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Give DeSantis a chance as presidential candidate | Commentary

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In a world where politics often feels like a tug of war between the absurd and the bland, a circus of clowns juggling empty promises or a flat bureaucratic nightmare of Kafkaesque proportions, Ron DeSantis is a breath of fresh air. There has been a plethora of noise over the past few years surrounding the political sphere, and I contest that DeSantis could, and should, rise above it all as the Republican nominee for president in 2024.

For starters, the mainstream media has consistently attempted to lambaste DeSantis since he emerged as a potential candidate three years ago. The media's biases and sensationalism have tainted the public's perception, but DeSantis is more than the Disney-fighting, Donald Trump-supporting, swing-state governor we've heard so much about.

Let's start with DeSantis's credibility. His military service as an officer in the U.S. Navy, something the past five presidents have lacked, allows him a layer of credibility as the civilian Commander in Chief. As a graduate of two Ivy League institutions (Yale and Harvard Law), DeSantis brings a wealth of experience, discipline and intellectual rigor to the table. However, he did not rest on these laurels and, unlike Trump, he spent time as a public servant in Congress. While there, he most notably sponsored a bill to give Congress the ability to audit the Federal Reserve bringing much needed transparency to our monetary policy and money reserve; he defended the integrity of voting (and voters alike) by introducing the Integrity of Voting Systems Act to prevent voter fraud and uphold the security of voting systems; he voted to bring more accountability to the Department of Veterans Affairs; and he cosponsored a bill that would allow students to explore potential earning and employment outcomes with different education programs. Where one might have expected a bully or armchair congressman awaiting his turn to run for governor, DeSantis' tenure proved that he is an effective legislator.

Now as Florida's governor, DeSantis' record has been overshadowed recently by his tussle with the Disney corporation and his passing of the Florida Parental Rights in Education Act, or what is commonly referred to (erroneously) as the "Don't Say Gay" Bill. However, what has been less spoken about is his bill in 2019 which allocated $500 million to provide pay raises for more than 100,000 teachers in Florida and for the implementation of the new programs for students. Or how he supported a program that awarded bonuses to highly effective teachers in Florida, increased funding to school safety after the tragic shooting in 2018 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and signed much-needed legislation in 2021 that required the development of a civics education curriculum focused on the principles of American democracy. Furthermore, a self-proclaimed "Teddy Roosevelt conservationist," he has taken steps to combat red tide and increase water quality standards, dedicate vast state resources to Everglades' restoration, and has proposed increased funding for environmental initiatives like the acquisition of Florida natural areas and promote resilient infrastructure impacted by sea level rise. And of course, we need to consider DeSantis's leadership during the tumultuous COVID-19 pandemic. While many leaders struggled to strike a balance between public health and economic stability, DeSantis managed to navigate these treacherous waters. His prudent approach prioritized both the physical well-being of his constituents and protected vulnerable populations, while keenly understanding the devastating consequences of prolonged lockdowns and took proactive steps to keep businesses afloat while ensuring the safety of Floridians.

Now, with topics such as Russia's incursion into Ukraine; China's eyeing of Taiwan; mass supply chain inefficiencies; the adequacy and sustainability of Social Security; and the general rise of political populism and polarization, it's high time we invite the adults back into the conversation. I believe with foreign adversaries, DeSantis would stand firm on protecting American interests with a clear understanding of the complexities of global affairs and would advocate for fair trade deals. And domestically, we crave an era where all voters want their leaders to be measured, respectable, and unafraid to discuss the undiscussable. It's time to recognize his potential and embrace the opportunity for a fresh start.

Florida gave him a chance — and now it's time for America to do the same in 2024.

Will Mattern lives in Orlando.

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