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From ‘Reagan Democrats’ to ‘DeSantis Democrats’

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A little more than 40 years ago, the ticket of Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush destroyed Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale. With more than a 10% difference in the popular vote and 489 electoral votes, the former secured the Presidency of the United States. Historians then compiled that the Republicans seduced many on the opposite side of the aisle, who were baptized as the “Reagan Democrats”, who left their habits only in the 1980s to vote for “The Gipper”. In 2022, this trend seems to have been replicated in Florida, with the birth of the “DeSantis Democrats,” according to the Free Press’s Olivia Reingold.

After all, the incumbent governor didn’t just happen to go from a 0.4% margin in 2018 to a 19.4% margin in 2022. This math was the result of independents and Democrats crossing the aisle to vote for DeSantis, who was the most electable candidate in Florida.

Indeed, he carried independents by 8%, 10% of those who consider themselves “liberals,” 6% of those who voted for Biden in 2020 and 58% of Latinos. In addition, he managed to tinge red some Democratic strongholds such as Hillsborough, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade. In the latter, the governor won by 30 percentage points, compared to 2018.

Ron DeSantis won re-election with the highest margin for a gubernatorial candidate in 40 years (EFE).

All of this made it the largest margin in the Sunshine State since Democrat Bob Graham defeated Skip Bafalis by nearly 30% in 1982.

“DeSantis Democrats”

The Free Press interviewed two dozen people to dig a little deeper into this recent electoral phenomenon. According to their findings, this is a different type of voter than the Democrat who voted Republican only in the 1980s. These were mostly working white conservatives from the Northwest who were attracted to Reagan’s social conservatism and his “peace through strength” foreign policy.

In contrast, the “DeSantis Democrats” are not easily identifiable. While Latinos are more likely to fall into this group, “they are not confined to any one class, constituency or ethnic category.” Moreover, unlike Reagan, they do not see DeSantis as a figure with hopeful rhetoric, but as a “practical,” “effective” leader and, according to perfume salesman Felipe Valera, “the opposite of a blah blah blah.”

“Reagan Democrats” were a Republican-only voting constituency in the 1980s (Reagan Foundation).

According to Andrés Arcilla, a Colombian who has lived in the U.S. for the past 26 years, DeSantis is “the good parts of Trump without that cockiness.” “He defends his priorities. It may not be the ones that some people like, but he has those priorities,” he added in dialogue with the aforementioned media.

On the feet of Claudia Cruz, a Democrat who voted for DeSantis in 2022, what swayed her toward the governor was the politics of a smaller government.

“I’m not the only one”

That’s the feeling they themselves breathe, even Democratic officials. Dave Kerner, a Democratic Palm Beach County commissioner, claimed to identify with this term and added that “I’m not the only one.”

According to him, he was surprised by the results where he lives. “I saw my own county—which has been majority blue throughout probably its entire history—we saw more people vote for the Republican candidate over the Democratic candidate,” he added in an interview with The Free Press.

For Kerner, Democrats are generally reluctant to acknowledge this trend, which could play an important role in 2024 should DeSantis decide to enter the fray for the Republican nomination for president. “They’re just not willing to be honest with themselves when they blame it all on the turnout or the fundraising gap,” closed the official and, self-described, “DeSantis Democrat.”

Joaquín Núñez es licenciado en comunicación periodística por la Universidad Católica Argentina. Se especializa en el escenario internacional y en la política nacional norteamericana. Confeso hincha de Racing Club de Avellaneda. Contacto: [email protected] // Joaquín Núñez has a degree in journalistic communication from the Universidad Católica Argentina. He specializes in the international scene and national American politics. Confessed fan of Racing Club of Avellaneda. Contact: [email protected]