During the January 29-30 weekend, white supremacists demonstrated in Orlando, Florida — inspiring Democrats to ask Gov. Ron DeSantis to condemn them forcefully. DeSantis responded defensively, telling Democrats he wouldn’t be “playing their game.” Never Trump conservative Jennifer Rubin weighs in on DeSantis’ response in her February 1 column for the Washington Post, arguing that DeSantis, like former President Donald Trump, avoids calling out extremists if they are supporting him.
Rubin explains, “CNN reported that DeSantis ‘lashed out at those who called on him to condemn Nazi demonstrations that had taken place over the weekend near Orlando, accusing his political opponents of trying to ‘smear me as if I had something to do with it.’ He insisted he would not be ‘playing their game.’ In response, DeSantis’ Democratic opponents for governor deplored his reaction. Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) and other Florida politicians also swiftly condemned the demonstrators.”
The 59-year-old columnist, who has voted Republican in most presidential elections but voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016 and Joe Biden in 2020, goes on to argue that DeSantis, like Trump, realizes that extremists are part of his base.
“DeSantis, even though he governs the state with the third-highest number of Jewish residents, knows his base,” Rubin writes. “He also knows the support of his potential presidential campaign would not like a leader who calls out white supremacists.”
Rubin continues, “At a time of rising anti-Semitism and just weeks after another terrorist attack on a synagogue in Texas, DeSantis’ reaction is stunning but not surprising. At its most basic level, the MAGA movement has always been about white supremacy. Its members have induced hysteria that foreigners and non-White Americans are taking over the country and marginalizing White Americans. This sentiment was central to Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric, his sympathy for white militia groups, and his fearmongering about Black people moving to white suburbs. It is what drives the efforts to suppress voting.”
Trump, Rubin notes, refused to condemn the far-right Proud Boys during his 2020 presidential race — and DeSantis, similarly, grows defensive when Democrats want him to condemn a white supremacist gathering in Orlando.
“In the minds of MAGA cult leaders such as Trump and DeSantis,” Rubin observes, “acceding to demands from cultural ‘elites’ would be a sign of weakness or evidence that they cannot withstand the criticism that comes with defending white privilege. Refusing to do so is the ultimate expression of ‘you’re not the boss of me.’”
Rubin adds, “Anyone who thinks DeSantis would be an improvement over the unapologetically racist former president need only look at this episode to see why that is wrong. On its surface, refusing to condemn Nazis in a swing state such as Florida makes no sense. But in the twisted MAGA world of white supremacy, it makes perfect sense.”
Reprinted with permission from Alternet