CD Davidson-Hiers/Florida Phoenix
In 2011, Ron DeSantis, the man who is now Florida’s Republican gubernatorial nominee, published a little-noticed book that was a sort of conservative call to arms in the heyday of the Republican Tea Party movement.
DeSantis structured the book as a counterpoint to Barack Obama’s 1995 best-selling memoir, Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance.
DeSantis called his book Dreams From Our Founding Fathers: First Principles in the age of Obama. DeSantis was elected to Congress in 2012, shortly after the Tea Party wave of libertarian, right-wing populists and conservative activists swept 63 House Republicans into Congress, heralding a far-right lurch for the GOP.
DeSantis is a Navy veteran who hails from the Jacksonville area, graduated from Harvard law school, and is a frequent pro-Donald Trump commentator on Fox News. He published his 2011 book through High Pitched Hum Publishing, a regional Florida press that requires authors to pay the cost of publishing their work.
The Florida Phoenix reached out to the DeSantis camp late last week to learn more about the impetus on writing Dreams From Our Founders and how DeSantis feels about the text now, but they did not offer much perspective.
Dreams From Our Founding Fathers is a detailed political work, with its gaze fixed firmly on Republican nemesis Obama.
DeSantis claims that Obama’s worldview is fundamentally at odds with the U.S. Constitution and America’s founding fathers (whom he lists as John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and George Washington.)
“Indeed,” DeSantis writes, “America and her Founders are usually seen as villains of monumental proportions by those who embrace such left-wing outlooks.”
In another part of the book, DeSantis asks: “How could he (Obama) keep faith with the philosophy of the Constitution’s creators when that philosophy conflicts with the set of beliefs ingrained into him by the various sources of influence in his life, from the dreams of central planning he received from his father to the redistributionist credos of the likes of Saul Alinsky and Jeremiah Wright?
Even if he were inclined to embrace the nation’s founding principles, his embedded belief system renders him incapable of recognizing the Founders’ achievements or building on their success. He seeks transformational change because that is all he knows. He is a prisoner of his own narrow political worldview.”
DeSantis has been criticized for racially-charged comments he made right after the primary election, saying he did not want voters to “monkey up” the state by electing Democrat Andrew Gillum (who is black.) DeSantis has also drawn attention for his past speaking appearances at events featuring white nationalists, and for his membership in a racist Facebook group – which he later condemned.
In the 2011 Dreams From Our Founding Fathers, DeSantis makes the argument that the right’s criticism of Obama had nothing to do with race. He notes that Obama had a 68 percent approval rating at the onset of his presidency, and writes that “one would have to assume that a cancerous racial prejudice suddenly infected a large number of Americans” between Obama’s inauguration and the moment his policies began to draw fire from the right.
The Affordable Care Act, the economic stimulus act, the government bailout of ailing General Motors, the federal response to the 2010 BP Oil spill – you name it, DeSantis has serious issues with how Obama handled these events.
“Americans find the federal government to be massive, costly, cumbersome and ineffectual, and most blame the leading political practitioners in the age of Obama for its dismal performance,” DeSantis writes.
He complains about a large “malady of ignorance afflicting a sizable chunk of elected officials,” and laments about America’s office-holders:
“An inclination to spend other people’s money, a lust to control the lives of their fellow citizens and a desire to perpetuate oneself in office are all characteristic of some of the most powerful political figures in the country, and it is easy to see how such figures could let these ignoble desires supplant a rigorous constitutional fidelity,” DeSantis writes.
DeSantis’s rise to become the state’s gubernatorial nominee is credited to public support by President Donald Trump. Trump tweeted admiringly about DeSantis during the campaign, urged voters to support him, and came to Florida to rally for a DeSantis victory. Trump’s support knocked the predicted front-runner, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, off the political radar screen.
Since he won the nomination, DeSantis has provided very little information about what his policies would be if he becomes governor. His “issues” page on his website is fairly lean.
One question worth asking is whether DeSantis – or outgoing Gov. Rick Scott – would get the chance to re-shape the state Supreme Court. Four justices are retiring, and there’s a court fight over whether Scott or a successive governor will get to make the picks.
In the closing pages of Dreams From Our Founding Fathers, DeSantis worries about another Supreme Court fight – this one federal. In discussing the threat posed by Obama’s 2012 reelection, DeSantis writes:
“He will also be in a position to appoint additional justices to the U.S. Supreme Court – including, perhaps, a replacement for Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, who is the longest serving justice. If Obama appoints a progressive jurist to replace Justice Scalia, then he will effectuate a dramatic shift in the direction of the Court, thereby immunizing his initiatives against constitutional attack and paving the way for uninhibited progressive activism.”
As we know, it didn’t turn out that way. Instead, Obama chose Merrick Garland (nobody’s idea of a progressive jurist) to succeed Scalia. Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to bring Garland up for nomination, claiming that it was better to wait until after the presidential election. Democrats accused Republicans of “stealing’ the nomination, and President Trump selected conservative Neil Gorsuch to replace Scalia on the bench.
On his website, DeSantis mentions one of his goals as Florida governor: “Appoint constitutional conservatives to the Florida Supreme Court.”
– Florida Phoenix Editor-in-chief Julie Hauserman contributed to this report.
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