Florida Governor Ron DeSantis officially entered the United States presidential race on May 24.
During a Twitter broadcast hosted by venture capitalist David Sacks, DeSantis pledged to lead a “Great American Comeback,” provoking accusations of plagiarism from ex-President and fellow 2024 presidential candidate Donald Trump.
Among topics like U.S. immigration policy and the supposed prevalence of “critical race theory,” DeSantis gave significant attention to cryptocurrency during his hour-long presentation. He promised to protect “the ability to do things like Bitcoin” and fight the “central planners” at Capitol Hill.
— Jane Adams (@iLoveJaneAdams) May 25, 2023
DeSantis’ stance on crypto has been fairly consistent over the past few years. Still, his decision to emphasize it again is notable, as was the choice to announce his presidential bid on Twitter in the virtual presence of crypto-adjacent Elon Musk.
This has led to the characterization of DeSantis as “the choice for crypto enthusiasts in 2024,” and there’s little doubt the politician will keep trying to win unanimous support among the community.
A friend of crypto
In 2021, the Florida governor proposed that the state government allow businesses to pay state fees with cryptocurrencies in the 2022/23 budgetary year.
He suggested providing the Florida Department of Financial Services $200,000 of financing to offer local companies the option to pay state fees via crypto, and another $500,000 to explore distributed ledger technology’s potential to maintain motor vehicle records, authenticate Medicaid transactions and detect potential fraud.
Overall, the governor’s stance has matched general crypto enthusiasm in the state. Miami hosted the “largest-ever” Bitcoin event in 2021, while its mayor, Francis Suarez, started accepting his paychecks entirely in Bitcoin.
Miami even introduced its own cryptocurrency, built on the Bitcoin blockchain, dubbed MiamiCoin. Within the MiamiCoin protocol, 30% of all coins mined made their way to a digital wallet designated for the city.
In 2023, DeSantis started engaging in political discussions around crypto more seriously. In March, he held a press conference under the banner “Big Brother’s Digital Dollar,” where he spoke out against the Federal Reserve’s possible plan to issue a central bank digital currency (CBDC). Noting recent inflation rates and the Fed raising interest rates, the politician concentrated on freedom and privacy concerns tied to the “digital dollar:”
“[A CBDC] provides the government with a direct view of all consumer activities. Any way they can get into society to exercise their agenda, they will do it. So, what the central bank digital currency is all about is surveilling Americans and controlling the behavior of Americans.”
Concluding the press conference, DeSantis urged Florida lawmakers and their “like-minded” counterparts from other states to introduce legislation prohibiting modifications to the Uniform Commercial Code so no U.S. or foreign CBDC could be included.
Playing on recent tensions with China, he mentioned the country’s digital yuan project, which he claimed is being used “to monitor citizen behavior allowing for the surveillance of spending habits and to cut off access to goods and services.”
He later repeated this rhetoric in response to the Fed’s public claim that it would seek Congress’s support if it decided to introduce a CBDC. DeSantis said that it is not a question of benevolent intentions but a constitutional requirement for that kind of major policy change to be authorized by Congress. “Unaccountable institutions cannot impose a CBDC on Americans,” he added.
It is not merely “ideal” that major changes in policy receive specific authorization from Congress; it is constitutionally required.
Unaccountable institutions cannot impose a CBDC on Americans. They will tell us that CBDC won’t be abused but we are wise enough to know better.… https://t.co/OqJ27Lym2L
— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) April 10, 2023
A couple of months after his fiery speech about the digital dollar, DeSantis signed a bill restricting the use of possible CBDCs in Florida. Were a U.S. CBDC to be issued, he warned, it would be “a massive transfer of power from consumers to a central authority.” The governor also claimed that a CBDC would threaten private cryptocurrencies.
Such a fierce anti-statist and pro-market position, complemented by decent knowledge of the crypto market, make DeSantis an attractive candidate for some industry enthusiasts. As J.W. Verret, an associate professor at George Mason Law School, told Cointelegraph:
“DeSantis’ leadership could cultivate a more supportive environment for cryptocurrencies, potentially stimulating a wave of innovation and entrepreneurship.”
However, the problem may lie in other areas of DeSantis’ political advocacy unrelated to cryptocurrency.
A foe of progressives
“The most likely Trump alternative in the race,” as the pundits often call him, DeSantis combines the stature of a successful governor of a large state with a conservative public persona.
During his tenure in the U.S. Congress, DeSantis fought climate tax hikes, the Affordable Care Act, gun control, Barack Obama’s immigration policy, the special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s investigation of interference in the 2016 presidential election and taxes on social security benefits. He was one of the founders of the conservative-libertarian congressional Freedom Caucus in 2015.
