Ron DeSantis’ presidential bid is a dangerous threat to American freedoms, activists have warned after the Florida governor kicked off his campaign.
The 2024 Republican presidential primary kicked off in earnest on Wednesday (24 May) night when DeSantis announced his candidacy with a glitch-ridden event on Elon Musk’s Twitter.
In an audio stream marred by outages, he stuck to the well-worn script used by Republicans to denounce the Biden administration for pandering to the so-called “woke” agenda.
And in a campaign video released shortly after, the hard-right Florida governor claimed he was running to “lead our great American comeback” before touting his record of conservative policies in Florida, which he believed could work on a national scale.
He pitched Florida as a model for the rest of the US as he listed how his administration chose “education over indoctrination” – a reference to his reviled ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law, which has inspired restricted on LGBTQ-inclusive education across the US – and “law and order over rioting and disorder”.
Ron DeSantis would ‘set civil liberties ablaze’ as president
LGBTQ+ activists have roundly denounced Ron DeSantis’ 2024 presidential bid, warning that it threaten decades of hard-won rights for LGBTQ+ people, women, people of colour, migrants and other marginalised communities.
Brandon Wolf – press secretary for Equality Florida and survivor of the Pulse nightclub shooting – said DeSantis has “inflicted deep and lasting damage” on Florida, “eroding fundamental rights while exploiting the word ‘free’ as a hollow campaign slogan”.
“Now he’s looking to export his extremist agenda to the nation,” he said. “We should be clear-eyed about the threat DeSantis poses to freedom and what the country will look like should he get the keys to the Oval Office.”
Wolf continued: “He will ban books about your families. He will put the government between you and your doctor.
“He will rip healthcare from your children. He will wield the power of government against businesses who dissent.
“From coast to coast, he will set civil liberties ablaze to feed his own ego. DeSantis has said that he intends to ‘Make America Florida’, and we should believe him.
“That prospect should be a sobering call to action for all who value freedom and democracy. We must stop DeSantis.”
Human Rights Campaign (HRC) president Kelley Robinson denounced DeSantis’ presidential campaign – which she characterised as “divisive, cruel and chaotic” like other “MAGA politicians and Trump-imitators” – as a ‘dangerous’ bid to rollback rights for LGBTQ+ people and others the governor “considers his political enemy”.
“Dangerously out of step with average Americans’ views on freedom and equality, DeSantis has weaponised his position as governor to target and punish anyone he considers his political enemy, including LGBTQ+ families, Black and brown Floridians, immigrants and private businesses,” Robinson said.
She added: “Even with the majority of Floridians forcefully opposing his anti-LGBTQ laws and despite surging support for LGBTQ+ families nationally, DeSantis is failing to recognise the duties of the job for which he’s campaigning.
“The ‘freedom’ Ron DeSantis peddles is freedom for a very few at the expense of freedom and liberty for all.”
Robinson said the HRC will work to ensure that DeSantis’ “destructive path of weaving hate and bigotry into public law will end at the Florida border”.
Ron DeSantis’ time as governor of Florida has seen the state implement an ever-growing list of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation
In 2021, DeSantis signed a trans sports ban into law. Then a day later, he cut vital mental health counselling funding for survivors of the deadly Pulse shooting.
On 17 May, he signed into law a bill that bans gender-affirming healthcare for trans youth and enacts barriers for adults trying to access this life-saving medical treatment.
A short while later, DeSantis signed more bills attacking the LGBTQ+ community including restrictions on pronoun use in schools, a trans bathroom ban and measures tar getting drag performances.
He’s also been embroiled in a feud with Disney, one of Florida’s largest employers, after the animation giant opposed his ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law. The law targets teaching of LGBTQ+ issues and identities in public schools in Florida.
Disney promised it would work to repeal the hateful law so, in return, DeSantis sought to remove the self-governing powers the company has long-enjoyed in the state.
Ron DeSantis is largely considered the closest challenger to former president Donald Trump in the Republican nominee race.
The 2024 GOP primary also includes former Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson, South Carolina senator Tim Scott, former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley, Texas pastor Ryan Binkley, conservative talk show host Larry Elder, businessman Perry Johnson and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy.