People often ask me if Ron DeSantis is a modern-day white supremacist. There’s a line from Andrew Gillum that speaks to that. “I’m not calling Mr. DeSantis a racist. I’m simply saying the racists believe he’s a racist”.
What I can say for sure is that the Republican governor of Florida is using racism as political currency, something very similar to Donald Trump and very dangerous. DeSantis learned that leaning in to his close ties with Trump was a winning strategy during the 2018 race for governor against Andrew Gillum.
And now what we’re seeing, due to his actions, are these culture wars. Whether it’s pulling back on African American studies, recreating our history (and destroying it through the process), attacking who we are, where we come from, and what we’ve been through, all of it plays to the base.
But DeSantis’ problem is that he won’t be able to pivot back if he wins a general election. I firmly believe he is Icarus, flying too close to the sun. I don’t think he debates well, and I don’t think he can take a punch from Donald Trump. But what he is going to do is make it very, very difficult for people of color to support him or the Republican Party because of the fact that he’s using racism to build his base.
DeSantis is a very little man, literally and figuratively, compared to Donald Trump. He’s afraid of debating Donald Trump because of the sharp elbows that come with it. But I think they both understand that the fringes of the party – those who utilize racism to make their political considerations and decisions – are part of a base that he could build and grow, and that’s the aim that he’s taking.
DeSantis isn’t trying to be Donald. He’s just trying to be “Donald-like.’’ Here’s the thing, I don’t think he can win the nomination. Donald Trump is going to be the nominee, because all he needs is one-third of the Republican party, and there’s no question that Donald Trump still has that third.
It’s personal, cultural and political. DeSantis is afraid of the power that we have when we learn our history and where we’re from. There’s nothing more dangerous than a smart intellectual Black man or Black woman. I think he’s intimidated by that. But he also realizes it’s a cultural issue that wins in the Republican party.
So how do we stop DeSantis or someone DeSantis-like from continuing to do what he’s doing?
Racists are always gonna be racist. And since the election of Trump, people have found out that using racism can get you elected President of the United States. The irony is that people always get on me about playing the race card when that’s all they do. But here’s what I believe, DeSantis is a fad and unfortunately racism is not.
As told to Amira Castilla