“A huge re-election victory vindicates his pandemic policies,” writes the Wall Street Journal. “With runaway win, DeSantis’s political career becomes supercharged,” writes the New York Times. “Ron DeSantis is the new Republican Party leader,” declares Fox News. “Florida’s governor turned his coronavirus policies into a parable of American freedom,” observes the Atlantic.
As well they should. The self-perpetuating lockdowns, mandates, and state of emergency that were imposed across much of the world in response to Covid-19 were a totalitarian aberration incompatible with the values of constitutional democracy. Resisting those mandates wasn’t just a parable of American freedom—it was American freedom.
Unlike some leaders such as South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, DeSantis didn’t initially see through the lockdowns. But he was one of the few political leaders to quickly and publicly recognize his error, vowing that Florida “will never do any of these lockdowns again.”
Where DeSantis really stands out, however, is in his wholehearted embrace, from that point forward, of the anti-lockdown movement in its entirety. He’s consulted and hosted roundtable discussions with prominent anti-lockdown activists and scientists including Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, Dr. Martin Kulldorff, and Dr. Sunetra Gupta, and appointed Dr. Joseph Ladapo, a strong opponent of Covid mandates, as his Surgeon General.
DeSantis and his team became active within the anti-lockdown movement on social media, and he frequently voiced strong opposition to Covid mandates in his speeches, such as during his State of the State address:
Florida has become the escape hatch for those chafing under authoritarian, arbitrary and seemingly never-ending mandates and restrictions. Even today, across the nation we see students denied an education due to reckless, politically-motivated school closures, workers denied employment due to heavy-handed mandates and Americans denied freedoms due to a coercive biomedical apparatus.
These unprecedented policies have been as ineffective as they have been destructive. They are grounded more in blind adherence to Faucian declarations than they are in the constitutional traditions that are the foundation of free nations.
Florida is a free state. We reject the biomedical security state that curtails liberty, ruins livelihoods and divides society. And we will protect the rights of individuals to live their lives free from the yoke of restrictions and mandates.
DeSantis’s staunch support for the anti-lockdown cause may be explained, in no small part, by the fact that he remains one of the world’s only major political figures to publicly share his belief that the Chinese Communist Party played a key role in influencing the global response to Covid-19:
The (W)est did a lot of damage to itself by adopting some of these policies, which have proven to not work to stop the spread, but to be very economically destructive. I do think there was an information operation angle to this, where they really believed that if they could get these other countries to lock down, and they were willing to do some propaganda along the way, particularly in Europe, that ultimately would help China. And I think it has helped China.
For this, DeSantis effectively became the face of the anti-lockdown movement in the United States. It was a bold political gamble (or, for those who’ve been fighting this fight since early 2020, just plain old common sense), and it drew the consternation of lockdown supporters, media and political elites across the country.
But it paid off big. DeSantis won the race for reelection with a 19-point margin of victory—the widest victory margin in a Florida gubernatorial election since 2002. Even more telling, DeSantis’s odds to win the 2024 presidential election soared by more than 10 percentage points, making him the new frontrunner in the presidential race.
The outsized significance of DeSantis’s victory isn’t so much in the victory itself, which was predicted, or even the margin of that victory. The real significance is that DeSantis outperformed by a wide margin at the same time the Republican Party underperformed across the rest of the country. This unique outperformance vindicates whatever DeSantis did differently than the rest of the GOP. And without a doubt, what DeSantis is best known for is his wholehearted embrace of the anti-lockdown movement.