As governor, DeSantis shifted Florida’s Supreme Court balance to originalism, ensuring the legal system would aid his struggle against major social change. He also imposed stricter rules on Florida universities when collaborating with China and signed an “anti-sanctuary city” bill, preventing so-called “sanctuary cities” from being established in Florida. But perhaps the most contentious of the governor’s political activities is his battle with “critical race theory” and LGBTQ+ awareness in schools.
“Florida is where the woke goes to die,” he proclaimed during his second-term speech.
In the summer of 2021, the Florida Board of Education approved a ban on teaching critical race theory in school, which DeSantis endorsed, while in December of the same year, a politician introduced his Stop Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees Act or the Stop WOKE Act.
The legislation was signed into law in 2022 but was partially injuncted by district judge Mark Walker, who declared it too vague and unconstitutional. However, DeSantis still managed to ban transgender girls from participating in female school sports competitions, and prohibited discussions on gender identity in school classrooms from kindergarten to third grade.
These efforts have been popular with conservative voters but have not come without consequences.
He eliminated Disney World’s special tax district in Florida in response to the media giant’s vocal opposition to his anti-LGBTQ+ policies. Disney subsequently halted plans for a $1 billion development project in the state, which it claims would have created some 2,000 jobs.
Furthermore, Republicans fell far short of expectations in the 2022 mid-term elections, with American voters failing to rally around the party, the rhetoric of which was largely concentrated on culture-war issues and claims of a stolen election.
All this, combined with the fact that DeSantis is currently polling well behind former president Trump could spell headwinds for the pro-crypto governor.
Voting in the era of polarization
DeSantis represents a combination of a pro-free market, low taxes, low welfare economic vision and a populist appetite for cultural wars with progressives, which has become increasingly prevalent in the last decade.
In this context, his support for crypto is manifested more as a part of a larger anti-statist and business-friendly paradigm, rather than a detailed stance on cryptocurrency specifically — one could hardly recall any nuanced points from DeSantis about the potential of decentralized finance (DeFi), for example.
Thus, betting on him could widen a notable separation in the U.S. crypto community, with some feeling threatened by the Biden administration’s hawkish crypto stance, in contrast to the relatively pro-crypto rhetoric in the Republican Party, leading to a growing partisan divide.
Is it productive for the crypto industry to foster stronger ties with the Republican Party in the long run?
Speaking to Cointelegraph, Anthony Georgiades, co-founder of the Pastel Network — a decentralized blockchain for nonfungible tokens — said in an era of extreme polarization, the answer depends on where one falls on the political spectrum.
That said, the recent approach of regulation-by-enforcement from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission — the head of which was appointed by a Democratic president — has been deeply unsettling for market stakeholders, up to the point of an “existential risk” anxiety:
“So I imagine that some in our industry would be willing to compromise on their candidate of choice, to some extent at least, because of the related policy stance on crypto. This would also apply to any number of industries, I should add, not just crypto.”
The CEO and co-founder of carbon-backed digital collectibles Ecosapiens, Nihar Neelakanti, believes that the current situation is merely a projection of a general political polarization in the U.S., where the crypto industry — neutral in basics and uniting a broad spectrum of supporters, from liberals to libertarians — seeks any kind of support it can get. And DeSantis still doesn’t represent the only candidate who could accumulate crypto voters.
Neekalanti told Cointelegraph, “The good thing is that we now have candidates from both major parties who are supportive of Bitcoin and crypto more generally. If a pro-Bitcoin conservative wins, then there will be many who say this is bad for crypto. But if a pro-Bitcoin liberal wins, many will also say this is bad for crypto. We’re just too politically divided as a nation.”
Dan Nissanoff, the CEO and founder of Game of Silks metaverse, agrees. Speaking to Cointelegraph, he highlighted that the crypto community is still very far from uniting around any single candidate.
At least three candidates appear to have embraced the digital asset economy wholeheartedly: Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Ron DeSantis and Vivek Ramaswamy. “DeSantis is popular among conservatives, just as RFK Jr. is popular among a seemingly growing number of liberals. It’s nice to see glimmers of bipartisan support for digital assets.”
The only sure thing at this point is that Biden is likely to be the least popular candidate for crypto enthusiasts.
The optimal choice for someone in the crypto community might come down to two factors, Georgieades explained:
“The first is whether any particular candidate is pro-crypto or not. And, second, how this candidate approaches other hot-button issues facing the country.”