Florida’s Republican Governor Ron DeSantis has let his 2024 presidential campaign ambitions ride on the back of disturbingly violent rhetoric. This past weekend, DeSantis hinted that should he win the presidency, he would take action against federal employees he perceived as disloyal.
In a recent New Hampshire Public Radio interview with former Republican senator Scott Brown, DeSantis declared, “We’re going to have all these deep state people, you know we’re going to start slitting throats on day one.” Such a reference to the ‘deep state’, a baseless conspiracy theory popular among the far-right, implies that government employees allegedly undermined President Trump during his tenure.
DeSantis’ comments, while likely metaphorical, expose his readiness to adopt confrontational and divisive language. This is a clear attempt to appeal to a faction of GOP voters who have shown a growing acceptance of violence to meet their political objectives.
The Florida governor is no stranger to this brand of rhetoric. In an interview on right-wing site Real America’s Voice last month, DeSantis made similar comments regarding his pick for the Department of Defense, insinuating the need for a ‘throat-slitting’ approach to dealing with dissent.
These provocative comments are DeSantis’s attempt to reinvigorate his campaign, which has been struggling to attract a significant share of GOP-leaning voters. Recent New York Times polling data puts him well behind Trump, with just 17 percent of Republican primary voter support compared to Trump’s 54 percent. Even in a head-to-head poll with no other contenders, Trump leads DeSantis by a two-to-one margin.
There’s a clear sense that DeSantis is trying to ‘out-Trump’ the former president by echoing Trump’s aggressive rhetoric from his 2016 and 2020 presidential campaigns. However, as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D) commented last month on MSNBC, “You can’t out-Trump Trump… His attacks on teachers, schools, on LGBTQ+ Americans, I think, go way too far in the state of Florida. And I think that they are a profound political miscalculation and an overcompensation.”
Echoing Trump’s playbook, DeSantis’s actions mirror those of renowned fascists. He has even met with Hungarian President Katalin Novak, an ally to far-right Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, demonstrating a troubling alignment.
Henry A. Giroux, a member of Truthout’s board of directors and the current McMaster University Chair for Scholarship in the Public Interest, criticized DeSantis’s fascist politics in a recent op-ed. He condemned DeSantis’s “historical revisionism”, linking it to GOP efforts to suppress the history of migrants and Black and Brown people, thereby perpetuating a white nationalist agenda.
Giroux further stated, “Ron DeSantis has made clear in both his statements and policies that fascist politics is alive and well in the United States…” His litany of divisive actions – from purging voters and banning books in schools to policing Black voters who oppose his policies, and even attacking businesses like Disney – suggests DeSantis is testing the waters of fascist politics in Florida.
In the face of these alarming developments, we must stay vigilant and continue to hold our leaders accountable.