GOP Voting Rights Intimidator/Suppressor Governor Ron DeSantis—He Has the Nerve to Quote Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. January 25, 2022
January 19, 2022. Not one of the United States Senate’s finest days. On that date, the Senate made a mockery of itself. First, by a vote of 49-51, the Senate failed to block a GOP filibuster on voting rights reform legislation that combines key provisions of two proposed bills, the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act (cnn.com, Foran, Zaslav, & Barrett, 1/19/22). These major bills would have stopped partisan gerrymandering, set minimum and less burdensome requirements for early voting, decided what forms of voter identification were necessary at polling places throughout the nation, and made voter registration easier. This legislation was needed to stop the rash of voting restrictions passed by GOP-run states. In the past nine months, Demagogue Donald and his rabid followers have prodded such states to make sure that “Team Red” will lose fewer national and local elections by putting in place very restrictive voting laws. These “Red”-run states have enacted tough and burdensome voting laws that hit middle-class and racial minorities, often strong Democratic voters. Such a tactic keeps turnout low, which often favors Republicans. GOPers in Georgia and Florida and 17 other states have recently enacted 33 such voting restriction laws and are continuing to push for passage of more such election impediments (See nytimes.com, Corasanti & Epstein, 1/11/22, daily kos, 11/12/22). Unlike the recently passed COVID relief and infrastructure bills involving budget issues which require just a 51- majority vote in the 100-person Senate, the voting rights bills require a 60-vote majority to clear a GOP filibuster, or endless debate. Despite all the GOP’s yammering about the “sacredness” of the filibuster, the filibuster is nothing more than an internal Senate rule kept in that chamber’s procedures by none other than Aaron Burr, Alexander Hamilton’s killer. Filibusters were normally used by Southern Senators in the 1940’s and 1950’s to kill civil rights bills. However, under “obstructionists king” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), just about any legislation involving non-budgetary matters is subject to the filibuster. As the late Senate Democratic leader Nevadan Harry Reid aptly joked, “nowadays, the Senate needs 60 votes to invoke cloture or stop filibusters to turn off its lights!” Voting rights legislation used to receive bi-partisan support. The late GOP Senator Kansan Bob Dole was a strong supporter of such legislation. He argued that GOPers must not be seen as reactionaries in this area. Well, with Dole gone and Trump running the GOP from top to bottom, “Team Red” could care less that it is labeled reactionary. Not one of 10 GOPers, including Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Mitt Romney (R-UT), had the courage to vote with the Democrats to support voting rights and bring seven other “Red” Senators with them. They are afraid of their violent Trump base. They also fear “Obstructionist Mitch” having primary challengers run against them and cutting off their campaign contributions.
Once this vote to pass the voting rights bills failed, Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) made his next move—change the filibuster rules to allow a “talking filibuster.” A “talking filibuster” was what was originally employed in the 1940’s and 1950’s. Under that procedure, instead of just raising one finger to force a cloture vote, Senators would have to come to the floor and continuously speak in opposition until they were exhausted. Once these speeches ended, a simple 51-vote Senate majority would be all that was needed for a bill’s final passage. Again, this vote failed, this time by a 52-48 majority. Forty-eight Democrats voted in favor of this bill, the largest vote ever for filibuster reform. Again, all 50 GOPers were in the “Nay” column However, the two “usual suspects” Sen. Joe Manchin (“D”-WVA) and Kyrsten Sinema (“D”-AZ) voted with the GOP. Had all the 50 Democrats voted in favor of the “talking filibuster,” VP Kamala Harris could have broken the tie and the 100 -member Senate would have passed filibuster reform by a 51-49 vote. The voting rights bills then would also have passed by a 51-49 majority. Manchin and Sinema were “Yeas” for the voting rights bills along with their fellow Democrats. However, they voted to preserve untouched this “sacred” (NOT) filibuster. Sinema was photographed shaking hands with the “victorious” GOPers she aided and abetted (cnn.com). Attorney Sinema and Manchin, a former W. VA Governor and now Senator who comes from a politically-connected family, had to know that you win or lose votes on procedure (See Cohen & Cook 2022 Political Almanac, cnn. com, Foran et al, 1/19/22). Procedure in law and in Congressional legislation is often everything. Manchin has repeatedly spoken of reviving the “talking filibuster” which would make fools of GOPers yammering for hours about suppressing voting rights. However, he made sure to waste his pro-voting rights vote along with Sinema by killing procedural reform. Their actions were no surprise, but they were absolutely disgusting and on the wrong side of history. Not even President Biden’s strong 1/11/2022 powerful speech supporting voting rights and filibuster reform made an impression on the two of them and 10 GOPers. These Senators do not seem to care, as Biden said in that Atlanta, GA speech, that the filibuster has made the Senate a “shell of itself (See Corasanti & Epstein, nytimes.com, 1/11/22).”
