The morning after Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Florida) won the Republican primary in the gubernatorial election, he made a racist reference to his black opponent, Andrew Gillum.
During an interview on Fox News Wednesday morning, Rep. DeSantis attacked Gillum’s progressive platform and record as mayor of Tallahassee. He also said Florida voters should elect him rather than Gillum, lest they “monkey up” the state.
“Florida elections are always competitive, and this is a guy who, although he is much too liberal for Florida, I think he’s got huge problems with how he’s governed Tallahassee, he is an articulate spokesman for those far left views,” DeSantis said, adding that Gillum is a “charismatic candidate.”
“Let’s build on the success we’ve had under Governor [Rick] Scott,” Ron DeSantis continued. “The last thing we need to do is to monkey this up by trying to embrace a socialist agenda.”
Uh Ron DeSantis just said FL shouldn't "monkey this up" by electing Andrew Gillum pic.twitter.com/nDPp3Hx7zc
— Steve Morris (@stevemorris__) August 29, 2018
While Ron DeSantis will almost certainly insist his comment about not wanting to “monkey this up” wasn’t racist, comparing African Americans to primates is an age-old racist attack that dates back to at least the 16th century. The monkey reference is also a likely signifier that the gubernatorial election will be heavily influenced by racism, especially since Florida is home to the “Stand Your Ground” law that allowed George Zimmerman to get away with killing Trayvon Martin in 2012 that Andrew Gillum has said he will repeal if elected.
Gillum won a stunning upset in Tuesday night’s primary, defeating not only Gwen Graham (daughter of former Florida governor and U.S. senator Bob Graham) but also former Miami Beach mayor Philip Levine and real estate investor Jeff Greene. Gillum, as he liked to point out during debates, was the only non-millionaire running for the Democratic nomination.
President Trump endorsed DeSantis, and progressive standard-bearer Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) endorsed Gillum, so the general election battle will likely be a matter of whether staunch progressive policies or hard-line nationalist policies will win the day.
Jake Shepherd is a freelance writer from Cleveland, Ohio. He enjoys poring through financial disclosure statements, spirited debate, and good scotch. He remains eternally optimistic about the Browns. Email him at jake.d.shepherd.21 (at) hotmail (dot) com.