Gov. Ron DeSantis calls himself a “Teddy Roosevelt Republican.” It’s a lot better than his previous label: a “Fox Green Room Donald Trump Republican.” And, indeed, he has vetoed a bill that would have prohibited cities from banning plastic drinking straws, is supportive of the Everglades Trust, is critical of Big Sugar and has hired a chief science officer. This, as we have seen, is not a Rick Scott sequel.
But he has also done something that Rick Scott would have approved of–and would have supported with some “jobs, jobs, jobs” rationale: the biggest state road project in decades. That’s the upshot of signing on to a massive new toll road through the state (from Polk County to Collier County) and extending two (Suncoast Parkway, Florida Turnpike) others. “I think we need new roads in Florida to get around,” explained DeSantis. “So, I’m supportive of infrastructure.”
In effect, DeSantis has really said, “Look, I’ve been a Teddy Roosevelt Republican on some things that have surprised both sides of the aisle. It’s not hard to look good when you follow Rick Scott, who even Republicans didn’t much lot. But I’m not going to go overboard–as if my only constituency were the Sierra Club and tree huggers.”
Alas, those who went to the mattresses for wetlands and wildlife corridors went unheeded. Their clout pales next to those of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, road builders and others with self-serving, vested interests. “Make Florida Sprawl Again” still resonates with the usual suspects. Or maybe it should be: “For Whom Florida Tolls.”
“Teddy Roosevelt is probably rolling in his grave right now that a comparison was ever made between him and Gov. DeSantis,” said Sierra Club Florida Conservation Chair Tim Martin. Maybe so, but maybe DeSantis also wants it both ways, not unlike Roosevelt in a way. TR’s legacy includes having created a Forestry Service, establishing several national parks and paving the way for the Antiquities Act and the National Park Services. He’s also, of course, remembered for his swaggering “thrill of the hunt,” which included a number of well-earned big-game, mounted trophies.