With the Senate’s shooting down the voting rights legislation and failing to rein in the filibuster, state GOP “leaders” have become more emboldened to pile on voting rights restrictions. Exhibit A—Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (43). In 2021, DeSantis who heads a GOP trifecta in the Sunshine State, (governorship and two state legislative chambers held by the same party), signed State Senate Bill 90. Under this law, election supervisors have been forced to shift and scale back drop boxes where ballots are put in. This law additionally requires voters to register more often for mail-in ballots. This law makes it illegal for a trusted care giver or friend to drop off a ballot (miami.cbslocal.com, Quynh, 1/17/22). However, this draconian voter suppression bill is not enough for DeSantis. Gov. DeSantis plans to go even further. He is now asking his GOP-dominated state legislative chambers to approve $5.7 million for a special police force to oversee elections. DeSantis said that this force “will facilitate the faithful enforcement of election laws and will provide Floridians with the confidence that their vote will count (cnn.com, Bradner, 1/19/22, Cohen & Cook 2022).” Never mind that Trump won FL in 2020 by nearly 400,000 votes. According to DeSantis “voter fraud” remains a key issue. Huh? Despite study after study, there is no evidence that any major election in the country was victimized by “voter fraud” that Trump and DeSantis are screaming about. A study done by Levitt found exactly 31 out of more than 1 billion votes cast affected by attempted voter fraud. Talk of statistical insignificance! Trump loyalist Attorney General Bill Barr found no voter fraud in the 2020 election and neither did a five-year-study conducted by former GOP President “W” Bush (cnn.com, Cillizza, C., 1/19/22). Did such evidence deter lawyer/ Gov. DeSantis (CQ 117th Cong. At Your Fingertips)? Of course not. DeSantis still wants to create an Office of Election Crimes and Security that will investigate election crimes and fraud. This office will contain 52 staff members, including 20 sworn law enforcement officers and 25 non-sworn investigators. The office, in DeSantis’ words, will “review and investigate election crimes and irregularities and make referrals for further legal action directly to a Statewide Prosecutor.” Currently no other state in the country has such an office or investigative force (Cillizza, C., cnn.com, 1/19/22). FL law enforcement agencies, local election officials, and state prosecutors already have the power to enforce their state’s election laws. DeSantis’ unit would report to FL’s Dept. of State, an agency overseen by the governor himself and administered by Secretary of State Laurel Lee, a DeSantis appointee. This proposed law reeks with the appearance of partisanship and unfairness (See cnn.com Contorno & Schouten, 1/19/21). DeSantis’ push for this special election police unit to go at non-existent voter fraud has caught the interest of Georgia GOP gubernatorial candidate, former U.S. Senator David Perdue. Echoing DeSantis, Perdue has called for “an Election Law Enforcement Division in the State of Georgia.” This division, would “investigate election crimes and fraud.” After losing his Senate seat to Democrat Jon Ossoff in 1/2021, Perdue plans to go to the right of GOP GA Gov. Brian Kemp to win the GA state executive mansion in 2022. Demagogue Donald has endorsed Perdue to unseat Kemp (cnn.com, Merica, 1/20/22).
