DeSantis published a book in 2011 that was intended as takedown of Obama and his policies.
The book tells readers about DeSantis’ political philosophy, but not about the governor’s own life.
DeSantis wrote the book during the Tea Party movement and before he ran for Congress.
Before Republican Ron DeSantis became a well-known governor from Florida who takes frequent aim at President Joe Biden, he had his sights set on cutting down another Democratic president: Barack Obama.
He did so throughout his 2011 book, « Dreams from Our Founding Fathers: First Principles in the Age of Obama. »
The book’s title aimed to criticize Obama by playing with the name of the president’s first memoir, « Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance. » DeSantis even used a similar cover to the one Obama had.
DeSantis wrote the book as he was coming of age in politics during the Tea Party movement. Then in his mid-30s, he had just been honorably discharged from the Navy, and would soon run successfully for the US House, where he would serve from 2013 to 2018.
While written more than a decade ago, the book sheds light into how DeSantis thinks about policy and about other politicians. In it, DeSantis tries to make the case that Obama’s policies strayed from the Constitution and that the former president was committed to « redistributing wealth. »
Insider obtained a hard copy of the book to read, and had seven takeaways:
The book is hard to get
« Dreams from Our Founding Fathers » probably won’t make it onto a lot of holiday gift lists even for politicos because there aren’t many copies in circulation.
According to NPD BookScan, which tracks retail sales of US print books, « Dreams from Our Founding Fathers » sold 125 copies through July of 2022. That means the books available for sale now go for a high price — on Amazon, for instance, prices range from $369.99 to $1,683.99.
To obtain a hard copy of the book, Insider called the Miami-Dade Public Library System, which had to order a copy from the library sharing service Interlibrary Loan. A copy of the book arrived to Miami-Dade two weeks later from Flagler College in St. Augustine, Florida.
Readers otherwise have the option of accessing the book electronically.
‘Dreams’ isn’t a memoir
Many politicians write books to tell voters who they are, what they care about, and where they came from. They’ll tell stories about lessons their parents taught them growing up, and how they were compelled to dedicate themselves to a life of public service.
« Dreams from Our Founding Fathers » is not that book. Readers looking to learn more about DeSantis’ childhood in Dunedin, Florida; how he proposed to his wife, Florida first lady Casey DeSantis; or his fairy tale wedding at Disney World won’t find those details in it. The book’s only personal reference is in its dedication, which reads, « To Casey. »
But it does get into DeSantis’ disdain for Washington. For instance, he accuses Democratic leaders of having an « inclination to spend other people’s money, a lust to control the lives of their fellow citizens and desire to perpetuate oneself in office. »
« It seems like they consider the Constitution to be a quaint afterthought, a sometimes annoying impediment to their desire to redistribute the money of their fellow citizens and to engage in social engineering, » he wrote.
DeSantis sees ‘individual liberty’ as supreme
DeSantis’ book homes in on the Tea Party, a Republican movement that wanted government to be smaller and to spend less. The group’s following swelled during Obama’s first years in office, and took strong stances against his program to help home owners avoid foreclosure, his economic stimulus plan, and his healthcare law known as the Affordable Care Act.
DeSantis in his book accuses Obama and his supporters of working toward « more centralized government power and less individual freedom » to bolster « the power of the state and its collectivist goals. »
America, he wrote, « is at a Constitutional crossroads » and should return to the Founding Fathers’ stance that the government’s most important job is « the protection of individual liberty. »
As governor, DeSantis has championed himself as the defender of « freedom. » He has argued that he can even use the hand of state government to limit workplace trainings on diversity, equity, and inclusion, as well as teachings in schools on race and gender.
In the name of defending individual choices and freedom, he also has taken actions such as blocking schools from making students wear masks and preventing employers from mandating vaccines from workers or customers.
« What I’m doing is using government to give space to the individual citizen to be able to participate in society to be able to speak his or her mind, » DeSantis said at a political event in September.
DeSantis has said little about what’s in store for a second term in Florida, but in his 2022 Election Night victory speech, he said, « The survival of the American experiment requires a revival of true American principles. » The comments appear to echo the « first principles » from DeSantis’ book.
