DeSantis and Hurricane Biden recovery actions show how the 2024 race could take shape

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The lion’s share of national attention on the meeting between President Joe Biden and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has been speculated about the theoretical 2024 presidential game. But for many in the Sunshine State, the duo standing together represented a another stark contrast, and it had nothing to do with presidential politics, but rather the effectiveness of government.

DeSantis’ leadership since Hurricane Ian, a Category 4 storm whose strength and destruction rivaled predecessors such as Andrew, Charley and Michael, has earned high marks from unlikely sources. In Biden’s words, « What the governor has done is quite remarkable. »

While Sanibel Island and Fort Myers Beach attracted most of the film crews, the events on Pine Island were truly remarkable. Located just off Fort Myers, Pine Island is Florida’s largest barrier island. It is a working-class fishing village connected to the mainland by a single bridge – a structure badly damaged by the hurricane. Needing a boat or plane for supplies, the 9,000 residents of Pine Island found themselves in a difficult situation.


DeSantis did not wait for help from the federal government. On Monday, October 3, he announced plans to build a temporary bridge to Pine Island, deploying more than 130 Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) trucks, which worked around the clock. Less than three days later, the bridge was open to the public, well ahead of schedule. The state government and state funds did the work. Trucks from Publix were seen that day bringing much-needed supplies to the island store.

Trucks cross the new Pine Island Bridge. (Governor Ron DeSantis)

In the words of FDOT Secretary Jared Perdue, « As soon as the Governor gave us direction to work on this facility, we mobilized our contractor and internal forces statewide. »

This is an example of government working as intended: quickly and efficiently. Compare DeSantis’ actions to Biden’s words. The president spoke in the usual broad platitudes of the federal government’s support for « immediate needs and long-term reconstruction, » adding, « we’re going to be with you every step of the way. » Even while projecting a spirit of bipartisan cooperation, Biden couldn’t help but inject climate change into the narrative, a top priority for his political supporters but barely a concern for the thousands of Floridians without water or electricity.

The arm of the federal government tasked with recovery efforts, the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), has long lost credibility with the American public, and for good reason. There are a number of failures to report, but consider the events that unfolded in Puerto Rico, the US territory that continues to pick up the pieces of Hurricane Maria’s destruction more than five years ago.


In September, FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell told El Nuevo Dia, the island’s largest newspaper, that she had described Puerto Rico as a « model of long-term recovery. » Yet, nearly half a decade since Maria, electricity is unreliable on the island. Power cuts are still frequent. Less than a fifth of the stimulus funds allocated by FEMA have been spent. Corruption is rampant, and so is finger-and-blame – and that was before Hurricane Fiona made landfall.

Two weeks after Fiona, more than 100,000 Puerto Ricans were still waiting for power to be restored. This is the example that FEMA presents as a « model ». Nobody buys it, especially people whose lives are at stake.


As a lifelong Floridian and former congressman, I’ve been through many hurricanes. Beginning with Jeb Bush, every governor in our state has continually improved reconstruction and recovery efforts.

DeSantis’ leadership since Ian has raised the bar even higher. When he and Biden united, the differences between the two ran the gamut, from political philosophy and age to personality and style. If the two end up sharing a presidential debate stage in 2024, their joint appearance in Florida in 2022 will be heavily scrutinized. But even if they don’t end up as their party’s presidential candidates, Florida residents have seen the future, and it’s a future where government can improve the lives of the people it’s meant to serve by immediate action rather than empty words and by oneself. -pity.


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