Democrats in FL’s congressional delegation rightly complained to Attorney General Merrick Garland to intervene against DeSantis’ voter suppression and intimidation. These FL Democratic Congressmembers recently wrote to Garland that “FL has seen a disturbing rise in partisan efforts at voter suppression (Bradner, cnn.com, 1/19/22).” DeSantis, despite his strong attempts to intimidate and suppress voting rights, has the utter nerve, to quote Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a key supporter of voting rights. DeSantis also quoted King to “back” up his support for a bill to bar teaching “critical race theory” in FL schools and workplaces. Again, like voting fraud, “critical race theory,” or telling whites that they are “inherently racist,” has never been taught in schools or workplaces (See yahoo.com, Vlamis, K., 12/15/21). It is another GOP bugaboo used to win elections like it did for Republican Glenn Youngkin in his recent 11/2021 VA gubernatorial race. Who is Ron DeSantis?
Jacksonville, FL native Ronald Dion DeSantis (43) is currently serving his first term as Governor of Florida. He is running for re-election in 2022. Italian-American DeSantis’ father installed Nielsen TV ratings boxes and his mother was a nurse. After his family moved to Orlando, they relocated to Dunedin when Ron turned six (Obittree.com, Smith & Leary, tampabay.com, 10/22/21, Perry, 9/08/15, saintpetersblog.com, Cohen & Cook, 2022 Political Almanac). A talented baseball player, DeSantis made the final four of the 1991 Little League World Series and captained Yale University’s baseball squad. He obtained a 2001 Yale Bachelor’s degree and a 2005 Harvard Law degree (Cohen & Cook 2022). DeSantis became a judge advocate general in the Navy and served at Guantanamo Bay and in Iraq. He earned a Bronze Star and has remained a Lt. Commander in the Navy Reserve. In 2009, he married his wife Casey, a former Jacksonville TV host, who remains one of his few close confidants (Cohen & Cook 2022).
DeSantis first ran for office in 2012, when the newly formed 6th Congressional District (CD) in the Daytona Beach area had no incumbent. DeSantis wrote a book called “Dreams From Our Founding Fathers,” a play off Pres. Obama’s memoir “Dreams From My Father.” In his book, DeSantis touted his military experience and strongly conservative views. He easily defeated six other GOPers in his primary and clobbered his Democratic opponent by 14 points in this heavy “Red” area (Cohen & Cook 2022). In the House, DeSantis, an anti-government Tea Party conservative (npr.org), helped found the extremist Freedom Caucus. The “Freedumb Caucus” gave GOP Speaker John Boehner political headaches and forced him to resign. Beyond his Freedom Caucus buddies, DeSantis was known for having few friends. He proudly stated that “I was not in Congress to necessarily socialize… and to make friends.” In 2014, DeSantis handily won re-election to a second term with 63% of the vote. When GOP Senator Marco Rubio initially stated he would run for President in 2016, DeSantis entered the Senate race, but struggled to gain traction. When Rubio decided to reclaim his Senate seat, DeSantis quit this contest. He coasted to victory in his third House race, getting 59% of the vote in 11/2016 (Cohen & Cook 2022).
In 2018, FL GOP Gov. Rick Scott was term limited. The initial front-runner for the GOP gubernatorial nomination, with establishment backing, was Adam Putnam. Putnam was a former state legislator, congressman, and twice elected-FL Agriculture Secretary. Putnam came from a prominent citrus family and had a heavy financial war chest. However, DeSantis had one “bigly” weapon, Demagogue Donald. On Twitter, Trump personally made clear that DeSantis was his choice. Trump-aligned conservative figures and donors supported DeSantis. DeSantis ran a nationally focused campaign. He made 121 appearances on Fox and Fox Business, which FL political reporter Marc Caputo estimated would have cost normally $9.3 million to purchase. DeSantis aired a commercial in which he taught one of his children to build Trump’s border wall using blocks and read Trump’s “The Art of the Deal” to his infant. The FL GOP base loved these ads and DeSantis won the Republican primary by a 20% margin (Cohen & Cook 2022).
