Tuesday, February 28, 2023

The Election of Barack Obama Triggered Ron DeSantis

I have been hesitant to buy into the idea that the GOP's descent into madness and fascism was triggered by this country's election of our first African American president. I think it dates back farther than that - to the era that spawned the party's embrace of the so-called "Southern Strategy" on the heels of the Civil Rights movement. 

And yet it is hard to ignore the impact President Barack Obama had on conservatives. Ta-Nehisi Coates captured a lot of that in a piece titled "The First White President: The foundation of Donald Trump’s presidency is the negation of Barack Obama’s legacy."

For Trump, it almost seems that the fact of Obama, the fact of a black president, insulted him personally...Replacing Obama is not enough—Trump has made the negation of Obama’s legacy the foundation of his own. And this too is whiteness...Trump truly is something new—the first president whose entire political existence hinges on the fact of a black president.

Interestingly enough, the first black president also triggered Trump's chief rival for 2024 - Ron DeSantis. The year before he first ran for Congress in 2012, DeSantis published a book titled: "Dreams From Our Founding Fathers," whose title is a blatant ripoff of Obama's first book, "Dreams From My Father." If that isn't bad enough, take a look at how DeSantis copied the cover:

From what I've read, the DeSantis book is hard to come by because it was printed by a "vanity press" - meaning that it was funded by the author with very few copies in print. But here's what Kimberly Leonard wrote about it:

Dreams from our Founding Fathers" doesn't just take heavily from Obama's autobiography. Throughout, DeSantis uses excerpts from Obama's campaign promises, speeches, and legislation. It shows DeSantis had carefully studied the president and his agenda...

DeSantis was also critical of Obama personally, calling him "first in his own mind" and saying, "he actually believed that he was a historically special figure." In one section of the book, DeSantis wrote that Obama lacked the humility of George Washington, the first US president.

He wrote that Obama had a "palpable cockiness" and "made outlandish claims about his own significance as an individual." He accused the Obama campaign of having a "messianic posture."

In other words, this white guy from Florida thought that the country's first African American president was "uppity." Eleven years after writing that, DeSantis released a video claiming to be uniquely chosen by God to be a "fighter." Go figure! 

The book also seems to have captured the roots of the governor's desire to whitewash (literally) history. Here's what David Waldstreicher wrote about that (emphasis mine):

[T]he most revealing and consequential element of his book is not so much his drawing of a straight line from the founding precedents to the Tea Party movement’s dissent over big government. It’s rather how his entire reading of American history is enveloped in both unquestioning fealty to the Founders and an insistence that the role of slavery, and race more broadly, in that history does not seriously change anything about how we should understand the birth and development of our country...

It becomes necessary for DeSantis to cleanse the Founders from any connection to slavery. In his first chapter, he tries to make quick work of those who stress the “personal flaws” of great Founding Fathers (i.e., their enslavement of other humans). First, an explicitly antislavery Constitution couldn’t possibly have been ratified, he writes—we should rather trust the good faith of the “strongly anti-slavery” Founders (Hamilton, Franklin) who supported it anyway. Slavery had been a “fact of life” throughout history...Moreover, “the philosophical foundations of the Constitution are incompatible with slavery.” This made slavery “doomed to fail” in the new republic. In the end, “the Constitution was created despite the existence of slavery, not because of slavery.” Most of its provisions had nothing to do with slavery anyway, according to DeSantis.

I happen to agree with the idea that "the philosophical foundations of the Constitution [all men are created equal] are incompatible with slavery." That is why it became necessary to dehumanize slaves and claim they were biologically inferior - leading to the development of "scientific racism."

Waldstreicher goes on to point out that "hereditary racial slavery was a new thing associated with the Americas," meaning that it had not actually been a "fact of life" throughout history. In suggesting that most of the Constitution's provisions had nothing to do with slavery, DeSantis ignored the fact that things like "the three-fifths clause, its highly calibrated brand of federalism, and the Electoral College, contributed mightily to slavery’s survival and even expansion in the United States."

All of this comes from the guy who now wants to tell teachers what they can/can't teach about Black history, while claiming that an AP Black studies course is "lacking in historical value."

It is not surprising that a racist like that would be triggered by the election of Barack Obama.


  1. Dreams From Our Founding Fathers is, as you note, out of print, but it can be purchased as an E-book for $9.99.

    1. I should have mentioned that I found the E-book on the Barnes & Noble site. For some reason, Amazon doesn't sell the E-book.


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