Don’t Let Ron DeSantis Use Hurricane Ian to Cover Up His Right-Wing Agenda

We are seeing a lot more Florida Governors in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian. Ron DeSantis appears in the media. We shouldn’t be confused: He is running for reelection and aspires to run for president. Any actions he takes in the aftermath should be seen as performative gamesmanship. Based on what we’ve seen, it is safe to say that his administration is about power and control. There is no reason not to believe that the devastation of this season will result in better treatment of the weak. He has shown a vindictiveness, cruelty, and inhumanity that are more suited to a movie villain rather than a democratically elected leader.

In April 2022 MSNBCColumnist Michael Cohen wrote of DeSantis, “Over the past several weeks in Florida, DeSantis has shown what a politician unmoored from fundamental democratic principles — and intent on waging political warfare — can achieve.” Cohen expressed those sentiments after DeSantis tossed out congressional lines that a bipartisan committee developed and drew his own. Advocates like me argued that DeSantis’s lines would make it harder for Black people to elect candidates of their choice.

But there have been a host of moments that have highlighted DeSantis’s true nature. For instance, he took steps — such as failing to mandate COVID-19 vaccines — that undermined the health and safety of children and education during a hellish pandemic. His character was most recently displayed when he rounded up unsuspecting immigrantsWith promises of housing and employment, they instead sent them to Massachusetts to be welcomed by a community that was not prepared for them.

DeSantis also showed his true colors by his treatment of those with felony convictions. After Floridians voted in a ballot initiative that would allow returning citizens as well as people with felonies to vote to be allowed to vote, DeSantis was immediately elected. found a way to make it harder for returning citizens to exercise that right. Later, he and his acolytes began arresting said individuals when they attempted to participate in our nation’s democracy by registering to vote. Leading up to the August 9 primary, DeSantis’s election officials arrested 20 people for allegedly being ineligible to vote. After the Florida Rights Restoration’s constitutional amendment expanded access to the ballot for persons with felonies, many people who had been incarcerated believed that they’d have a true shot at participating in our nation’s democracy. Participation in future elections will be hampered by the threat of being charged with voting as a returning citizen.

DeSantis has done everything to make it harder for people who are not like him and who do not vote like he. At this moment, however, I am particularly troubled by that heOther Florida Republicans voted against or opposed disaster relief (some as recently as September 2022) even though the climate crisis is causing weather emergencies to occur with increased frequency and coastal communities like ours are especially vulnerable. The trauma is more than a news cycle. Florida’s disasters are becoming more severe and costly, which has led to higher housing costs. a dearth of affordable housingHomelessness is rising. Being an elected leader means one must be a planner; DeSantis not only didn’t prepare but also appears to resent people who attempt to do so.

These are just a few reasons why we shouldn’t be confused about DeSantis. He’s shown us time and time again. If he didn’t care about the most vulnerable in good times, why do we expect him to change now? Don’t let the plentiful media appearances fool you. This administration does not need to think that the storm is a major turning point. It is already broken.

No one should be complicit with DeSantis’s image-reform. The same people who were vulnerable before Hurricane Ian — marginalized communities including people of color, people living in poverty, people with prior criminal records, women and children — remain vulnerable today. There is no other way.

I believe in redemption but accountability is a must. Leaders who make people suffer should not be allowed to get away with it. DeSantis should be evaluated with the same measure of grace he has given to others — and that is very little. But most importantly, we should not be fooled: He has shown us repeatedly who he is’