Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Friday May 26, 2023
DeSantis’ Presidential Spectacle: From Twitter Chats to Dewoke Rats
Political journalists and pundits spent a significant portion of Wednesday fixating on the unconventional method by which Florida Governor Ron DeSantis announced his presidential candidacy. He chose to utilize Twitter Spaces for an audio conversation, accompanied by billionaire Elon Musk and David Sacks, a South African-born venture capitalist and Republican donor. Sacks had recently expressed his belief that continued military support for Ukraine could lead to a hypothetical “woke war III.”
The media engaged in rampant speculation about DeSantis’ decision to forgo an in-person event in his hometown near Tampa and pondered the level of attention he would receive from Fox News, which has a tumultuous relationship with the governor, vacillating between support and disillusionment. The spectacle resembled a Disneyworld parade with its satirical mascot, “Ron Dewoke Rat,” a twisted caricature of Mickey Mouse.
Certainly, the choice of Twitter as the platform for the announcement is intriguing, as it indicates DeSantis’ alignment with influential right-wing financiers. The message to other affluent Republicans is clear: even if you distance yourself from Trump, DeSantis will still advocate for your interests regarding tax policies, wages, and similar matters. It is akin to displaying a bumper sticker on your luxury car that assures you of safety under DeSantis’ leadership in the digital age.
Analysis: How DeSantis Allies Plan to Beat Trump in the 2024 Presidential Election
However, the rollout of the announcement was marred by embarrassing technical issues, which is unsurprising given Twitter’s frequent glitches under Musk’s ownership. It is ironic that a governor who touts his technological savvy would stumble on such a platform.
Beneath DeSantis’ incessant culture wars lies a distressing reality of policies that disregard the majority of Florida’s non-wealthy citizens. While he wages his crusade against what he perceives as “wokeness,” which translates to opposing equal and fair treatment of Black, gay, and transgender individuals, he has also fostered an environment of censorship. Florida schools have removed books like “The Hill We Climb” by Amanda Gorman, a young Black poet whose powerful recitation captivated audiences at President Biden’s 2021 inauguration. Although it is unlikely that DeSantis personally made these decisions, his relentless campaign against perceived wokeness has laid the groundwork for such acts.
DeSantis has also enacted policies regarding women’s reproductive rights that ban abortions after only six weeks of pregnancy, often before women even realize they are pregnant. He takes pride in legislation that restricts gender-affirming care for minors, targets drag shows, limits discussions of personal pronouns in schools, and enforces discriminatory bathroom policies. These actions are based on narratives that experts from major medical associations have debunked, yet DeSantis persists in spreading misinformation, such as falsely claiming that children are routinely subjected to “mutilation.”
In addition to his divisive tactics in the culture war, DeSantis has resorted to attention-seeking and destructive stunts, such as transporting plane-loads of migrants to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts and engaging in public feuds with Disney, a prominent employer and tourist attraction. Internationally, he infamously referred to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a mere “territorial dispute,” only to backtrack when his statement did not resonate well within his own party.
Analysis: Will Ron DeSantis’s culture war with Disney threaten his White House run?
Unfortunately, the media pays less attention to the fact that while DeSantis proclaims Florida to be “where woke goes to die,” the state has also become a place where its residents suffer in various ways. Florida ranks poorly in healthcare, school funding, and long-term care for the elderly. Teachers’ salaries are among the lowest nationwide, unemployment benefits are inadequate, and the governor actively opposes efforts to raise the minimum wage, which remains low in the state.
The regressive tax structure of Florida explains why wealthy individuals are flocking to the state. With no individual income tax and an exceptionally low corporate tax rate, it becomes an attractive haven for affluent Americans seeking to evade their fair share of taxes. However, this burden falls disproportionately on the poor and middle class, as the state heavily relies on sales and excise taxes for revenue. Consequently, Florida ranks worse than comparable northern states in areas such as diabetes, cancer mortality, teenage birth rates, and infant mortality.
Beneath the flashy distractions of DeSantis’ culture wars lies a grim reality of policies that neglect the majority of Florida’s non-wealthy citizens. If Florida sets the tone for the nation, electing Ron DeSantis as president could result in unfortunate repercussions stemming from his governance. (AI)
Letter to the Editor, The Hamilton Spectator, May 29, 2023
WOKE must die at Spec
I fail to understand why The Spectator would stoop so low as to publish a cartoon (May 25) of this nature. Only a small percentage of the population support WOKE. DeSantis famously stated “Florida is where WOKE comes to die” and many support him. As owner of a small USA business I follow U.S. politics closely. WOKE needs to die at The Spectator, too.
John McGrath, Dundas
‘Don’t say gay’ could lead to mass clear out of libraries (The Hamilton Spectator, Saturday June 3, 2023)
A recent letter writer (May 29) complained about an earlier Spectator cartoon. It showed “Ron DeWokeRat” (a caricature of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis) burning literature labelled “Filth” (including The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood and The Hill We Climb, the poem read by Amanda Gorman, a young black woman, at President Biden’s inauguration). The letter writer approvingly quoted DeSantis as saying “Florida is where WOKE comes to die” and then went on to argue that “WOKE needs to die at The Spectator, too.”
I couldn’t tell what the specific objection to the cartoon was but it seems that the writer supports DeSantis’ policies. These include letting parents force the removal of books they don’t like from public school libraries. I suspect the letter writer would like to see that policy replicated here.
But I wonder if the writer has thought through what would happen if it were combined with the DeSantis ban on the word “gay.” All sorts of books would disappear from the shelves, including many of the English classics.
For example, in A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens wrote of “gay crowds.” In George Eliot’s Middlemarch, we can read that “Mr. Bambridge was a man of pleasure and a gay companion.” I assume that Governor DeSantis would agree that our children shouldn’t read this, especially when you remember that the book was written by a woman pretending to be a man. Was she (horror!) transgender or did she simply cross-dress?
No doubt DeSantis would also want to remove Pride and Prejudice from the eyes of the young and impressionable. Jane Austen wrote about “the streets of that gay bathing-place.” While the book has been read by many generations, its unsuitability should have been obvious simply from its title, which includes the word “Pride”! Austen even had the gall to suggest that anyone who objected was guilty of “Prejudice.”
And don’t try arguing that the word “gay” used to mean something different. “Don’t say gay” means “Don’t say gay.”
Seriously, do those who rail against “woke” even know what it means? Merriam-Webster defines it as: “aware of and actively attentive to important societal facts and issues (especially issues of racial and social justice).” In other words, woke means learning things, being sensitive to others, and paying attention to various forms of discrimination. What’s the problem with that? Surely we don’t want to raise a generation of ignorant, selfish bigots. By Harry Shannon, Harry Shannon lives in Dundas and blogs at PROBABLYMAYBE.NET