In the Democratic primary, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum (39) upset several better- known candidates, including moderate Cong. Gwen Graham, the daughter of popular former Sen. Bob Graham. Gillum, the son of a bus driver and construction laborer, was the first in his family of seven children to graduate from college, Florida’s A&M University. He won election to the Tallahassee City Council at 23 and later became that city’s mayor for four years. Gillum, unlike conservative DeSantis, governed as a strong progressive that most FL Democrats backed (Cohen & Cook 2022). In the 11/2018 gubernatorial election, DeSantis advocated tax cuts and repeal of Obamacare. He stated he would not have signed the gun control bill that GOPer Gov. Scott did after the mass shooting at FL’s Parkland Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. DeSantis was against able-bodied childless adults receiving Medicaid. He supported a state level ban on sanctuary cities for undocumented immigrants (orlandosentinel.com, Rohrer, 8/31/18). Gillum stuck with his progressive views (Cohen & Cook 2022). During the gubernatorial race, DeSantis was criticized for saying, “The last thing we need to do is to ‘monkey this up’ by trying to embrace a socialist agenda (nbcnews.com).” The term “monkey” was seen by many as a racist dog whistle against African-American Gillum (rollcall.com, 8/30/18). Gillum had a modest but consistent lead in the polls. However, 40-yearold DeSantis won by just 32,000 votes out of 8 million cast. It took a week and a half before Gillum conceded. Gillum won about 90% of the votes that Hillary had taken in 2016 and flipped several key counties “Blue.” However, DeSantis triumphed because he over-performed in Miami-Dade County. He heavily courted voters of Cuban, Venezuelan, and Central American descent. DeSantis constantly labeled Gillum a “socialist” to these groups, many of them or their families refugees from Communism. This “socialist” canard, first employed by victorious DeSantis in 2018, helped GOPers take back Miami-Dade County House seats and helped Trump win FL in 2020 as well (Cohen & Cook 2022).
DeSantis’ FL gubernatorial win pushed him into national prominence. In 7/2021, CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference, held informal straw polls to decide whom to back for the White House in 2024. When his name was put on the ballot, Donald won 70% of the roughly dozen candidates to DeSantis’ 21%. On a second ballot, when Trump’s name was omitted, these right-wing ideologues gave DeSantis 68% of their votes. Former Trump Sec. of State Mike Pompeo, DeSantis’ closest “contender,” came in at just 5% (cnn.com, Reston, 7/11/21). The national media started “hyping” DeSantis as the next “great conservative hope.” GOP donor Dan Eberhart called DeSantis “Trump but a little smarter, more disciplined and brusque without being too brusque.” Well, here is a look at the true reactionary DeSantis. Yes, DeSantis is now slightly “feuding” with Demagogue Donald because he has not yet stated that he would “stand aside” if Trump runs for the White House again in 2024 (nytimes.com, Martin & Haberman, 1/18/22). Ignore this feuding. DeSantis is where he is because of Trump. DeSantis is a “Mini-ME” Trump, and will carry out Donald’s agenda, should he win the White House.
