One of the notable things about the faltering campaign of Florida governor Ron DeSantis is that many of his problems have been self-inflicted, showing a lack of political skills.
It can be said to have started with him picking a fight with the Disney company that has resulted in them backing away from massive new investments in the state. DeSantis has shown himself willing to use the power of the state and a pliant legislature to attack a company for daring to criticize him, a move that has has alarmed the natural constituency of the Republican party which is big business.
The consequences of DeSantis’s actions are not limited to the Disney dispute. Florida’s political climate, characterized by controversial policies concerning LGBTQ rights and race, has led to a growing number of conventions and conferences avoiding the state altogether. At least five groups have canceled or moved their events out of Orange County and Fort Lauderdale over concerns about the state’s policies.
Florida’s tourism industry is displaying broader signs of decline, particularly in the Orlando area. The Orange County comptroller’s office reported a 6.7% decrease in tourist development tax collections for May compared to the previous year, marking the second consecutive decrease since February 2021.
Then we had his bizarre misstep over the Florida educational standard about how slaves learned some skills that they could use later. This drew criticism from even Black Republican congresspeople but DeSantis, instead of forcefully distancing himself from that sentiment, equivocated as to his position on it. He then doubled down and attacked the congresspeople, accusing them of taking their cues from vice-president Kamala Harris. This brought yet more strong criticisms, with Black Republicans who support serial sex abuser Donald Trump (SSAT) taking the opportunity to beat DeSantis up over it.
Then we had his comment about the need to “start slitting throats”.
Rightwing Florida governor and 2024 presidential hopeful Ron DeSantis was widely condemned after he said that if elected to the White House, he would “start slitting throats” in the federal bureaucracy on his first day in power.
The president of the National Treasury Employees Union, Tony Reardon, called the hardline Republican’s comment “repulsive and unworthy of the presidential campaign trail”.
The president of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), Everett Kelley, said: “Governor DeSantis’ threat to ‘start slitting throats’ of federal employees is dangerous, disgusting, disgraceful and disqualifying.”
Among commentators, the columnist Max Boot called DeSantis’s words “deranged” while Bill Kristol, founder of the Bulwark, a conservative site, said the governor was “making a bold play to dominate the maniacal psychopath lane in the Republican primary”.
It is of course obvious that he was using throat slitting as a metaphor. While violent metaphors are commonly used in US politics (people are routinely ‘thrown under the bus’ or ‘stabbed in the back’, fierce disagreement are said to leave ‘blood on the floor’, and policies are said to be ‘dead on arrival’), those have become, in George Orwell’s words, ‘dead metaphors’, so overused that they no longer conjure any vivid, clarifying imagery, which is the purpose of metaphors. Maybe when it came to his views about cutting down the size of the federal government, the phrase ‘draining the swamp’ must have been seen by him as trite, which it is. So DeSantis has to get some credit for coming up with something original and attention grabbing in ‘slitting throats’ but he may have gone too far, causing people to recoil. The image it conjures up is something that causes revulsion except among the exceedingly violence prone.
While there is definitely a constituency of those who like having their emotions stoked to rage by an angry politician, it is not clear to me that that makes up most of the electorate. Those right wing politicians who have been successful, like Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, developed a persona as someone that people would like to ‘have a beer with’, as was often said in Bush’s 2000 campaign. Even SSAT in his 2016 run, while espousing xenophobic and racist views, looked like he was having fun. He too now rails and whines constantly, not a pleasant sight.
Even Floridians, including DeSantis’s own party members in the legislature, seems to be getting weary of DeSantis’s relentless and extreme culture war rhetoric on slavery, education, abortion, and immigration.
These self-inflicted wounds (to use another mildly violent dead metaphor) has now become the source of memes mocking him, like the second video clip below.
They said. Let Ron be Ron.
Ron being Ron… pic.twitter.com/loHge8JbEL
— Doug 🍊 (@Doug__J) August 7, 2023