In four years, the new president might be Florida’s current Gov. Ron DeSantis. He’s an excellent campaigner. After running to the far right, when elected, DeSantis adopted a more centrist agenda that will likely ensure his re-election in two years.
DeSantis is a great campaigner, but how would he be as a president leading our country during a time of crisis? How well is Gov. DeSantis leading Florida through the coronavirus crisis?
Gov. DeSantis is doing a solid job managing the state of Florida during this coronavirus. I’d give him an A-/B+. The detailed public information the state of Florida makes available about the coronavirus might be the best of all 50 states. DeSantis would get a higher grade, but the governor occasionally is less than accurate. Here are two examples.
Gov. DeSantis made a joke that we had to be extra careful in Florida about the coronavirus because, after all, “Florida is God’s waiting room.”
The median age in America is 38. What’s your guess of the median age in Florida – 52?
If you guessed 42, you were right. We are pretty similar to most of the rest of America in age.
Florida’s metro areas are mostly younger than the 38-year-old median age of the rest of the country – Jacksonville’s median age is 34, Miami is 38, Tampa is 35, Orlando’s median age is just 33. God’s waiting room?
This often-repeated misunderstanding of Florida as God’s waiting room is unfortunate. The misperception of Florida as nothing but older people affects everyday public policy choices. As an example, many cities allowed pickleball and tennis for older folks during the coronavirus shutdown but kept outdoor playgrounds closed for young families.
The state government of Florida spends near the bottom of all 50 states on education for our young people. Georgia spends 52% of its budget on education. Florida spends only 26% of the state budget on education for our young people. That’s what happens when politicians and the public mistakenly believe Florida is God’s waiting room.
The normal carnival barker atmosphere of politics should go out the window during a crisis. We need leaders who are calm, who represent all of us and who accurately describe the opportunities and challenges of the crisis.
Gov. DeSantis was bragging about how Florida had done the third most COVID-19 tests in America. Sounds impressive – except Florida has the third-largest population of any state.
Adjusted for population, Florida is well below the national average in testing for the coronavirus. We test less on a per capita basis than fellow southern states such as Mississippi, Tennessee and Kentucky.
In normal times, we enjoy the political bombast of our elected officials. Our political carnival barkers are a form of entertainment. During a crisis, such as the current coronavirus and economic free fall, public officials need to change to a lower-key approach.
Accuracy breeds trust in leadership. With the leadership in our nation’s capital a mess on both sides of the aisle, we are counting on Florida’s governor to be our trusted leader.
I believe Gov. DeSantis and any politician should be allowed the occasional exaggeration or misstatement. But to the extent our governor can be accurate and tone down the politics during this time of crisis, he will be more of the leader we trust and need.
Not just in Florida, but his résumé may one day land him in the White House.
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