In just over a quarter century around Florida government and politics, I have never seen anything like Governor DeSantis Monday letter to the Associated Press (full letter is at the bottom of this article).
So unprecedented and so childishly immature, yet irrationally dangerous it defies anything that came before it. The letter furthers my view that DeSantis represents a far more dangerous turn for the Republican Party than Donald Trump represented.
Let’s remember DeSantis and those around him like his Press Secretary Christina Pushaw are in permanent victimization mode- the real victims of the COVID pandemic in their mind are not the 41,000 + dead Floridians or the countless more that may have permanent respiratory or psychological damage but the Governor and his acolytes. Floridians MUST understand that premise to truly comprehend what is going on currently.
Demagoguery and acidic rhetoric has become commonplace particularly in legislative bodies. In the Florida Legislature, it became more pronounced and common after term limits kicked in at the 2000 Election. The 2001 session of the State House led by the right-wing Speaker Tom Feeney, I thought at the time was a new low, especially when contrasted with the State Senate which at the time was under the leadership of moderate Republican Senate President John McKay and had effectively cherry-picked the cream-of-the-crop in terms of the pre-term limits State House.
In time, things got worse and we got accustomed to slippery slope of hardened rhetoric from partisans on both sides of the ideological and partisan divide. Each subsequent election seemed to bring more and more demagogues or flat out provocateurs into office. As the Republicans became nastier, the Democrats became lazier and less intellectually capable of actually countering the demagogic GOP arguments. For every brilliant lawmaker on the Democratic side like the heavyweight, Dan Gelber there were three of four intellectual dimwits that had emerged from low turnout primaries and had no business serving in office. It just kept getting worse between 2002 and 2016.
The came Donald Trump and the tone became irredeemable. Every morning it seemed we’d wake up to a slew of ridiculous Trump tweets, defaming people, attacking the media, and sometimes even race-baiting. But conversely,. more often than not the Democrats and the preferred cable news channels Democrats watch, CNN and MSNBC would overstate the danger coming from Trump. Florida reflected that divide as the legislature got so intolerable in 2017 echoing the emergence Trumpism and the Speakership of Richard Corcoran that it seemed like we had hit an all-time low.
But the panic over Trump was overblown. As I wrote two weeks ago, if Trump were actually competent, disciplined and not as lazy as he was, the threat would have been very real. No question we came close to breaking multiple times during the Trump years, but never quite did. However, now Well now we meet the real threat in Ron DeSantis and it gets worse by the day.
The below letter by DeSantis is as childish and immature reaction to a negative story as I have ever seen. What DeSantis has done is taken the tone of Trump’s unhinged early morning tweets attacking media members, expanded upon it and put it on official state letterhead! The “woe is me” victimization oozes from this letter as does the absolutely demagogic belligerence.
I’ve gone through the quick narrative above mentioning how awful much of state government has been since 2001, because all of that pales in comparison in my opinion to Governor DeSantis recent unhinged behavior culminating in the below letter, the likes of which I have never seen anything remotely close to written by a public official to an entity like the Associated Press.
My concern now is beyond DeSantis’ authoritarian inclinations that he has now opened a new war on the media. Beyond the silly Trump tweets saying “the media is the enemy of the people,” DeSantis who like Trump feels victimized by the press is now taking the battle directly to them and creating a context where bullying and fear could be used as an effective weapon by the Governor against any journalist who attempts to hold him accountable.
I really cannot come up with enough adjectives to describe my indignation about the below letter and will allow the readers to evaluate the letter for themselves.
[…] Maybe it’s my romantic side, but have an idealized vision of what a press secretary should be, particularly one that is on the state or federal payroll. I never believed the Press Secretary role was one for immaturity, childishness, crass behavior or public bullying. Nor did I ever believe a Governor would ever attack The Associated Press on official letterhead, so this week has … […]