Florida's Republican Governor, Ron DeSantis, has emerged as one of the only serious potential competitors in a hypothetical matchup against Trump in the 2024 Republican presidential primary. A key ingredient of the GOP's support for DeSantis has been his unconditional embrace of far-right policies and rhetoric.
Last year, his signature made voter suppression the law in the Sunshine state—one of dozens to do so under the guise of "election security." He's targeted mask mandates and vaccine passports in the face of a pandemic that's killed more than 800 thousand Americans—including nearly 64 thousand of his own constituents. DeSantis recently proposed the "Stop W.O.K.E. Act" in an effort to feed the flames of conservative hysteria over critical race theory. Even more recently, he's expressed support for a ban on abortions in the state after 15 weeks.
Last weekend, neo-Nazis descended on Miami, Florida for a demonstration, where they marched with swastikas and chanted violently antisemitic phrases like "The Jew is the devil."
The response from DeSantis has been underwhelming.
At first, his spokeswoman—Christina Pushaw—questioned in a now-deleted tweet if the Nazis were, in fact, Nazis, floating a conspiracy theory that the demonstration was actually a stunt by Democrats. She later insisted that DeSantis has taken "an unequivocal and consistent stand against antisemitism throughout his entire political career."
At a press conference, DeSantis was asked about the demonstration. While he referred downplayed the demonstration as "some jackasses doing this on the street," and called for the arrest of those who hung Nazi signs from highway overpasses, but the bulk of his comments were devoted to slamming Democrats for supposedly trying to "smear" him.
"I'm not going to have people try to smear me that belong to a political party that has elevated antisemites to the halls of Congress, like [Democratic Congresswoman] Ilhan Omar, that have played footsie with the BDS movement."
Now, one of the largest newspapers in DeSantis' state is decrying his failure to more forcefully rebuke the Nazi demonstrators and their ideology.
The Miami Herald's editorial board wrote:
"On Monday, when DeSantis had his chance to condemn these demonstrators, when he could have simply said Nazis are bad people, when he could have made sure he didn’t give cover to those who hate, well, he didn’t. And all the manufactured anger at Democrats can’t cover up that telling silence."
Some speculated on the reasons for DeSantis' apparent hesitation to just flat out say that Nazis are bad.
Regardless of the reason, calls are growing for him to change course.
The Miami Herald, as of 2019, had more than 75 thousand subscribers.