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Reviews | What liberals can learn from Ron DeSantis

Finally, we shouldn’t let DeSantis co-opt positions where Democrats have historical strength and natural advantage: education, health care, jobs. There are reasons so many Americans move to the Sunshine State beyond the mild weather. This month, DeSantis released a budget plan that included targeted tax cuts for parents, pay raises for state employees, including teachers, and major investments in schools, including civic education programs.

DeSantis’ maverick approach to elementary, secondary and higher education has drawn widespread condemnation from Democrats, especially their more progressive wing. But we should pay attention to why his policies land better with voters than progressive critics. Legislation like the Stop WOKE Act of 2021 (later partially blocked in federal court), which limited the discussion of certain racial issues in diversity training sessions offered by private employers and in the classroom, can be accompanied by an inflammatory name and blatant efforts to restrict free speech. But it’s important to recognize that some aspects of it appeal to Floridians tired of racial and ethnic divisions and the overt politicization of what’s taught in the classroom.

As many liberals will quietly acknowledge, the Parental Rights in Education Act, which DeSantis signed into law last year and which opponents have dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” law, has reasonable and legitimate appeals to a wide range of parents who are concerned about the direction, effectiveness and age-appropriateness of what their children are learning in primary and secondary school. Democratic leaders should also be concerned. Keeping silent or pretending these concerns aren’t real won’t make them go away.

Then there is college. The challenges of higher education have never been a strength for the Republican Party, which has long ignored the myriad needs of indebted students and the financial and existential pressures on academic institutions. If ideological conformity has taken root in American universities, long a bastion of liberal ideals, then the Democrats are the ones with the knowledge, experience and background to deal with the problem. It is up to the liberals to control the excesses of illiberal orthodoxy that are rampant among those of his far left wing. It is up to us to ensure academic freedom and the kind of education system that parents can trust.

It should be alarming that recent polls show Republicans have an edge on education issues. Rather than dismiss parents’ concerns as somehow unfounded or wrong, we should listen to them and find better solutions to their grievances. Telling parents they are bigoted or unenlightened for not adopting the latest orthodoxy is not a winning message.

Which brings us back to Trump. We know he takes DeSantis seriously because Trump has shown signs he’s afraid of DeSantis as a competitor. If even Trump knows that much, the Democrats are capable of knowing more. Trump may think the best way to defang DeSantis — whom he calls “DeSanctimonious” — is to make fun of him and put him down. Democrats should recognize that it will take much more than that.

nytimes Gt

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