GOP candidate argues the Founding Fathers were right not to abolish slavery

Rep. Ron DeSantis, a Republican running for governor of Florida, can't run from his history of racist remarks

Published October 12, 2018 5:00AM (EDT)

Ron DeSantis (Getty/Drew Angerer)
Ron DeSantis (Getty/Drew Angerer)

This article originally appeared on AlterNet.

Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.), the GOP's nominee for governor of Florida, has found himself in yet another controversy over racist rhetoric.

American Ledger, a project of the super PAC American Bridge, has unearthed a series of toxic arguments put forward by DeSantis in his 2011 book, "Dreams from Out Founding Fathers: First Principles in the Age of Obama," which he wrote while first running for Congress to bolster his credentials against President Barack Obama.

One of the most disturbing claims he made in the book was that Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American Supreme Court justice, was wrong to suggest the founding fathers' failure to abolish slavery in the Constitution was a fundamental flaw.

"For someone like Marshall, this failure overshadows the numerous and long-lasting political achievements embodied in the structural foundations of the government that have nothing to do with the institution of slavery," DeSantis said. But in fact, he went on, the "philosophical foundations of the Constitution are incompatible with slavery," and bargains like the Three-Fifths Compromise, which counted enslaved persons as 3/5ths of a free citizen, actually "benefitted anti-slavery states."

If DeSantis had simply left it at the fact that tolerating slavery was essential to get the Southern states on board, he might have had a point. But for him to claim the Constitution somehow preordained the end of slavery as written is pure whitewashing, given that it took a bloody civil war to amend it to do so. Furthermore, his claim that allowing slaveowners to get extra congressional apportionment for each enslaved person they owned was somehow a gift to "anti-slavery states" simply defies logic. Not to mention, it is highly offensive for DeSantis to condescendingly say all this as proof that Thurgood Marshall — one of our nation's great constitutional thinkers, and himself a descendant of slaves — didn't know what he was talking about.

For good measure, DeSantis also claimed in his book that Obama was not truly a Christian, but became one out of convenience because "irreligion would be an impediment to forging political relationships."

DeSantis has been facing accusations of racism ever since he stated on television that Florida should not "monkey this up" by electing Democratic opponent Andrew Gillum — the first black nominee of a major party for governor of Florida. Subsequent reporting has uncovered his ties to far-right xenophobic groups, including the David Horowitz Freedom Center, whose founder has claimed there is a "race war" against white people, and ACT for America, a hate group that centers on Muslims.

Gillum, the outspoken progressive mayor of Tallahassee who supports a universal right to health care, currently holds a narrow but consistent lead in polls.


By Matthew Chapman

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