Reihan Salam: The fate of Trumpism rests on the TIGRs
When DeSantis entered Florida’s Republican gubernatorial primary, he mostly downplayed questions of merely statewide concern, choosing instead to emphasize national and indeed international matters, such as his commitment to the U.S. alliance with Israel, and his Trumpist bona fides, as immortalized in a campaign advertisement in which he playfully exhorted his small daughter to “build the wall” (with colorful toy bricks).
And the strategy worked, at least at first. DeSantis handily won the Republican gubernatorial nomination before going on to narrowly defeat Andrew Gillum, the decidedly left-of-center African American mayor of Tallahassee, in a general election that many saw as a glimpse of America’s political future. But it is here that the story starts to change.
This being Florida, the 2018 election was marred by irregularities, and the counting of votes in the gubernatorial and Senate races dragged on for days. While Rick Scott, the then-governor of Florida, sought the president’s help in pressuring his opponent to concede defeat, DeSantis wanted Trump to stay out of his own recount battle, reportedly out of a desire to defuse rising political tensions in a state that had become the country’s premier political battleground. Denounced as a racist during his gubernatorial campaign for warning that Florida voters would “monkey this up,” “this” being Florida’s prosperity, by embracing Gillum and his program of higher minimum wages and more expansive social spending, DeSantis seemed keen to prove that he was more than a Trumpist caricature.
David Frum: The Republican party needs to embrace liberalism
Since his inauguration, DeSantis has played against type, calling for a sharp increase in funding to protect the Everglades and to mitigate the effects of climate change, even as he remains studiously neutral on its causes; touting the diversity of his senior appointments, and claiming in particular that “if you look at my total appointments, I don’t think there’s any peer recently, at least in Florida, of the number of African Americans we’ve put in”; and adopting a more permissive posture with respect to the regulation of medical marijuana than his predecessor.
He’s chosen a rising Florida Democrat, state Representative Jared Moskowitz, to head Florida’s all-important Division of Emergency Management. Even his more conventional appointments seem geared toward broadening his electoral coalition. For example, DeSantis named an erstwhile rival, former Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran, to serve as his education commissioner, perhaps out of a belief that Corcoran’s advocacy for K–12 scholarship programs and the expansion of high-performing charter schools would consolidate his support among “school-choice moms.” And he’s given his Cuban American lieutenant governor, Jeanette Núñez, a former state lawmaker from South Florida and a close ally of Rubio’s known for her more moderate stance, a very visible role, as if to signal that he’s not all sharp edges.