Gov. Ron DeSantis has an opportunity to redefine his first term in office and shore up his status as “America’s Governor” by now becoming, for Floridians, the “Recovery Governor.”
For now, the only “24” DeSantis needs to worry about are the next 24 days, not 2024.
Parts of Southwest Florida were hammered this week by a monster of a hurricane, both in size and strength. Hundreds of thousands of people are without power, many have lost homes or businesses, some are stranded.
At this moment of tragedy, no one is concerned about critical race theory or owning the libs; they’re worried about surviving and recovering. DeSantis can, and should, do everything in his power to shed the dreaded “DeathSantis” nickname and become the Recovery Governor we saw in Surfside — not the one we saw during the pandemic.
There are a lot of ways to do that.
DeSantis needs to all but live in Southwest Florida, in the heart of the worst damage. I’m not talking about dropping in just for news conferences; I’m talking about literally planting himself at ground zero to project strength to those who need it most and send the message that it is safe. One suggestion: open a temporary Emergency Operations Center in, say, Fort Myers from which he can run crucial relief efforts.
Further, he needs to call on President Joe Biden to come here, too, and insist the full force of federal resources be deployed to restore affected areas. He needs to ask Biden for the world, all while avoiding a Chris Christie-esque hug.
And while you’re at it Mr. Governor, now is not the time for trolling gimmicks and partisan stunts. There will be plenty of time for bussing migrants to “sanctuary cities.” That time is not now.
Likewise, messaging around recovery, which needs to occur in much of the state, even areas that avoided the worst of the storm, is essential for everyone. A person whose roof just blew off, or a business owner who can’t open because their shop is underwater doesn’t care about politics right now and they need information wherever they get it. That means spreading the love to all media, not just the networks deemed friendly.
Ron DeSantis needs to go on CNN. Go on MSNBC. Talk to the local newspaper and TV stations.
Don’t get defensive or prickly when asked tough questions about property insurance. It’s fair to note what has been done, but it’s also crucial to acknowledge the pain and strife that are, for some, exacerbating an already horrific scenario, and to assure everyone that leadership in this state is at the ready to ensure continued solutions.
Trial lawyers won’t like this, but pledge to eliminate one-way attorney fees, end assignments of benefits, and allow for actual cash values on roofs.
It’s also essential to make Citizens’ rates actuarially sound.
And while I’m no policymaker, I and so many others know there must be a way to create targeted tax breaks for investment so that we can (and apologies for borrowing from your nemesis here) build back better.
There’s plenty more, like appointing a recovery czar. Myriad people could carry that torch, including Casey DeSantis, who has proved time and again that she knows how to deploy compassion and deliver results.
There is also an opportunity to reach across the aisle and demonstrate, as was the case in the wake of the Surfside disaster, that partisanship doesn’t matter in crisis. Appoint a Democrat to serve alongside your recovery czar. It works. Look for the next Jared Moskowitz, the rare Democrat who found success working alongside some of the state’s staunchest Republicans to mitigate the pandemic. I bet he’d be happy to offer up some recommendations.
But the bottom line is, now is the time to take a page from your predecessor’s book and find your version of Rick Scott’s famous Navy ball cap — something that inspires confidence in the residents of this state and serves as a symbol that, when they see it, they know help is on the way, and their leaders are working around the clock for them.
Democrats don’t want to hear this, but when you shelve the vitriol during moments of crisis, you are only building your case to continue serving, whether in Tallahassee or the White House.
If you need to, take that as your next opportunity to stick it to the left.