The ‘nasty meter’ in Florida remains high under President Biden. Blame Gov. DeSantis.

Opinion  by FABIOLA SANTIAGO, The Miami Herald, May 28, 2021

For a nanosecond in Florida, many of us exhaled at the return of class, decency and civility to the White House with the election of centrist Democrat Joe Biden.

Please God, let the next four years be boring, very, very boring, I prayed.

This, I should note, is a request that goes against the best interests of journalists like me who have built into our job descriptions a high dose of drama and conflict.

But I was willing to sacrifice narrative for country.

No need.

During the last four months in gerrymandered Florida, you wouldn’t know that measured and inclusive Biden was president.

The Republicans who delivered the state to Trump and swept legislative state and congressional races rammed down everyone’s throats their civil rights-curtailing agenda — and crowned Gov. Ron DeSantis king of Trump State.

The beneficiaries of bill after bill this legislative session were big-time GOP donors, DeSantis himself (he outlawed his current and potential hecklers) — and the resident-in-chief at Mar-a-Lago.

The ex-president remains so powerful here that formerly anti-gambling conservative Republicans voted to approve DeSantis’ expansion of a gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe that includes language opening up the possibility of Trump bringing slot machines to his financially challenged hotel in Doral.

I bid a premature goodbye to Trump when he was defeated. He owns the Florida GOP, and the love affair is reciprocal.

So, whereas the appointments and the images coming from the Biden White House reflect America’s dynamic diversity, DeSantis homed in on delivering as lily-white a picture of his rule as Trump used to do from his White House.

DeSantis, for example, signed legislation cracking down on Black protests and First Amendment rights surrounded by an all-white group of men in uniform.

And, when vaccines were at a premium, the governor sent them first to largely red counties and held press conferences to announce their availability, but seldom actually encouraged Floridians to vaccinate en masse, lest he upset his kooky anti-vax donors.

Likewise for the mask-wearing tug-of-war, which DeSantis helped politicize and fueled.

He likes to generate headlines a la Trump and keep the Florida media in a perennial state of outrage reporting.

Prayers were answered with Biden, though, who is, indeed, boring, focused, solid.

Just about every weekday evening, the White House press office sends his schedule for the next day as does for Vice President Kamala Harris — and even her husband, the Second Gentleman.

The next day, come press pool reports of Biden’s every move, press releases on policy points and a paper version of what was said at the press gaggle by Press Secretary Jen Psaki.

Normal stuff.

Psaki usually doesn’t have to defend racist immigration policy or explain the president’s latest offensive, vacuous verbiage toward an ally.

Mostly, it’s a yawn, the only excess being the price tag of Biden’s ambitious infrastructure plan.

DeSantis, on the other hand, doesn’t send his schedule ahead of time.

He complies with Sunshine State laws by sending selected line items of his day’s agenda when it’s all over, at the end of the day. That way he can avoid the media he doesn’t want at his press conferences.

To be fair, I don’t have to look up synonyms for crass when writing about DeSantis as I did with Trump. He’s not the Chusma-in-chief Trump was.

He’s the kind who creates division in the shadows, while in the company of favored lobbyists, donors and acquiescent Republicans — and lets his supporters take care of the street-level nasty.

Case in point: A dear reader — a retired professional and world traveler grounded only by COVID-19 — was standing recently at the deli line in a southwest Miami-Dade Publix wearing her mask when the mask-less woman in front of her turned around.

“Why are you wearing a mask?” she admonished. “Don’t you know that Publix doesn’t require masks anymore?”

My reader answered that she knew this but chose to wear one.

“The woman laughed and called me ‘a stupid Communist,’ she said. “I kid you not. I wanted to call her an ignorant Trumper, but fortunately the deli manager came out to intervene.”

A scene out of textbook FloriDUH — with a trite, ignorant and properly Trumpian Miami twist.

There’s no respite from meanness in the coveted Sunshine State, where the only thing Democrats and Republicans moving here from all over the country have in common is that they want to live free of state taxation.

Divided we stand.

The nasty meter remains intact in Florida, as if crass, indecent, inhumane Donald Trump were still in charge of our destiny.

Blame DeSantis, his disciple.

He could’ve — he should’ve — tried to bring us a measure of peace and reconciliation after the presidential election, but then, he wouldn’t be Ron DeSantis, the power-hungry, national aspirant to greatness, would he?

People seeking the gratification of false equivalency keep asking me why I don’t write critically about Joe Biden.

Because DeSantis takes up all the space in the room, and then some. That’s why.

 Image Credits: DREW ANGERER/GETTY

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