In his forthcoming book, The Courage to Be Free: Florida’s Blueprint for America’s Revival, Florida governor Ron DeSantis describes his preferred political style as follows: “My first term as governor was a whirlwind. I rejected using polls as a guide for governance because leadership is about shaping public opinion, not merely reacting to it.”
Mr De Santis’s book, which tilts at setting a national agenda, is due out on February 28. It shows him gearing up for a potential 2024 Republican presidential run with something called the “Florida blueprint”. It’s rivetting for me because I vote in Florida. But Mr DeSantis seems to be hoping the world beyond his state is mesmerised by the Florida blueprint.
He explains it as the reason he was re-elected in November 2022 with “the greatest Republican gubernatorial victory in Florida history, a near twenty-point landslide the likes of which had not been seen in Florida in a generation”. This is why, he says, he went from winning in 2018 by just over 30,000 votes, to a 2022 re-election by “more than 1.5 million votes — the largest raw vote margin of victory in Florida gubernatorial history”.
But for all the attempts to give it a fancy name, the Florida blueprint appears to be no more than Mr DeSantis’ somewhat brash fight against “wokeness”.
The governor writes: “We were able to accomplish these great electoral triumphs by taking the political road less traveled. We spent four years ignoring polls, setting out my vision for the state, successfully implementing that vision, and producing tangible results. From day one, I was fully prepared to let the political chips fall where they may. That we not only succeeded electorally, but did so in dramatic fashion, demonstrates that doing good policy can lead to good politics.
“The Florida Blueprint is a simple formula: be willing to lead, have the courage of your convictions, deliver for your constituents, and reap the political rewards. This is a blueprint for America’s revival. We’ve shown it can be done.”
But even conservatives aren’t totally sold on the Florida blueprint.
New Hampshire’s Republican governor Chris Sununu, for instance, has made a disapproving, if veiled reference to Mr DeSantis’s decision to assume authority over Disney World – punishment for the company’s opposition to a measure restricting classroom instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity. It’s true Mr Sununu may not have high-minded motives – he may run for the Republican presidential nomination himself – but the terms of his argument are worth noting. Describing himself as “a principled free-market conservative,” Mr Sununu said: “For others out there that think that the government should be penalizing your business because they disagree with you politically, that isn’t very conservative.”
Then there is the criticism advanced by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a right-of-centre group that believes in all Americans’ right to free speech and free thought and even argued for white nationalist Richard Spencer’s right to speak on a Florida campus. Though it works with Mr DeSantis on some issues, FIRE has criticised Florida’s heavy-handed approach to forcing conservative beliefs on universities and is suing the state over the Stop WOKE Act, one the governor promoted as a way to control the teaching of certain topics.
Will Stop WOKE metamorphose into Stop DeSantis?