DeSantis carefully studied Obama and criticized him personally
« Dreams from our Founding Fathers » doesn’t just take heavily from Obama’s autobiography. Throughout, DeSantis uses excerpts from Obama’s campaign promises, speeches, and legislation.
It shows DeSantis had carefully studied the president and his agenda.
« The age of Obama has seen an expansion of government on virtually every level, » DeSantis wrote.
DeSantis was also critical of Obama personally, calling him « first in his own mind » and saying, « he actually believed that he was a historically special figure. » In one section of the book, DeSantis wrote that Obama lacked the humility of George Washington, the first US president.
He wrote that Obama had a « palpable cockiness » and « made outlandish claims about his own significance as an individual. »
He accused the Obama campaign of having a « messianic posture. » Eleven years later, the DeSantis campaign ran an ad during his 2022 gubernatorial reelection campaign that intimated DeSantis was uniquely chosen by God as a « fighter. »
Obamacare looms large
DeSantis, who majored in history when he was an undergraduate at Yale University, quotes from the Constitutional Convention and the Federalist Papers throughout this book. He argues that America should be a place where the government has limited power and sticks to a few core functions.
Universal healthcare falls outside of those functions, according to DeSantis. Much of his book is critical of the Affordable Care Act, which Obama signed into law during his first term. DeSantis particularly takes issue with the provision known as the « individual mandate » that forced citizens to buy health insurance or otherwise pay a tax. (In 2012, Supreme Court upheld the ACA’s tax as constitutional.)
He also criticizes several other taxes and regulations in Obamacare and uses the law as an example of the expansion of government, and the slew of rules and regulations that come with it.
Somewhat surprisingly, considering his current stance on such issues, DeSantis in his book doesn’t touch on any of the so-called « culture war » elements of the healthcare law dealing with transgender rights or reproductive healthcare.
DeSantis instead warned that the healthcare law would push the US toward a « purely government-run, single-payer system. » Ultimately, though, the law strengthened corporate insurers, and Democrats funneled even more funding to the ACA during the last two years.
When DeSantis was in Congress he voted to repeal the ACA — though the measure failed in the Senate. Republicans did succeed in zeroing out the fine on the uninsured as part of their tax bill, and Democrats haven’t pushed to bring the provision back.
As governor, DeSantis hasn’t agreed to have Florida opt into Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion that would allow 800,000 Floridians with low earnings to receive government-financed healthcare.
DeSantis showed derision for the press
As governor, DeSantis has become famous for confronting media that he views as overly hostile toward him. He frequently bashes the « corporate media, » argues with reporters about their questions, and blocks some reporters from political events. He regularly does interviews on Fox News and other conservative outlets — but not elsewhere.
His negative views of the press as biased date at least as far back as when he was writing his book. In it, he accuses the press of treating Obama with « kid gloves » because his politics and worldview « corresponded nicely with the political orientation of most rank-and-file journalists. »
Obama, DeSantis wrote, « garnered flattering media coverage by a press thoroughly enamored with his progressive politics. »
Another DeSantis book would yield a big payday
The publisher of « Dreams from Our Founding Fathers » is High-Pitched Hum Publishing in Jacksonville, Florida, a cooperative publisher known as a « vanity press » in literary circles. That means that as an author DeSantis payed to get his book published and to help pay for expenses such as printing.
Typically, famous politicians reap massive advances that enrich them significantly. But in 2011 DeSantis was not well-known. His US House financial disclosures from 2013 to 2015 show he received $13,278 in book royalties over that period, according to an Insider tally.
Eleven years later, DeSantis still isn’t wealthy. He has a net worth of $318,986.99, doesn’t own property, and carries $21,284.92 in student loans, his financial records show.
If the governor were to write another book — at a time where he’s considered to be the second-most famous Republican in America next to former President Donald Trump — he’d undoubtedly see a big payday, show records from other presidential prospects.
For instance, GOP Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, another 2024 presidential prospect, earned a $184,167 advance for his book. When Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts was running for the Democratic nomination for president last year, she received a $730,350 advance for her book.
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