Amidst the celebrations among the Democratic Party’s overseas press office at their not having done as badly as they were expected, despite having lost control of the House of Representatives and – at time of writing – no longer likely to have a functional majority in the Senate, perhaps the most significant long-term impact has been missed.
That has to do with the decisive victory for Ron DeSantis who was re-elected as Governor of Florida in a landslide, and who is now not only increasingly favoured to be the Republican nominee for the Presidency in 2024, but is now clear favourite with the turf accountants to be win that election.
DeSantis was first elected to Congress in 2012 and was comfortably re-elected in 2014 and 2016. He only narrowly won the race for the Governorship in 2018 with a margin of 32,463 votes. On Tuesday he won with a majority of 1,500,000, with over 59% of the votes cast. The Florida Republicans did similarly well in the Congressional contests.
DeSantis has built such a stronghold, in a state that up to the beginning of the century was traditionally Democrat, on the basis of a solid and consistent record as a conservative. That is reinforced by the two Senators for the State, Rick Scott and Mario Rubio, and by the Republicans who occupy the majority of Florida’s seats in the House of Representatives.
Which was a point emphasised in DeSantis’ victory speech where he referred to the support of an executive and staff and political support that believed in their agenda. For many American conservatives, and indeed for people on the right generally, that has to be a key factor. Too many have been elected promising to tackle issues of concern; from abortion to the imposition of leftist ideology to restrictions on individual freedom and the consequences of mass immigration, and done little or nothing once put into office. Often because they did not “drain the swamp.”
His speech referred first of all, and pointedly, to Florida having bucked the trend against the Covid lockdown and done so successfully. As DeSantis said, “Florida held the line,” and can justifiably claim, as others of us might likewise if more modestly, to have been “a refuge of sanity when the world went mad.” That went beyond opposing “medical authoritarianism” and extended to the strong line taken against the anarchy unleashed by the American left in the Summer of 2020. A time when America and the world did indeed appear to be on the brink of insanity.
DeSantis can point to his own record as Governor with the backing of a solid administration that is not undermining the policies that people chose to be implemented. On abortion, Florida had already acted legislatively before the landmark Supreme Court decision; the state has implemented tax reforms to support both small businesses and workers; they have banned the teaching of racial theory in schools; DeSantis has pursued practical environmental conservation; he has banned the designation of any city in Florida as a sanctuary for illegal immigrants, a policy that has seemingly increased his support among Hispanic voters; and Florida has a ban on biological males taking part in female sports.
What voters also admire is his combative attitude towards Woke corporatism. While many so-called conservatives are still in thrall and in hock to such entities, or fear their wrath, DeSantis hit back at Disney’s blackmail over transgenderism with repeal of Disney’s special economic status. When the tech companies banned Trump and others, the Florida Republicans attempted to legislate against such restrictions.
Most famously of all of course, in reaction to the holier than though virtue signalling of the wealthy sanctimonious left, in September DeSantis despatched two charter planes of illegal immigrants to Martha’s Vineyard, which is where former President Obama hangs out for a time. And on which island three towns had designated themselves as sanctuary towns, never imagining for one moment of course that the objects of their long distance solidarity might one day turn up. When they did, the Pollyannas of Martha’s Vineyard suddenly discovered that they were unable to accommodate them. “You’d better get born in some place else, Go, Move, Shift,” as the Ewan MacColl song put it.
Whether DeSantis will get the nomination in 2024 is yet to be decided, as is whether he can maintain and indeed strengthen the coalition of Americans who made their voices heard in 2016 and 2020. His record stands for itself, and he can be judged on that so far.