Right out of the gate, Ron DeSantis shows us exactly how he thinks he’s going to become the Governor of Florida in November: race baiting. It’s a deadly game, and one that we’ve been losing for a couple of years now. It’s time to tighten up our approach.
Tip 1: Remember – DeSantis isn’t just playing to his base with racist dog whistles, he is playing Trump’s game of getting full spectrum media coverage by saying or doing racist, sexist, homophobic and otherwise shocking things. We need to have messaging ready for all these moments to name it and shame it, then pivot instantly – to the issues.
DeSantis and Trump have no meaningful program that would help any actual, non-billionaire people. Our job is to hold them accountable for that every hour of every day until Nov 6th. This is just the beginning of their campaign of racist taunts. Plan to have an effective response.
Tip 2: Call it and pivot – EVERYTIME. Today the media is simply reporting “Democrats brand that as racist.” (SunSentinal) We didn’t pivot in time. We need to be prepared for these moments with retorts like, “Well, maybe they think Florida is a racist state, but I think they’re going to be surprised in November that voters care more about schools, coastlines and mass shootings than whatever racist dogwhistle they can cook up each morning.”
The racism and the brazenness of the racism keep stunning us. The first thing they want us to do is spend too long being stunned to retort effectively. The second thing they want us to do is litigate the racism: where the monkey reference comes from, the history of belittling black people, what is a racist dog whistle anyway?
Stick with me here. These are conversations we all are duty bound to have with people in our lives when we encounter racism. And legions of Americans have become more acutely aware of systemic racism since 2016 and pledged ourselves personally to be the voice that speaks up to confront racism every chance we get.
They are using that against us.
Tip 3: Educating the public about racism is a long-term project that we have to invest in it consistently. Being drawn into these arguments 12 weeks before election day in response to their bait isn’t actually helping. DeSantis, like Trump, is gleefully pushing our buttons because research makes clear that meaningful conversations about racism aren’t changing the minds of voters in the middle. A) Campaigns are not a forum where most voters are doing deep, personal examinations of their values, B) Our side has a 90% chance of making undecided voters feel like we’re calling them a racist, which is hard for even the best of us to recover from with any grace, and C) The time we spend addressing their racist comments is time we’re not spending talking about the issues with voters.
The issues are where Republicans lose. Trump and DeSantis have crap to offer people. To the best of your ability, use your voice to amplify the dangers of electing DeSantis: people losing health insurance, the economy tanking from giveaways to the rich, beaches and coasts trashed for good, and AR-15s shooting up their local supermarket or elementary school.
Tip 4: Racism itself is an issue that matters in this election and matters to voters. I think we should be naming it as a reason to vote against DeSantis, but by doing that on our own terms, not by responding to their bait. Example: “Ron DeSantis wants to keep the Stand Your Ground law, which has been used to scuttle dozens of murder cases in which people of color are killed. Gillum will take on this law as a glaring example of systemic racism.”
A perfect media cycle for them is when they drop the chum, we respond about the offensive thing they said, the media does pieces about the history of that stereotype, non-woke people say ‘I don’t think it necessarily means that’ and trolls say, ‘the liberals think regular Americans are racist!’ Rinse and repeat.
In a perfect media cycle for us, they drop the chum. We say to the media: “Wow, on top of refusing to protect our communities from gun violence or invest in our public schools, he seems to also be a racist. That’s not going to fly with Florida voters.” To our friends (including online), we say “Totally racist comment. Let’s have a conversation about it when we have a chance to talk face to face, but you need to vote against DeSantis because he won’t clean up the green slime.”
We keep faith to our commitments as anti-racist activists by working to elect a Governor and legislature that will dismantle institutional racism. We have the in-depth teaching conversations with people in our lives, people who have a reason to listen and consider beyond the space of the soundbite. We teach our children about white supremacy and what it means for our nation.
The work to dismantle Florida’s institutional racism will take our whole lifetimes and more. We’ll make some important progress by electing a Governor like Andrew Gillum. Resist the temptation to fight it out online on cue when racist campaign rhetoric blossoms onto our online forums. That’s how the other side wins.
Tips Recap: Our side will win by naming racism, not being stunned by it, and pivoting to the issues.