically fall over themselves to ban sex therapy for trans children or ban the most insidious public displays…drag performances for children.

In Florida, along with new restrictions on what can be taught at public universities (similar legislation has already led to book bans in the state’s elementary schools), Republicans could soon pass a six-week abortion ban and allow state residents to carry a concealed weapon without carry a license. Both laws are overwhelmingly unpopular even among Florida residents — but again, they’re favored by the GOP’s most extreme and vocal members, and for DeSantis, that’s enough.

On Capitol Hill, the majority of the new GOP House of Representatives is more focused on Twitter, Hunter Biden, and meaningless resolutions condemning socialism than the kitchen table issues Americans actually care about.

The irony of all this is that while Republicans like to portray Democrats as outspoken elites bogged down in their liberal bubbles up and down the Acela Corridor, the accusation applies to them far better. Increasingly stuck in a conservative echo chamber, Republicans are obsessed with divisive cultural issues and “owning the liberties.”

The GOP apparently only knows how to talk to their supporters, and for the rest of America, they might as well speak a foreign language. Ron DeSantis is completely out of touch with ordinary Americans

Rick Schindler

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