Politics & Policy

Democrats Play the Race Card against DeSantis

Ron DeSantis at CPAC 2016 (Gage Skidmore)
The Left speciously calls a common expression racist.

Imagine that Bob says: “America needs serious bank reform.”

Jack replies: “Stop picking on the Jews, you filthy anti-Semite!”

Similarly, Sue says: “Our high school has plenty of students with strong math and science skills. We should focus more on literature and the arts.”

Beth responds: “What do you have against Asian kids?”

Likewise, Richard says: “America needs law and order.”

Hubert replies: “Stop calling black people criminals.”

Who are the real bigots here — the alleged racists or the ones who play the race card?

This question has electrified the Sunshine State. Representative Ron DeSantis (R., Fla.) spoke with Fox News soon after his August 28 gubernatorial nomination upset over early favorite Adam Putnam. DeSantis discussed his uber-liberal Democratic opponent, Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum, who happens to be black.

“This is a guy who, although he is much too liberal for Florida, I think he’s got huge problems with how he has governed Tallahassee,” DeSantis told Fox. He added that Gillum is “an articulate spokesman for the far-left views, and he is a charismatic candidate.”

DeSantis then turned from addressing his opponent to assessing Gillum’s agenda, which includes Medicare for All, higher corporate taxes, and the abolition of ICE. “So, we have to work hard to make sure we continue Florida going in a good direction. Let’s build off the success we’ve had with Governor [Rick] Scott,” DeSantis remarked, referring to the GOP incumbent. “The last thing we need to do is to monkey this up by trying to embrace a socialist agenda with huge tax increases and bankrupting the state.”

The Left sped to the barricades. DeSantis’s comments, they claimed, were steeped in anti-black hate.

  • Florida Democratic-party chairwoman Terrie Rizzo said: “It’s disgusting that Ron DeSantis is launching his general election campaign with racist dog whistles.”
  • “That was more than a dog-whistle,” Representative Lois Frankel (D., Fla.) told the Washington Post. “That was absolutely a racist, disgusting statement. I don’t think there’s any other way to interpret it.”
  • “The remark made by Congressman DeSantis was racist and offensive and has no place in our political discourse,” said Sean Shaw, Democratic nominee for attorney general of Florida, according to the Orlando Weekly. “Racism is cancer that must be weeded out [sic]. DeSantis should step aside if he cannot find a way to apologize and control the language that comes out of his mouth.”

Team DeSantis, no surprise, rejected these phony, ad hominem attacks.

“Ron DeSantis was obviously talking about Florida not making the wrong decision to embrace the socialist policies that Andrew Gillum espouses,” said DeSantis spokesman David Vasquez. “To characterize it as anything else is absurd. Florida’s economy has been on the move for the last eight years, and the last thing we need is a far-left Democrat trying to stop our success.”

DeSantis himself directly denied these racism accusations.

This is not about race,” the 39-year-old congressman told Fox News’ Sean Hannity on August 29. “This is about ideas and principles. And I’m not going to let the Democrats and Andrew Gillum try to obscure a debate about whether his tax increases, his single-payer health-care plan, his desire to abolish ICE — whether that is something that is acceptable for Florida. I don’t think it is, and I don’t care what color you are.”

Those on the left — not DeSantis — heard the word “monkey” and instantly thought of black people. Now that’s racism.

If DeSantis had said, “Florida voters should not vote for that monkey, Andrew Gillum,” that would be racist. Although, somehow, it would not be considered racist to call Gillum “chicken,” a conniving snake, an untrustworthy weasel, a profligate pig, or a strutting peacock. Regardless, the monkeys and apes that inhabit anti-black imagery would have opened DeSantis to this criticism. However, DeSantis argued that a socialist agenda, tax hikes, and consequent bankruptcy would “monkey this up” — not Gillum himself.

