Democrats say DeSantis presidential campaign brings ‘bigotry’ to the national stage

“Anytime a right-wing fascist who supports racist policies is elevated in any kind of way, it's dangerous for the country." — U.S. Rep. Maxwell Frost, D-Fla. 

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Now that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has officially entered the 2024 presidential election, Democrats are quickly throwing cold water on his campaign and sounding the alarm about the risks they say he poses to Black and other marginalized communities.

DeSantis made his presidential ambitions social-media official on Wednesday evening during a Twitter Spaces event with owner and CEO Elon Musk. The digital event was marred by technical difficulties.

“[It’s] kind of lame,” U.S. Rep. Maxwell Frost, D-Fla., told theGrio in response to the Florida governor’s unconventional campaign rollout. 

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during an Iowa GOP reception on May 13, 2023 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Although he has not yet announced his candidacy, DeSantis has received the endorsement of 37 Iowa lawmakers for the Republican presidential nomination next year. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

Frost, who represents Florida’s 10th Congressional District, said a DeSantis 2024 campaign is “dangerous” for all Americans, particularly Black, brown and LGBTQ+ individuals.

“Anytime a right-wing fascist who supports racist policies is elevated in any kind of way, it’s dangerous for the country,” said the 26-year-old congressman. 

He continued, “Not just in terms of legislation, which is obviously dangerous, but also in terms of the fact that his message and his bigotry are going to be brought to a broader audience.

Florida state Sen. Shevrin Jones shared the same concerns about vulnerable populations that he believes have felt the negative impacts of DeSantis’ legislation and policies, including those banning diversity and inclusion efforts and prohibiting discussions of LGBTQ+ identity in public schools.

“African Americans, LGBTQ people, immigrants, all of these marginalized communities in Florida, have seen the wrath of Ron DeSantis’ policies,” Jones, Florida’s first openly gay Black lawmaker, told theGrio. “Now he will have a bigger platform to be able to tell all of America his disdain for individuals who are not white cis men [and] who are Republican.”

Frost and Jones were recently appointed to the Biden-Harris 2024 campaign’s national advisory board. Both Florida Democrats are confident in President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris’ chances for reelection, whether DeSantis is the nominee or it is the clear frontrunner in the Republican primary field: former President Donald Trump.

“I think the president will beat both of them,” said Frost. 

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris join hands on Feb. 3, 2023 after speaking at the Democratic National Committee winter meeting in Philadelphia. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Jones said the Biden-Harris campaign only has to remain focused on one clear message: “President Biden has been delivering for the American people.” 

Frost noted that the country is seeing a rise in hate crimes and incidents of racism and antisemitism “because of people like Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis.”

The Gen Z lawmaker told theGrio that in order for DeSantis to become the nominee and clinch the presidency, he will have to “out-Trump Trump.”

He described the political strategy of DeSantis and the GOP more broadly as a “race to the bottom in the Republican Party,” which he said includes “being more racist than [Trump] is, being more transphobic [and] homophobic than he is.”

DeSantis faces an uphill battle, as Trump continues to dominate national polling of likely Republican primary voters. And critics argued that he lacks charisma and an ability to connect with voters in face-to-face interactions. 

“DeSantis does well in polished environments where he controls everything,” noted Frost. “But the thing with a primary for president … it’s all about retail politics, person-to-person connections and I think we’re about to see DeSantis really falter.”

He added, “God bless his heart on the debate stage with Donald Trump.”

Ultimately, candidates for president must demonstrate to voters that they are capable of leading. 

U.S. Rep. Maxwell Frost, D-Fla., questions witness on Feb. 7, 2023 during a House House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on the U.S. southern border in the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

Frost said it’s also about “building a movement around common shared values.” He added, “It takes a special type of trait and skill to build a movement. I’m not sure DeSantis has shown that he is a leader of a movement quite yet.”

Critiques aside, DeSantis was reelected as Florida governor last November with a historic 20-point win, signaling momentum for a national campaign that will need the support of Florida voters to cross the finish line. Many Republican members of the Florida congressional delegation, however, have already endorsed Trump. 

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis addresses the crowd before publicly signing HB7, “individual freedom,” also dubbed the “stop woke” bill during a news conference on April 22, 2022 at Mater Academy Charter Middle/High School in Hialeah Gardens, Florida. (Daniel A. Varela/Miami Herald via AP, File)

Jones said, ultimately, “Ron DeSantis is not ready for prime time.”

“The only way [he’s] shown [his] leadership was by beating down on the little man and little woman, marginalized communities, beating up on corporations like Disney,” Jones continued.  “Nobody wants that.”

Gerren Keith Gaynor

Gerren Keith Gaynor is a White House Correspondent and the Managing Editor of Politics at theGrio. He is based in Washington, D.C.

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