Gov. Ron DeSantis never missed an opportunity to parlay his relationship with President Donald Trump. Whether it was securing hurricane relief assistance, or supplies to fight the coronavirus pandemic, the Republican governor used his party’s kinship to the Oval Office to Florida’s advantage. But now DeSantis is threatening the interests of 22 million Floridians by clinging to the Trump train and snubbing President-elect Joe Biden.
DeSantis has joined the chorus of Trump devotees and conspiracy theorists in egging on the president to continue challenging his defeat for reelection Nov. 3. This lost cause has taken on a cartoonish bent, with even Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody diminishing her office by signing on to a flailing effort that defies the facts, electoral math and America’s democratic traditions.
As the Tampa Bay Times' Steve Contorno and Kirby Wilson reported, DeSantis has ignored Biden’s calls for post-election unity, opting instead to work in communion with Trump to raise doubts and confusion about the election. DeSantis appeared on Fox News to suggest that Republican legislatures deny Biden a victory by advancing their own electors in states where Trump is contesting election results. Apparently the governor thinks the way forward for the nation is to trigger a constitutional crisis, inflame the partisan divide and further undermine public faith in the legitimacy of government.
DeSantis doesn’t have to like the election outcome but he needs to accept it. America’s third-largest state shouldn’t be an incubator for tearing apart the union. Florida, after all, is a focal point for the nation in so many areas, from space and tourism to the social melting pot that is redefining communities across the country.
Florida has an obvious interest in nurturing a strong relationship with the Biden administration. A coastal state that is a magnet for hurricanes, Florida relies on the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help pick up the pieces after disaster strikes. Its 21 military bases are major employers and regional economic engines. Florida’s seniors depend on a robust Medicare program just as ex-service members count on a strong network of Veterans Affairs health care facilities. Several federal agencies are also at the leading edge of climate science, helping states and communities better prepare for the effects of a warming climate, which will help save lives, businesses and property. And few states are so impacted by the varied operations that pollinate the federal bureaucracy; strong agricultural and environmental protections are as important to Florida as the readiness of the U.S. Coast Guard.
It’s abundantly clear that DeSantis needs federal help in dealing with the growing coronavirus pandemic. The governor may be turning a blind eye to new infections, but with the holidays approaching, the winter flu season looming and the annual arrival of snowbirds around the corner, more Floridians may start clamoring for the more proactive approach the Biden administration has outlined.
Biden and DeSantis have distinct policy differences, but it’s a cop-out to pretend that Republicans and Democrats cannot work at various levels of government for the common good. And building a strong relationship is a two-way street. DeSantis is the governor of all Floridians — has been for nearly two years now — and he needs to act like it.
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Editorials are the institutional voice of the Tampa Bay Times. The members of the Editorial Board are Times Chairman and CEO Paul Tash, Editor of Editorials Graham Brink, and editorial writers Elizabeth Djinis, John Hill and Jim Verhulst. Follow @TBTimes_Opinion on Twitter for more opinion news