On Nikki Haley’s turf, Ron DeSantis makes a play for Veterans

Desantis vets
The GOP race's only military vet has a plan to help his Band of Brothers — and Sisters. Will it help in the Palmetto State?

Ron DeSantis is in third place in recent South Carolina polling, but he is spending Thursday in the state making the case that he should be the first choice for military veterans in the GOP presidential race.

The Governor was in Anderson on Thursday for his first of four stops in the Palmetto State this week, as he officially rolled out his Veterans for DeSantis Coalition, establishing that the ongoing war on “woke” extends to the U.S. military also in the same state where he rolled out his plan to rip out the “woke mind virus” from the active-duty military.

The location seemed apropos, given another ongoing war: this one with former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley over second place in Palmetto State polling.

Haley and DeSantis have been trying all week to get to the right of each other on the issue of Gaza refugee refusal, signaling that both candidates realize that they must eliminate the other one to get a one-on-one shot at Donald Trump.

The DeSantis plan includes what the campaign, ahead of the event, said would be moves to eradicate “left-wing policies not aligned with the VA’s core mission, such as critical race theory, DEI, paid leave/travel for abortion, sex reassignment surgeries, and hormone therapies” and “woke indoctrination at all military academies and the promotion of woke ideology by anyone acting on behalf of the U.S. military.”

“DC elites have weakened our nation’s military – wokeism runs rampant, morale has taken a nosedive, and recruitment has sunk to an all-time low,” said DeSantis ahead of the event, via his campaign.

In Anderson, after a lengthy opening segment of the speech that included testimonials from Sen. Jay Collins and other DeSantis backers, a playing of theme songs from every branch of the military, and an extended preamble touching on the situation in Israel and at the Mexican border, the Governor addressed the stated theme of the day.

Reciting now-familiar biographical details, DeSantis described his own “road less traveled” into the military, noting he went from a baseball-heavy childhood in Florida and a sojourn to the Ivy League to active duty during the war on terror.

The Governor noted that the “holiday from history” of his coming of age in the 1990s was interrupted by the 9/11 attacks, and the “blue-collar kid” acted on his “obligation” to “step up” and join the American effort in “places like Gitmo” and Iraq, where he performed legal services for Seal Team I.

“I did the one deployment. But we had so many people post 9/11 doing multiple deployments,” DeSantis noted. “That takes a toll on you. That’s not normal.”

“For the global war on terrorism, society didn’t really change at all,” he added, noting that the volunteer military “put a lot of stress and responsibility on a very small amount of people,” imposing visible conditions and less visible ones, such as “post-traumatic stress” and other “invisible wounds of war.”

Having established his bona fides, the Governor fast-forwarded to the present day. He vowed to “advance people based on merit,” a contrast to his view of today’s military.

“You have a lot of political agendas in the military. You have social experimentation being done in the military. As Commander-in-Chief, I’m ripping all that out on Day 1,” DeSantis said to applause.

He vowed to ensure vets wouldn’t get “lost in a sea of bureaucracy” when trying to get post-service help, working to “transcend the bureaucratic roadblocks” and “link people with others in society who are doing good services for veterans,” such as K9s for Warriors, which provides service dogs to returning military members who need them.

DeSantis also promised “clarity” in mission, and a “concrete conception” of American military interests, avoiding “Wilsonian abstractions” and “gauziness.” Consistent with previous remarks, he outlined China as the major threat to the American position in this “decisive decade” of the 2020s, poised to “overtake us” without the course correction he would provide.

A.G. Gancarski

A.G. Gancarski has written for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. He is based in Northeast Florida. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter: @AGGancarski


  • My Take

    October 19, 2023 at 9:40 pm

    Trump in prison and defeated DeSScamus back in Tallahassee would make the angels smile.
    Though not the angels looking out for Florida.

  • My Take

    October 20, 2023 at 12:49 am

    They used to caĺl his type “mountebanķs.”

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