Amazingly enough, supposedly non-racist Democrats — of all people — repeatedly have used “monkey” rhetoric. But no one has thrown racism penalty flags at their feet. Town Hall’s Katie Pavlich last Thursday caught numerous “monkeys” leaping from Democrats’ lips.

“I’m old enough to remember when the Dems didn’t think ‘Monkey Around’ was racist,” Rich Weinstein observed via Twitter. He then provided 16 such examples. Among them:

  • “It was all right to monkey around with Columbus Day, and even the birthday of the father of our country,” said the late senator Robert Byrd (D., W.Va.), a former recruiter and Exalted Cyclops with the Ku Klux Klan.
  • Bill Nelson, a Democrat from — wait for it — Florida, told his fellow U.S. senators, “We’re not trying to monkey around with the flood-insurance program.”
  • Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York: “Our Republican colleagues, even in their tax bill, caused premiums to go up by monkeying around with healthcare.”
  • Schumer’s deputy, Senator Richard Durbin (D., Ill.), said on the Senate floor that a federal program “is in balance, if you do it in constant dollars, so there is no monkeying around with numbers here.”
  • Senator Bernie Sanders (Socialist, Vt.), who caucuses with the Democrats, lamented that bankers “have the ability to monkey around with interest rates.”
  • Senator Angus King (Independent, Maine) also caucuses with the Democrats. He said: “All along, the Health and Human Services Department has been monkeying around with the website.”
  • Obama’s former White House press secretary Jay Carney told journalists: “Nobody here of any party has, until 2011, monkeyed around with that proposition.”
  • Josh Ernest, another Obama press secretary, identified “significant risk associated with monkeying around with the debt limit.”

“Let me guess,” one reader of FloridaPolitics.com joked: “If Mayor Gillum ever orders cheese and crackers, someone will say he is being a racist.”

If you want real racism, however, consider a robocall, which was sponsored by white supremacists in Idaho. It befouled Florida last weekend:

“Well, hello there,” the telephone ad started, amid banging drums and shrieking monkeys. “I is Andrew Gillum. We Negroes . . . done made mud huts while white folk waste a bunch of time making their home out of wood an’ stone,” the independent call continued, according to the Washington Post. The Gillum impersonator added that he will let black suspects avoid arrest “if the Negro know fo’ sho’ he didn’t do nothin’.”

Team DeSantis slammed this bigotry — straight out:

“This is absolutely appalling and disgusting — and hopefully whoever is behind this has to answer for this despicable action,” Stephen Lawson, a DeSantis campaign spokesman, said, as the Tampa Bay Times reported. “Our campaign has and will continue to focus solely on the issues that Floridians care about and uniting our state as we continue to build on our success.”

Now, if DeSantis really used his alleged “dog whistle” to attract racist white voters, it would be foolish for him to repel these same bigots by denouncing this clearly racist ad. This confirms that the anti-DeSantis “racism!” smear is just the Left yet again deploying the race card as reflexively as a leg kicks after a rubber mallet taps its knee.

The lesson here for the Right is simple:

When Democrats, the Left, and the old-guard media hear the word “monkey” and associate it with blacks, they should be hammered as racists, just as anyone who hears “banker” speaks of Jews or hears “math and science” and instantly pictures Americans of Chinese, Japanese, or Korean descent.

DeSantis should have said: “I was talking about monkeying up Florida’s economy with failed, big-government policies. Democrats heard the word ‘monkey,’ and instantly saw black faces. Shame on them! Their anti-black racism defiles civil discourse in this state and this nation. These Democrats should apologize to Floridians — black, white, and otherwise — for pumping prejudice into this campaign. Don’t do it again.”

Along these lines, every member of the American center-right should internalize a spirit of strategic ruthlessness. A huge part of this involves taking the Left’s race cards, folding them up, and cramming them down their throats — without mercy.


Deroy Murdock is a Manhattan-based Fox News contributor and a contributing editor of National Review Online, and a senior fellow with the London Center for Policy Research.


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