Ron DeSantis’s Greatest Achievement

Pinellas DSA
4 min readFeb 26, 2023

Member J. Cooke shares their thoughts on the Florida Democratic Party’s Chair vote.

As the Florida Democratic Party (FDP) chair race came to a conclusion yesterday, I was reminded of a story from the United Kingdom. Before she passed, the right wing British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was asked what she thought her greatest achievement was. Her response was a bit of a surprise at the time. “Tony Blair and New Labour.” Thatcher said. “We forced our opponents to change their minds.” Thatcher was referring to Tony Blair and the Labour Party’s anti-working class positions and abandonment of left wing economics that betrayed the values of previous Labour leaders and governments.

Former Florida Agricultural Commissioner Nikki Fried was narrowly elected chair of the FDP with 52% of the (convoluted and not exactly democratic) delegate vote. Before becoming Agricultural Commissioner, Fried worked as a corporate lobbyist in Tallahassee for a variety of odious special interests, including a tobacco company, Duke Energy, and Rick Scott’s former company HCA that committed the largest Medicaid fraud in history and is still being accused of doing so by its workers. She ran in the Democratic gubernatorial primary last year, finishing in a distant second place to former Republican governor Charlie Crist. Her campaign stirred controversy when a prominent staffer hurled personal insults at a progressive state representative. Her opponents in the chair race criticized her for a variety of reasons including, but not limited to, her lack of support for the $15 minimum wage ballot initiative in 2020; her refusal to support Democratic candidates because she was friendly with their Republican opponent; and her political consultant’s ungodly amounts of money spent trying to unseat a progressive Tallahassee’s City Commissioner. The list of criticisms goes on (and boy does it go on! I haven’t even mentioned her alleged “friendship” with Matt Gaetz or her recent campaigning for Republicans), but I think you get the point.

Maybe more importantly is what her supporters say about her, and a tweet by former gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine presents a prime example:

“I support @NikkiFried. She believes in the American dream of responsible capitalism w/ a strong economy, smart border control, strengthening professional policing, parents having a say in their children’s education and fights for an FDP that is based on unification not division!”

Border control? Policing? These talking points are nearly identical to a GOP platform. Parental control of education is literally the exact justification Ron DeSantis is using for his book bans and attack on public education. One can only wonder how a voter who hears this is supposed to be able to distinguish it from the Republican platform.

None of this, however, means that her main opponent was an ideal option either. Annette Taddeo appeared to be running away with the race until Fried swooped in at the last moment. Taddeo has been a fixture in FDP politics for over a decade, having run unsuccessfully for Florida’s 18th, 26th, and 27th congressional districts, Miami-Dade County Commission, Lieutenant Governor, and Governor. Her only elected office was a five year stint in the State Senate. Taddeo was endorsed by some well-known progressive activists and elected officials and did at least support some progressive policies like the $15 minimum wage, but she has a history of fighting her left flank as viciously as anyone. In interviews, she blamed socialism for her party’s misfortunes (you know, the ideology that Pew found a majority of Democratic voters view favorably), despite every party leader constantly condemning it. While chair of the Miami-Dade Democratic party, Taddeo did make strides at ensuring someone actually ran for office as a Democrat. She had an organizing campaign as well, showing that she does have an idea about what needs to be done, and is willing to bring a message to voters instead of just shaming them for not voting. While it’s safe to say that Taddeo wouldn’t exactly have been a working class champion either, she just may have been a little more promising than Fried.

Large majorities of Democratic voters favor policies like Medicare for all (88%), free college (85%), and The Green New Deal (82%), yet it appears they will be left without a party in Florida that represents them yet again. Florida Democrats have insisted on repeatedly running to the right, and this time is no different. We’re less than four months removed from an election in which 20% of the Democratic base in Florida decided it wasn’t worth their time to cast a ballot despite the fact that right wing authoritarianism is on the rise. If you’re hoping to cajole those people back into action, or if you’re part of the overwhelming majority of Democratic voters that supports a progressive vision for the future, then the FDP Chair race, and ultimately Fried’s victory, may not exactly lift your spirits. But if you’re Ron DeSantis watching your opponents choose the most right leaning path forward, then you may look back on this moment and realize that it is your greatest achievement.

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Pinellas DSA

The Official Pinellas County FL chapter of Democratic Socialists of America