TURES COLUMN: Going after woke could lead to going broke when hurricanes come

Published 11:30 am Thursday, August 31, 2023

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It’s hard to belie that late last year, Ron DeSantis looked like the strongest challenger to Donald Trump.  Now the Florida Governor may be slipping even behind Vivek Ramaswamy and has dropped to third place in South Carolina.  At the same time, Hurricane Idalia is headed toward his state, and the insurance market is in a lot of trouble.  Between Hurricane Ian and Idalia, the state had a chance to solve the problem, but instead chose to “fight the woke.”

Almost a year ago, I was interviewed about the Florida Governor’s response to Hurricane Ian.  I gave DeSantis high marks  for the relatively bipartisan tone of the event with President Joe Biden, or as much as professionalism across parties can be accomplished today.  He handily won reelection in 2022, albeit against a tired candidate offered up by the Democrats.  But he looked to be a candidate with a better record of success than Donald Trump, who several of his hand-picked candidates went down to embarrassing defeats in 2022.

DeSantis then pursued Trump’s most die-hard supporters, instead of demonstrating a policy agenda that could appeal to a majority of the country.  He basically made “fighting woke” the centerpiece of his primary run, and attacking businesses, colleges, schools and libraries, which signing social policies well outside the mainstream.  A truly cringe-worthy curriculum defending slavery will be hard to run on in 2024, as well as another GOP candidate calling climate change agenda a hoax, when in fact 69% of Americans believe it, seeing the evidence for themselves.

When I went to Ft. Myers to help with the Hurricane Ian clean-up in the Spring of 2023 with our chaplain and students, I thought there wouldn’t be much left to do.  Instead, for many, it looked like the hurricane hit the day before, not months before back in 2022.  I heard horror stories about dropped insurance, folks out of money, gouged prices, and no ability to rebuild.

Indeed, we now know that in the state, inflation remains high though it’s come down in the rest of the country.  Housing prices are skyrocketing.  And insurers are leaving the market.  Fed-up residents in Jacksonville elected a Democratic Mayor in this GOP bastion; she defeated a prominent local politician and DeSantis supporter, back in May. 

Rather than trying to help the residents of the Sunshine State by addressing the crisis, a member of Florida’s government decided to label Farmers Insurance “woke.” 

 The CFO of Florida called them “The Bud Light of the insurance industry,” hoping to tap into “conservative anger” over transgenderism to scare this insurer into coming back and losing billions more.  In fact, the whole insurance industry has been losing billions, and hasn’t had a positive financial outcome since two years before DeSantis was Florida’s Governor.  Now they want to boycott insurance companies when Floridians need them the most.  The audacity is incredible.

The facts show that a number of other insurers stopped writing policies in the state, or went insolvent, and other insurers have cut back in the, including AAA.  Farmers Insurance also stopped writing policies in areas of California prone to wildfires, which makes it harder to go with the woke argument.  For Florida, “its homeowners that are already paying the highest insurance premiums in the nation, with an average premium of $6,000 per year versus the U.S. average of $1,700 per year, according to Mark Friedlander, Florida-based director of corporate communications for the Insurance Information Institute. That’s 42% higher than the year prior, Frielander added,” according to Fortune Magazine.  The number of uninsured properties is double the national average, according to ABC News.

You’ve heard the phrase “when the only tool in your box is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.”  It’s time for Republicans to find a problem solver whose solution to a crisis isn’t to call it “woke” or link it to Bud Light, or to have another GOP candidate call the Climate Change agenda “a hoax.”  Suspending his campaign to deal with the hurricane is a good start, but helping the average Floridian find affordable insurance should have been the priority a long time ago.