What distinguishes great leaders from average ones are those capable of navigating a crisis. In September 2001, when the biggest terrorist attack ever occurred, the leaders of a country already facing heavy challenges had to tackle the most important challenge of their lives. The Islamist terrorist organization al-Qaeda, after hijacking several airplanes, took out one of New York City’s greatest symbols: the Twin Towers. Almost three thousand dead and millions affected, directly or indirectly. From the terror emerged a figure: Rudy Giuliani, then the main authority of the city of New York earned him the nickname: America’s Mayor.
Guiliani was celebrated as a hero. TIME magazine chose him as their iconic ‘Person of the Year’ in 2001. Regardless of the next episodes in Giuliani’s life, the lawyer cemented himself as a brave, indomitable, and cunning figure in popular culture.
“Tomorrow New York is going to be here,” Giuliani said after the September 11 attacks, “We’re going to be stronger than we were. I want the people of New York to be an example to the rest of the country, and the world, by showing that terrorism can’t stop us.”
The COVID-19 pandemic does not have the same decisive impact as a deadly terrorist attack, but it certainly also represents a complex circumstance, fraught with drama and challenges of all kinds. By June 2021, more than 600,000 people have died in the United States due to the virus; however, other reasons widen the tragedy: a devastating economic collapse that has not only damaged America’s economy but that of the entire world. Add to that the families separated for months, terror and panic; suicides, and the terrible manipulation by the media and politicians of desperate and confused people in the absence of information about the virus and its consequences.
From this juncture that afflicts the entire world in a way not seen for decades, a figure rises the wreckage. Following successful management of the challenges that almost no one has known how to handle, DeSantis has been recognized by friends and foes alike as the most refined strategists in the pandemic era.
DeSantis today is something of a rock star, and this comes as little surprise. Florida is El Dorado for Americans suffering from the mismanagement of one of the most complex crises the United States has ever faced. His completely successful management has exposed deep scars at the national level that had not previously been pointed out. It all coincides, of course, with a remarkable exodus from major cities like New York and Los Angeles: tens of thousands of citizens are packing their bags and fleeing to havens like Florida. DeSantis is, in large part, the reason. He exposed the mediocrity and limitations of the Democratic authorities; at worst, the authoritarian and socialist nature of those who took advantage of the pandemic to deepen a model that fails again and again.
Unlike politicians such as New York’s Andrew Cuomo or California’s Gavin Newsom, Ron DeSantis stands as the guarantor of both freedom and prosperity. And so, in contrast to New York or California, Florida emerges as the paradise where citizens have never ceased to be free and where businesses thrive and wealth is created.
DeSantis knew how to lead his state and he did so against the recommendations of entire scientific and media elite. He opposed closures as the norm and the press saw him as a target; while at the same time praising the figures of Newsom and Cuomo. Time proved DeSantis right and left the governors of New York and California, who enjoyed months of an almost obscene cover-up by media outlets such as CNN, in a very bad light.
When the pandemic hit hard, DeSantis decided that he was not going to infringe on the freedom of his citizens, nor destroy their businesses or commerce. He postponed as long as he could the closing of nightclubs; and he was the first to lift restrictions. Floridians were never required to wear masks; and, most important of all, children were able to attend classes when in the rest of the country they were subjected to remote dynamics or, some, to missing classes. DeSantis, as he has said, kept adults working and children studying.
Many bet on DeSantis’ failure and were proven wrong. Florida has not only successfully weathered the pandemic, but has also achieved fantastic results in areas such as employment (as of April of this year, unemployment in Florida was 4.8%; while in California it was 8.3% and in New York, 8.2%). All of this, while keeping the freedom of its citizens almost intact.
This Yale historian and Harvard lawyer is, according to several polls, the potential Republican Party candidate with the best chance of winning the nomination for the next presidential elections. In the future, after the Trumpist revolution in American politics, DeSantis seems to represent this new conservatism, agile and politically incorrect. Because he has not focused solely on the pandemic, DeSantis has been unafraid to tackle the most sensitive and controversial political terrains.
He has kept alive a commendable crusade against Big Tech’s gangster behaviors, to the point where Florida seems to be slowly becoming the terrain where, despite their almost absolute power, the big tech companies cannot do as they please. He also restricted the lawlessness of the protesters that in the spring and summer of last year swept the United States after the death of George Floyd with a law that was excessively criticized but saved Florida from the destruction that other states suffered. Also, in an attempt to protect girls, DeSantis signed a law banning trans people from participating in women’s sports, and he did so on June 1, Pride Month.
It is clear that Ron DeSantis is not afraid of the media siege that in 2020 succeeded in snatching Trump’s second presidential term. Although the same machinery set out to sink the Florida governor, it did not succeed. And a simple fact prevented it: DeSantis was accompanied by the numbers. With less inflammatory rhetoric than the former president, the governor has earned the recognition of even his opponents. His completely successful management of the pandemic profiles him as the politician with the most potential in the Republican Party.
The pandemic may not have the same impact as a terrorist attack, but it is certainly an event that will have forever marked the lives of Americans. It was the greatest of challenges, yet DeSantis rose to the occasion. Now that the world is beginning to get over this episode, it is not too early to say for sure: the winner is Ron DeSantis, America’s governor. Indomitable, courageous and steadfast, DeSantis looks like the future of the Republican Party and conservatism in the United States.