DeSantis' Ambitious 'Day One' Vows: Serious and Literal?

DeSantis' Ambitious 'Day One' Vows: Serious and Literal?
AP Photo/Ashley Landis

The Tampa Bay Times — Florida’s Best Newspaper® — is today having a bit of sport with the governor-turned-presdential-candidate.

At least it supposes it is, anyway.

Beneath the headline “Ron DeSantis is planning a busy first day in the White House,” the Times pokes fun at the congested list of first-day orders a President DeSantis would execute.

Gov. Ron DeSantis took some heat this summer when he told a group of Iowans how he’d reduce the size of the federal workforce if elected president.

“We are going to start slitting throats on Day One,” he said.

Critics questioned the taste of such violent imagery. But DeSantis’ words raise another important question: How will he find time to slit throats in the U.S. bureaucracy when he’s going to be tied up with at least a dozen other “Day One” presidential promises?

Ho, ho, ho. My knee glows red from all the slapping.

The article veers instantly serious, providing us with raised-eyebrow skepticism about DeSantis ambitious schedule.

DeSantis has promised a range of executive measures he’d take as soon as he’s sworn in on Jan. 20, 2025. Some are light on specifics; others are constitutionally questionable, if not impossible.

We’ve been down this road before. In 2016, astute observer Salena Zito described the disconnect between Donald Trump’s critics and his supporters in a manner that applies, in 2023, to the DeSantis divide.

“[T]he press takes him literally, but not seriously; his supporters take him seriously, but not literally.” 

Stipulated: As a campaigner, DeSantis has pledged to make a wide variety of concerns a “Day One” priority. He sounds simultaneously literal and serious.

  • Shutting the southern border. 
  • Stripping woke/political/DEI training or other considerations from the military. 
  • Snatching back the olive branch from Iran’s mullahs and replacing it with sanctions and other harsh measures.
  • Dismissing FBI Director Christopher Wray.
  • Implementing executive branch appointments from a prepared and vetted list of candidates.
  • Reviewing the convictions and prosecutions of those connected to the events on Capitol Hill Jan. 6, 2021, with pardons possible.
  • Revoking “all the executive orders, the regulations, everything involving Bidenomics.”
  • Unlocking the shackles clamped on America’s oil and gas prospectors and producers, including the builders of pipelines and other infrastructure.

That’s a lot of Day One stuff. Is it all possible? Don’t imagine for a moment DeSantis couldn’t sign the requisite paperwork and still make it to the inaugural balls on time. This is what he does. Ahead of his first inauguration as Florida’s governor (January 2019), DeSantis wrote in The Courage to Be Free, he directed his transition team to draw up an “exhaustive list of all the constitutional, statutory, and customary powers of the governor. I wanted to be sure that I was using every lever available to advance our priorities.”

If he should somehow beat the current odds and wind up behind the Resolute Desk, it’s plain DeSantis won’t spend Day One squabbling on X about the size of the crowd for his inauguration speech.

“We need to do it now because if we don’t get this done we only have a short amount of time, short amount of window to be able to turn the country around,” DeSantis said. “You’ve got to go in there, Jan. 20, 2025. You’ve got to be ready to go on Day One.”

If the transition team is competent, diligent, and has been thorough in its duties, muscling up on Day One is the easy part. Seeing the initiatives through is where the tough job of governing resides.

In Florida, DeSantis has proved more than capable in the art of follow-through tactics. Yes, he’s enjoyed lopsided support from a Republican-dominated Legislature in a state racing to the right. But a fair amount of that starboard momentum can be attributed to DeSantis himself, the combined result of his mission-based administrative prowess, his right-for-the-times political philosophy, and — not unimportantly — his commitment to growing the base.

DeSantis probably had more of an impact on Florida’s political hue by investing in campaign field operations to expand the state GOP. There are currently 525,418 more registered Republican voters in Florida than there were at the end of 2018, and some of that growth can be credited to DeSantis. Shortly after his 2019 inauguration, he directed the state GOP to focus on registering more Republican voters. The GOP’s net increase of more than 40,000 voters that year was the party’s biggest gain in the year before a presidential election this century. Then, in 2020, the party added a modern record of nearly half a million voters on net. In 2021, DeSantis contributed $2 million to the registration push, and it paid off that November, when the number of registered Republicans at last surpassed the number of registered Democrats. Finally, in 2022, amid DeSantis’s reelection campaign, the GOP capped off an impressive quadrennium by adding 188,323 Republicans to the rolls on net. You guessed it: That was the most for a midterm year in at least 20 years.

Listen, candidates say a lot of things in campaigns they don’t mean in the absolute. But whether DeSantis’ persistent vow about accomplishing on “Day One” a wide swath of center-right priorities is a solemn promise or merely a verbal campaign tic, its repetition is designed to convey that his sense of urgency matches that of a worried nation.

Florida’s Best Newspaper® can make fun of that all it wants. Americans seeking relief from the multiple ills vexing their nation may yet come to regard a candidate promising Day One decisiveness with downright seriousness.

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John Sexton 7:00 PM on December 09, 2023