Terry H. Schwadron
May 29, 2023
Despite his botched announcement, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has jumped into the Republican presidential stakes with both feet, apparently working feverishly to ensure that he is on the absolutely wrong side of almost every public issue that matters to people I know.
Of course, along the way, he also has managed to offend both Donald Trump, which is easy to do, and the entire swath of independent voters who have repeatedly said they oppose the kind of censorship, unrestrained blockage of abortion, attacks on voter rights, and racialist views towards immigration and education that DeSantis has decided to embrace.
But if nothing else about even these early days of a DeSantis candidacy disqualifies him, his commitment — along with Trump — to vow preemptively to gut the prosecutions and still-pending prosecutions of the vast majority of those arrested and convicted for Jan. 6 insurrection activities should make even government-hating fans take notice.
Echoing Trump — who very likely faces charges himself — DeSantis told friendly interviewers, the only kind he has allowed access, that he would give serious consideration to pardoning any crimes involving the former president and most Jan. 6 defendants.
“We will be aggressive [in] issuing pardons,” DeSantis said, arguing that the Department of Justice and FBI had become “weaponized” to pursue political rather than law enforcement goals.” He equated Jan. 6’s violent rioting to overthrow the federal government with street protests by Black Lives Matter in which there were scattered incidents of property damage.
Indeed, DeSantis’ remarks about pardons came on the same day that Stewart Rhodes, founder of the far-right Oath Keepers, was sentenced to 18 years in prison after being convicted of seditious conspiracy and other charges. Rhodes calls himself a “political prisoner.”
The DeSantis Choices
We all understand that DeSantis is making himself a mini-me to Trump and position himself as the alternative to Trump. The obvious idea that DeSantis doesn’t see a need to mention is that Trump could be, um, unavailable to serve as president if he is in jail on any of multiple criminal charges he faces.
And we understand that DeSantis wants to win Trump’s supporters by out-Trumping the favorite. That’s why we can recognize that DeSantis has chosen a political role that wants to break society’s rules and institutions from civil rights to support for racism to the role of universities or even businesses like Disney World that might find issue with his policies. These are the policies of division.
DeSantis’ positions, policies and actions continue to offend people of reason daily. He is using his statehouse supermajority to enact laws based on hate and emotion rather than on science, fact, medicine, or recognition of a pluralistic society. These are the actions of an autocrat who wants to be the governor of some, not all.
Along the way, DeSantis has had legislation passed to hide his election expenses, taken a personal role in redrawing state congressional lines for partisan purposes, has overridden laws that would have required he leave the governor’s office and has established an election fraud police unit that reports to himself. These are the actions of someone who does not believe in democracy. He campaigns on defunding the FBI and wanting to eliminate income taxes for less progressive flat taxes. These are actions about sheer political noise without substance.
But deciding that the justice system simply doesn’t apply, and that crimes we all witnessed live on televisions globally never happened is yet another step too far. In fact, it should be a litmus test for all candidates. Deciding that his power of pardon will overrule trials still ongoing in which juries have yet to speak does not comport with how justice is administered. Believing that Jan. 6 was just and legal is simply wrong.
For that matter, DeSantis has pointedly refused to acknowledge that Joe Biden’s election was legitimate.
How does this character put his hand on a Bible and swear an oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution if he doesn’t believe in it?
Preemptively deciding on a pardon strategy for those involved in the attempted overthrow of elections and the federal government is an assertion that politics trumps the courts and juries, it is a statement that power is the ultimate deciding principle.
At least in Trump, we see the obvious, that his pardon promise is self-serving. For DeSantis, it is an acceptance of an ultimate anti-democratic principle.
As former Rep. Liz Cheney says, It should disqualify him from consideration for the office he seeks.