By now most have become familiar with -- if not fatigued by -- the Ron DeSantis monkey-line-heard-’round-the-world.
In case you are among the few leading an upright existence and haven't been immersed in political hysteria, DeSantis gave an early interview to FOX News following his GOP gubernatorial primary win. During the appearance he made what was a curious turn of phrase, employing the term “monkey this up.”
This was all Democrats of Florida and every political expert on social media needed to rise up in righteous indignation and lambaste DeSantis for racism. Good heavens, the zeal with which the Democrats and media responded is revealing in itself. Not the fact that they picked up on the term, but that the three-word pull quote is all they use as evidence of the R-word.
Whenever the accusation of racism arrives on the train car of “Dog Whistle,” that's an indicator the accusers are straining to apply the charge. Of course they already have the reflexive defense: “It was not direct, blatant racism, because he wants to have an excuse when called out on it!” Absurd.
The accusation of dog-whistle racism is dismantled with the application of logic and common sense. But first, in order to expose the ruse, let's look at what Ron actually said. In his FOX interview, DeSantis was responding to a question from Sandra Smith. Here is the full quote for correct analysis:
● "Let's build off the success we've had on Gov. Scott. The last thing we need to do is to monkey this up by trying to embrace a socialist agenda with huge tax increases bankrupting the state. That is not going to work.”
Now, because there has been so much sophomoric hysteria attached to this, I have to resort to parsing, just to clarify the facts of comment -- stopping just shy of diagramming the sentences. First, DeSantis was not referring to Gillum at all in this commentary, he was talking about the entire state. Next, the use of “monkey” here is not a pejorative; it is used as a verb. It describes the action he anticipates being taken with the economy.
See that modifier, “this”? It's indicating an object, in this case the economy -- not “he”, not “him”. And lastly here, note “Let’s”, ”we’ve”, and “we”. The collective pronouns involve the residents of this state, as well as DeSantis himself, while he invoked the supposed simian slur.
There's only one way you can see racism in this comment -- if you inject it yourself.
Gillum took no time at all to make hay out of DeSantis’ comments. “It’s very clear that Mr. DeSantis is taking a page directly from the campaign manual of Donald Trump,” Gillum said that same day. “In the handbook of Donald Trump, they no longer do whistle calls. They are now using full bullhorns.” Gillum followed the lead of Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Terrie Rizzo, who came out swinging that same morning by saying, “It's disgusting that Ron DeSantis is launching his general election campaign with racist dog whistles.” Note the use of the plural by Rizzo.
According to the race merchants, when DeSantis was asked about his opponent winning the vote he began by praising Gillum for his performance in the Democratic debates, and stating he was “articulate.” This interpretational offense is said to be a compliment/slur of the low expectations variety, and thus another dog whistle.
Interesting, however, when other politicians such as Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz receive the same kind of compliment about their speaking skills, it is not regarded as a slight. Also interesting is that we've just come eight years of us hearing about what a wonderful orator President Obama had been and what a terrible one Rick Scott is. It is surprising to me to learn our media complex is rife with gutter racists.
The entire concept of these “dog whistles” is both a convenient charge, and one that withers under logical application.
These racist code words are said to be snuck into a conversation, but they are ferreted out by the “smart” observers. We are led to believe DeSantis was attempting to secretly signal ... something, in his comment. What these so-called clever minds never manage to explain, however, is what's being accomplished by this supposed linguistic subterfuge.
Was DeSantis indicating to a cadre of voters the rather self-evident fact that Gillum is black? That seems unreasonable, silly and futile. The only way this works is if he is appealing to blind racists.) Was he coaching racist voters? I tend to believe if someone wouldn't vote for a candidate for being black, he/she hardly needs to be led to do so, especially by secret language.
Also, if a candidate was, in fact, desiring to appeal to a racist contingent, doing so on national television is hardly the gambit to use. That would be something far more targeted and less prominent. But the most obvious failure in this realization is that the accusation carries with it the absence of common sense towards campaigns.
On day-one of the General Election campaign, it would be foolhardy for any candidate to try to subdivide potential voters. You are vying to gather in as many YES votes as possible. To suggest DeSantis was appealing to racists, at the expense of the much larger base of black voters, is ignorant of basic campaign strategy. Look at the embarrassingly meager turnout for the white supremacist rally in D.C. last month, to get a glimpse of that sample size.
So with absolutely nothing to be gained by this supposed dog-whistle strategy, it stands to reason there is no basis behind the accusation. This means the people who want to have a racial controversy are the ones seeing race in the commentary, and the ones injecting race into the wider discussion.
This seems to be the intended goal following Gillum’s surprising victory on Tuesday. On his visit with Shep Smith on FOX News, Gillum decried DeSantis' supposed injection of racial issues into the race. He stated the desire to have his campaign rise above this divisive rhetoric and speak instead about the issues for the state -- and then he promptly continued harping on the hateful comments of his opponent.
Along with the FDP's Terrie Rizzo, he seems all too eager to focus on the accusation of racism and extend that discussion. That must be a message far easier for state Democrats to manage than Gillum’s far-left platform and endorsements from socialists like Bernie Sanders. So far, it appears to be the message they want to sell to Florida voters.
Brad Slager, a Fort Lauderdale freelance writer, wrote this story exclusively for Sunshine State News. He writes on politics and the entertainment industry and his stories appear in such publications as RedState and The Federalist.