DeSantis has governed FL, Trump’s new home, in the style that Demagogue Donald likes. DeSantis slashes at the political left and tangles with the news media. Despite his feuding with him, Trump has called first-term Gov. DeSantis a “strong choice for vice president (nytimes.com, Martin & Haberman, 1/18/22).” DeSantis has worked with GOPers to undermine a statewide ballot measure that allows ex-felons the right to vote. A new law slowed this process and required ex-felons to pay all their outstanding fees to vote. Critics called this law an illegal poll tax, but the conservative U.S. Supreme Ct. allowed it to stand. DeSantis signed a bill restricting “sanctuary cities,” in line with Donald’s views (Cohen & Cook 2022). In his second year in office, Gov. DeSantis feuded with Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, the only statewide Democrat elected to office in FL. He cancelled cabinet meetings to keep Fried from promoting her platform. After the Black Lives Matter protests, DeSantis provoked critics by proposing new penalties for public demonstrations that result in injuries. He would also make it a crime to obstruct traffic during protests without a permit. GOP leaders backed these bills, but they have not been enacted. DeSantis quietly signed a bill requiring parental consent for abortions. He signed a bill requiring some employers to use the E-Verify immigration database, but included some exceptions for much of FL’s major agricultural industry. Of course, talk tough on immigration, but exempt your state’s big donors and employers. DeSantis signed legislation to raise the bar for approving ballot measures. Such a move angered Democrats who as the minority party in FL have used ballot measures to enact policies they can’t in the state legislature (See Cohen & Cook 2022).
Of course, DeSantis’ toughest challenge was handling the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the “Orlando Sun Sentinel,” DeSantis, who owes his job to Trump and his rabid supporters, followed Trump’s combative “non-policy” on COVID-19. He suppressed unfavorable facts about the pandemic, dispensed dangerous misinformation, dismissed public health professionals, and promoted the views of scientific dissenters. According to public health experts, politics rather than science, dictated FL’s response to CCOVID-19 under DeSantis (washingtonpost.com, 7/25/20, Wootson et al, 7/25/20, sunsentinel.com, Goodman, et al, 12/08/20, Cohen & Cook 2022). DeSantis rejected the implementation of a statewide face mask mandate and pushed for a quick reopening of the FL economy. Like most GOPers, he blamed their pet scapegoat, Dr. Anthony Fauci, for the spread of COVID-19 (See nytimes.com, Martin & Haberman, 1/18/22). DeSantis called on FL school districts to conduct five days of in-person teaching in the fall of 2020 and for quickly re-opening of the economy. Even in the summer of 2020, when COVID cases were rising, DeSantis touted FL as “open for business.” He called professional wrestling an “essential” business (Cohen & Cook 2022). DeSantis campaigned with Trump unmasked (bbc.com, 5/20/21). On 5/03/2021, DeSantis signed an executive order rescinding the state of emergency in FL. On that same date, he signed a bill prohibiting businesses, cruise ships, schools, and government entities from requiring proof of vaccination for use of services (tampabay.com, Mower & Ross,5/03/21, Call, tallahassee.com, 5/03/21). In 8/2021, President Biden singled out FL and TX as “states with low vaccination rates that account for one third of all new COVID-19 cases in the entire country.” DeSantis accused Biden of being the “elected official doing the most to enable the transmission of COVID because of his open border policies (washingtonpost.com, Kesler, 8/06/21).” This false and dangerous nonsense was refuted by the Washington Post and PolitiFact. DeSantis appointed vocal vaccine opponent Joseph Ladapo as his surgeon general in 9/2021 (cbsnews.com, Cohen, 1/23/21). Local officials knocked DeSantis for restricting their ability to enforce coronavirus mandates locally. FL residents complained about DeSantis’ bumpy vaccine rollout, and public health officials questioned DeSantis’ handling of data on the virus. As a result of DeSantis’ awful non-handling of COVID-19, his gubernatorial ratings showed double-digit declines (Cohen & Cook 2022).
In 2022, Gov. DeSantis will probably face a re-election challenge from either Democratic Agricultural Commissioner Nikki Fried or former GOP FL Governor Charlie Crist. Crist later became a Democrat. He is now a third-term Congressmember representing FL’s 13th Congressional District (CD) in the swingy Pinellas County area that includes the city of St. Petersburg. Whoever wins the Democratic nomination must be backed strongly by FL Democrats, moderates, and independents. They must come out in droves plus in 11/2022 to return sane government to FL by defeating Trump heir Ron DeSantis. DeSantis’ attacks on voting rights and social welfare in FL must stop.