Dissing DeSantis

If Donald Trump is not the Republican nominee in 2024, Ron DeSantis likely will be. So the Democratic Party knives are out.

This long–just about endless, in fact–anti-DeSantis rant in the New Yorker suggests how the Democrats will attack Florida’s wildly popular governor. It goes on at length about covid, and through the first 100 pages or so you would think people were dropping like flies in Florida due to DeSantis’s lack of enthusiasm for shutdowns and masks.

But if you slog through to near the end of the piece–it must be somewhere after page 300–you find the grudging admission that Florida has performed better than most states with regard to covid mortality. So DeSantis was right all along, although author Dexter Filkins never quite admits it.

Much of what the New Yorker does is misleading or worse. Thus, Filkins notes that early in the covid epidemic, DeSantis personally studied the medical literature in great detail, and communicated with Stanford epidemiologist Jay Bhattacharya. Filkins describes Bhattacharya as an “outlier” and writes that he was “one of three scientists who drafted the Great Barrington Declaration, which argued that many governments were doing more harm than good by shutting down economies and schools.” Filkins doesn’t choose to note that more than 900,000 doctors and other professionals ultimately signed the Declaration, and, more important, they proved to be right.

The piece devotes a lot of space to DeSantis’s personality, as Filkins sought out various Democrats who have had run-ins with the governor, along with a few old friends and associates. Must amusingly, Filkins rang the doorbell of DeSantis’s father, who was ingenuous enough to have a long talk with the would-be hatchet man, in which he said nothing helpful to the Democrats’ cause.

As happens so often in pieces of this sort, the reporter’s informants are wrongly or incompletely described, when they are identified at all. (As usual, many are anonymous Democratic Party operatives.) Thus, Filkins got an anti-DeSantis, anti-Republican quote from “Mac Stipanovich, the chief of staff to Governor Bob Martinez, a moderate Republican.” But that role ended in 1991, more than 30 years ago. Stipanovich has for years been a registered Democrat.

Likewise, Filkins gets violently anti-Republican and anti-DeSantis quotes from “Stuart Stevens, an adviser to Mitt Romney’s Presidential campaign in 2012.” He doesn’t mention that Stevens is part of the anti-Republican Lincoln Project, the worst assemblage of grifters for hire in modern political history.

And yet, the picture of DeSantis painted by his political enemies is flattering. All agree that he is very smart, extraordinarily hard-working, focused and single-minded. Which draws quite a contrast with our current, sadly floundering president. What’s not to like?

Filkins also struggles to explain Florida’s obvious success during DeSantis’s administration. If Florida is a covid death trap overseen by a racist and unlikable governor, why are so many flocking to move there? This is the best he can do:

DeSantis argued that Democratic-leaning states were run by oppressive governments eager to strip citizens of their rights. He boasted that Florida had received a stream of new arrivals, many of them fleeing states like California. (This was true, but misleading. In the course of the pandemic, California’s population decreased by roughly three hundred thousand, and Florida’s grew by about the same figure. But Florida had gained citizens at a similar rate nearly every year since the late nineteen-sixties.)

That last is simply false. City Journal reviewed the numbers in 2012:

Florida’s domestic-migration numbers were sagging. For years, Florida had led the nation in that department: from 2001 to 2006, 140,000 more people moved to Florida than departed for other states.

Nowhere near 300,000 a year, obviously.

But by 2007, annual domestic migration to Florida had dropped to 17,000. In 2008, Florida lost a net 19,000 residents to other states; in 2009, it lost 31,000. This huge reversal of Florida’s fortunes became the subject of much analysis. …

… Florida looks remarkably vibrant these days. Indeed, the state’s reversal in domestic migration has been spectacular: it gained a net 55,000 domestic migrants in 2010 and 119,000 in 2011.

Back in the black, but again, nowhere near 300,000. But no one expects a New Yorker reporter to understand, or truthfully report on, numbers.

More broadly, DeSantis is hugely popular in Florida and is cruising toward an easy re-election. That is, obviously, why the Left is now commissioning hit pieces on him. But if his policies have been outliers and failures, and he is personally aloof, angry and unlikable, how to explain his success? It is a puzzle the Democrats have yet to solve.

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