Two months ago, you would be forgiven for believing that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was playing with fire. Slow to close his state against the evils of the coronavirus, loath to tell city leaders to close their beaches, and seemingly way behind the curve in taking a firm government stance against the pandemic, DeSantis appeared to be whistling through the graveyard. Images of packed Spring Break beaches horrified the country, pundits in the media shook their heads sadly, and everyone basically agreed that Florida was well on its way to an Italy-like disaster.
It never happened.
While the media has been busy deifying New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, whose state has seen 350,000 infections and 27,000 deaths, Florida’s DeSantis has apparently defied the odds. As of this weekend, Florida’s numbers look a hell of a lot better than New York’s: 44,811 infections, 1,964 deaths. The Italy-like disaster never materialized. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine any way these numbers could look any better; even a Wuhan-style lockdown would have been unlikely to slow the spread of the virus any more effectively.
Now, even some in the liberal media are beginning to realize that DeSantis, not Cuomo, is the governor who should be celebrated.
“Good evening, and greetings from Florida, where we feel the need to inform you that it’s not a post-apocalyptic hellscape of coronavirus infection and cadavers stacked like cordwood,” wrote Marc Caputo in Politico this weekend. “That is, Florida just doesn’t look nearly as bad as the national news media and sky-is-falling critics have been predicting for about two months now. But then, the national news media is mostly based in New York and loves to love its Democratic governor, Andrew Cuomo, about as much as it loves to hate on Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis.”
DeSantis has earned himself a victory lap, but he would probably be wise to skip it. For one thing, the coronavirus pandemic is far from over, and we still don’t know how the reopening will play out. It’s too early for any politician to start patting him or herself on the back for how they handled this crisis, simply because there’s still a lot of ballgame left to play. Nonetheless, the rest of us can give DeSantis a round of applause; he certainly handled the first stage of this crisis well.
On the other hand, not everything the Florida governor has done can be enshrined on a trophy. The state’s unemployment response continues to be a mess, and while a lot of that mess can be blamed on former Gov. Rick Scott, DeSantis has been in office for more than a year. If he thought cleaning up the unemployment system was a priority, he could have done so by now.
Still, in a country that has practically canonized Andrew Cuomo, menace of the nursing homes, it would be nice to see the media give DeSantis his due.
For the most part, though, we won’t hold our breath.