Why DeSantis Matters
DeSantis makes people’s lives, liberty, and property more secure by using his constitutional powers to limit governments and their cronies.
July 30, 2021
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) has been taking a number of powerful actions:
DeSantis’s actions use his constitutional powers to offset unconstitutional actions by others.
Making People’s Rights Secure against Power-Grabs by Others
State-government officers, like national-government officers, are required by their oaths of office to support the Constitution. Supporting the Constitution requires that each officer independently interpret the constitutionality of each action he could take, and always assert the strong constitutional powers of his office to defend the people in his jurisdiction against power-grabs by others .
State-government officers almost never have acknowledged what constitutional powers they have, and used these powers to offset national-government power-grabs.
In 1798-1799, majorities of legislators in Kentucky, Virginia, Tennessee, and Georgia passed resolutions that the Alien and Sedition Acts were unconstitutional . In 1814-1815, majorities of legislative delegates from Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, two New Hampshire counties, and a Vermont county reported that the national government’s raising of a standing army, conscription of militias, and enlisting minors without consent were unconstitutional. In 1832, majorities of convention delegates from South Carolina voted that the Tariffs of 1828 and 1832 were unconstitutional, were null, and if enforced would only then be remedied with secession .
Based on these main examples, state-government officers’ attempts to push back against national-government power-grabs had been rare, and these attempts seemed to have died out early in our history. State-government officers mostly just enacted resolutions, which lack the penalties that give laws power. When state-government officers considered taking action, they deferred taking action unless large groups of officers, usually in large numbers of states, would take the same actions together. By and large, state-government officers dishonored their oaths, shirking individual responsibility and accountability, and—whether with best intentions or calculatedly seeking political cover—gravitating to approaches that made action unlikely and slow.
DeSantis therefore stands out for willingly acting unilaterally, acting fast, using penalties and pardons, addressing diverse policies, and addressing both national-government power-grabs and local-government power-grabs.
Under the Constitution, government officers have power that’s highly asymmetric. They have zero power to act unconstitutionally, and they have the duty to not act unconstitutionally. At the same time, they have strong power and the duty to act constitutionally.
If DeSantis or anyone else became president and used his constitutional presidential powers fully to offset unconstitutional actions by others, this would produce a rapid, comprehensive turnaround that no other president has accomplished .
Making Rights Secure in Your Own Backyard
But note that as president, it would be crucial for DeSantis to use his constitutional powers to push back not just against others outside his own government but also against others in his own government.
A president needs to not use the substantial powers unconstitutionally delegated to him by past and contemporary congresses , and needs to veto further delegation and sign repeals of past delegation.
And a governor needs to do these same things too.
DeSantis’s actions to date strongly suggest that as president he would keep running the unconstitutional administrative state  he would inherit, and he would just try to run it better during his time in office.
DeSantis’s response to state and local health agency overreaches, for example, has been to take control and make the same centralized decisions better. He has made no attempt to eliminate these government agencies  and open up room for the private sector’s true experts to work directly for private-sector customers.
Of course in the case of health agencies, that approach may have been understandable, especially in the early weeks of the COVID-19 panic. These government agencies had already monopolized health consulting, and certain quick actions could have been helpful.
But government schools’ underperformance has been evident for generations. And yet in this policy area that isn’t an imminent disaster but that is a slow-motion trainwreck that’s of major significance, DeSantis’s approach has been essentially identical.
DeSantis’s response to government-school problems has been to take control and make the same centralized decisions better, not to eliminate government schools and open up the space for parents to become the customers who educators have to answer to .
Either Representative Thomas Massie (R-KY) or Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), as president, would have the same rare, singularly-valuable track record of using his constitutional powers to offset unconstitutional actions by others.
But either Massie or Paul would offer the substantial plus of coming into office with no track record of actions or speeches that suggests that he would keep the entire unconstitutional administrative state going and just try to make it work better.
Leaving Us Freest
Presidents can work nonstop without taking any actions that are constitutional. And generally they do.
Presidents have mostly shirked the executive’s role by abdicating to congresses the line-item budgeting, organization, and much other management of the administrative bureaucracy .
Departments, agencies, and government-chartered organizations have instead been created and grown by congresses. Presidents have mostly just signed off on these and then let these bureaucrats mostly do what they want, occasionally sending them orders about a few pet projects.
Most presidents, fresh from their experience marketing themselves as candidates, most of the time act like they’re marketing executives who we’re paying to sell us on having our governments do even more.
This is the exact opposite of what responsible fiduciary agents would do. Responsible fiduciary agents would fulfill their oaths of office, and by doing so would limit our governments .
Luckily for presidents, we don’t expect too much from them, so we might not be let down.
The greatest American president, in the estimation of economist and historian Jeffrey Rogers Hummel, was Martin Van Buren. In four short years, Van Buren kept the USA out of substantial wars with two foreign powers, Mexico and Britain. Domestically, Van Buren kept the USA from creating the third national bank in succession, a move that strengthened gold’s position as real money. He avoided taking harmful action through the Panic of 1837. And he set the course for not taking harmful action in the deep Panic of 1839—which rivaled the Great Depression in the speed and depth of its deflationary crisis, but in striking contrast was ridden out with nearly full employment and with a substantial rise in production .
In each case, having a president who had the emotional and political intelligence to do less with government that would get in people’s ways, so that instead people could sort things out for themselves as fast as they could, meant that less was more .
DeSantis matters because he uses his constitutional powers to limit governments and their cronies . Our next president can matter in the same way, and should. For ourselves and for our legacy, we should select as our next president the person who will matter as president in the same way that DeSantis matters as governor.
And if our next president uses his powers well to limit government, he may also gain the honor of creating our next small-government major party ; and this time, the first major party that won’t break bad .
James Anthony is the author of The Constitution Needs a Good Party and rConstitution Papers and has written in The Federalist, Foundation for Economic Education, American Thinker, American Greatness, and rConstitution.us. Mr. Anthony is an experienced chemical engineer with a master’s in mechanical engineering.