Andrew Gillum Keeps Murdering Ron DeSantis In Florida Gov Debate After He's Already Dead
I haven't put much stock in the outcome of political debates ever since Hillary Clinton curb-stomped Donald Trump in all three presidential ones, and she still somehow lost. Trump just flung feces on the stage for a couple hours, and the punditry criticized Clinton for having crap on her pantsuit. But Florida's gubernatorial debate last night offered renewed hope as Democrat Andrew Gillum conducted a public autopsy on Republican Ron DeSantis: "I will now make the Y incision and extract the large mass of bullshit that has metastasized near his lungs."
DeSantis came out swinging during his opening remarks. A new CNN poll had him trailing Gillum by double digits (don't believe the hype, just vote), so he was on the defensive and sought to reshape the race by hitching his racist wagon to Trump's blatant lies about Gillum's record as mayor of Tallahassee, which Trump has called "one of the worst and most corrupt" cities in the country. This is a bold claim about a city that was never the setting for a single "Law & Order," "CSI," or "Criminal Minds" series. It is also mostly untrue. However, DeSantis, speaking in liar with English subtitles, still tried to convince voters that Gillum would turn Florida into the "black mall" that white people stopped going to out of fear.
DeSantis:Look, Andrew is a failed mayor. He's presided over a crime-ridden city. He's involved in corruption. He's not the guy to lead our state.
Gillum: Well, that's a mouthful.
Yep, Gillum smacked DeSantis with a bemused putdown reminiscent of Ronald Reagan's "there you go again" from the 1980 presidential debates. He reacted to DeSantis like a slightly disappointed schoolteacher watching an unpopular kid try to improve his fortunes by imitating the "bad boy" in the class. "Ron is being Don -- and that's Donald Trump," Gillum remarked, "neglecting all sense of reason and facts." Trumpism might work for Trump, but DeSantis just looked desperate, like he tried to put a leather jacket on over a polo shirt.
DeSantis, who was twitchy and blinky and all the other dwarves during the debate, failed to land any real punches on Gillum, even when sticking with the standard Republican rhetoric of "he'll tax you to death and give the money to gay trees." Gillum also remained positive despite consistently bludgeoning DeSantis. He called him an "election year environmentalist" and reminded him at one point that this was "CNN not FOX. You have to bring facts." Gillum also forcefully pressed DeSantis on his opposition to the Affordable Care Act: "Mr. DeSantis, while in Congress, voted to discriminate and allow insurance companies to discriminate against people based on pre-existing conditions." This is a sharp turn from how some Democrats, especially in the South, hid from their support of the health care bill in past elections. Gillum also stressed the importance of hurricane-prone Florida having a governor who actually believes in science.
Debates are won based on how candidates respond to what their opponents see as their weaknesses. When DeSantis pressed Gillum on his supposed "corruption," Gillum turned it all around on him, saying that unlike
certain people we know, he isn't under investigation and neither is his government. Gillum also didn't shy away from the racial dynamics of the campaign.
"The 'monkey up' comment said it all, and he has only continued in the course of his campaign to draw all the attention he can to the color of my skin. And the truth is, you know what? I'm black. I've been black all my life and as far as I know, I'll die black. But this is the point: The only color that the people of the state of Florida care about is the blue-green algae flowing out of the east and the west side of this state. And they deserve a governor who is going to protect this environment."
Gillum also called out DeSantis when he questioned how the mayor had scored "Hamilton" tickets or a trip to a villa in Costa Rica.
"I didn't take free trips from anybody," retorted Mr. Gillum, who later accused Mr. DeSantis of "showboating." "I'm a hardworking person. I know that may not fit your description of what you think people like me do. But I've worked hard for everything that I've gotten in my life, and I don't need anybody handing me anything for free.
Meanwhile, DeSantis couldn't answer moderator Jake Tapper's question about whether he considered President Trump a role model for his kids. I mean, he literally couldn't answer the question. He just confessed that his obsequious, boot-licking pro-Trump campaign ad was BS and then abruptly shifted to Jerusalem as Israel's capital, because, I guess, a lot of old Jewish people live in Florida. Gillum, in full chill, tells Tapper that he's "confused by the question" that DeSantis just tried to dodge. He doesn't even engage him on Jerusalem. My boy just dragged DeSantis back into the burning building and answered the actual question as the audience laughed in DeSantis's dopey face.
"No, he's not [a good role model]! Donald Trump is weak and he performs as all weak people do: They become bullies."
Gillum ended the evening with a stirring closing statement that should've inspired DeSantis to write his concession speech.
Gillum is a man, so no common Chuck Todds will accuse him of being "overprepared." He'll receive full faith and credit for a masterfully executed debate performance. But we shouldn't rest on our laurels. Republicans will go full Tonya Harding to electorally hobble Democrats with all sundry of voter suppression. Turnout will decide the race, as well as first-time voters like the one Gillum shared with us on Twitter Monday morning.
Yes, Florida, please "bring it home" on Election Day and send Ron DeSantis to that great lobbying firm in the sky.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He's on the board of the Portland Playhouse theater and writes for the immersive theater Cafe Nordo in Seattle. Tickets are on sale now for his latest Nordo collaboration, "Curiouser and Curiouser," an adaptation of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass." It promises to feel like an actual evening with SER (for good or for ill).