(Jump directly to main “Ancestry of Ron DeSantis” section.)
What follows here is a long-form approach to Ron DeSantis, via a close look at his ancestry, family, and upbringing, and how those things (may have) shaped the political life, ideas, and attitudes.
The main thrust and purpose is to shine a light on, and get good insights into, the rising political star that is DeSantis, via a comprehensive, original-genealogy-research-based, all-branch review of Ron DeSantis’ ancestry back to 19th- and early-20th-century Italy, and then industrial Ohio.
The article has a sandwich-like format, with the meat in the middle. Recent happenings in DeSantis’ own life come first and last. (A final, conclusion section reflects on the meaning of some of the findings and considers what a President Ron DeSantis would mean.)
First, a snapshot of DeSantis arriving on the scene (2018) and recent years’ developments (2018-2021), including the high profile he attained during the Corona-Panic.
Then comes the original-research section on Ron DeSantis’ ancestry and family, mainly dealing with his immigrant ancestors arriving from Italy in the 1900s-1910s and what they did in America.
Last, a third part dealing with DeSantis’ own early-life developments before the decisive governor’s race (1980s-2017), all of which I believe offer valuable insights into the DeSantis phenomenon, who he is, how he got here (as it were).
I believe this effort is unique among the millions of words written on DeSantis up to now, in focusing on his ancestry and looking for stories of interest informative of who he is and how he thinks, in an in-depth way rather than dismissal with a word or two (“Italian”).
The purpose is to help us understand Ron DeSantis. One conclusion can be stated out front: the critical ‘moment’ of his life, and adult identity and politics, was his arrival at Yale in 1997 at age eighteen. Early in his time at Yale, he says, he came to see elite US culture as something foreign, something which had drifted into being alien and alienating. He had not been acculturated into that kind of thinking. If not, then what kind of culture and worldview did he arrive with? Where do any of our worldviews come from? A major source is one’s family, family tree, actual genetic inheritance and self-perceived ancestry. The ancestral portrait, with an eye on the current-day political, strikes the root and not the branches (to garble up the tree metaphor). And so here it is.
Some might incline to dismiss it all with a word or a line or two. Meaningful insights seldom come from one-liners. One-liners end up caricaturing people and in some cases confusing things.
DeSantis is, without doubt, America’s stand-out Republican governor today and has been since mid-2020. His fame and prestige is tied inextricably now to the “Corona-Panic.” He was the first major governor to ban “lockdowns,” mask mandates, and the rest; to confront and maneuver to dismantle the fear-peddling cultural-virus that emerged in early 2020. He refused mandates and every other Corona-Panic whack-a-mole thing that pops up. He became very conversant on medical aspects of the controversy and had the courage to bring them to their proper conclusion. A major purpose of this investigation is to ask where this came from. A sweep back through the generations and through his own earlier life, I think, provides the answers.
I should add that DeSantis will be of great interest again throughout 2022 for his reelection campaign (Nov. 2022 general election for governor, thirteen months from this time of writing [Oct. 2021]). And, if he wins it, he’ll be a major contender for president in 2024 and beyond.
Ron DeSantis, one of the “men of the hour.” He deserves the attention we give him, including this long-form effort. Thanks in advance for those who read this, and follow along on this little journey.
Summary of points:
- Governor DeSantis’ parents are both born-1940s Americans. Both are of Italian ancestry.
- Ron DeSantis’ ancestors entered the USA from Italy in the 1900-1920 period (mean year of arrival: 1912/13; median: 1914). There is no evidence of non-Italian ancestry on any branch, back four generations at least.
- At least half of DeSantis’ ancestry traces mainly to the region of Abruzzo, central Italy, including ancestors on his father’s and mother’s sides; a lesser number are from the hills in the interior of Campania region, just south of Abruzzo.
- The Italian ancestors are almost all interior, mountain people and none come from coastal areas or metropolises.
- All four pairings of Ron DeSantis’ great-grandparents involved Italian men who arrived some years before the woman (future brides in three cases; a wife left behind in Italy in one case, later joining her husband).
- Most of DeSantis’ ancestors settled in the greater Youngstown, Ohio area and some in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area.
- Occupations: One great-grandfather was a steel mill worker. Two worked for the railroads, one as an “oiler,” another eventually rose to “superintendent” after years as a “superintendent’s field clerk.” The fourth great-grandfather was a pipe-fitter at a power plant. DeSantis’ own father (b.1946) was a blue-collar worker in Florida.
- DeSantis’ parents left Youngstown, Ohio, for west-central Florida in the early 1970s, where Ron was born in 1978.
- DeSantis’ father (b.1946) holds views today which were of mainstream, blue-collar centrist type in his youth, young-adulthood, and even into mid-age, but which, when expressed today, are “extreme” and put him in or near the Dissident Right.
- DeSantis himself is a lifelong Floridian, born and raised in Greater Tampa Bay.
- Although he entered the elite world after being accepted to Yale in 1997, DeSantis entered as something of an endangered species: a non-elite White-Christian from the “provinces.” He was not “primed” in adolescence to the views of the New Elite consensus, as were many of his peers. This long encounter was the decisive experience of DeSantis’ life by his telling, being disorienting at first.
- He emerged as a well-grounded, in-system observer of, and critic of, the US New Elite. He at first thought that certain extreme views characteristic of the New Elite were contained within academia and such places but by the 2010s saw them infiltrating the mainstream, opposing which he characterizes as that which animates his politics today.
- DeSantis had entered politics in 2011-12 after being inspired by the “Tea Party” movement of late 2007 to late 2012 (and which peaked in 2010). He was elected as a late-comer Tea Party type and took up the US Congress seat he won in early 2013.
- When the Corona-Panic came in early 2020, DeSantis was instinctively distrustful of the Elite consensus, but bowed to early pressure to order lockdowns and “counter-measures.” In coming weeks and months he furiously studied the new data and soon concluded that the Corona-Panic was a mega-scale mistake, that all the interventions were either useless or counter-productive, that the whole thing continued because of political cowardice or demagoguery, and that it all served the New Elite’s interests in various ways. By late summer 2020, he had completely dismantled the Panic in Florida, at least the government-mandate side, and refused all pressure to bring it back. It was over, in Florida, after only a few months; versus two-plus years elsewhere…
- We are left with some clear sources of Ron DeSantis’ politics which seem to derive from his family and ancestry. DeSantis positions himself as a defender of “our founding fathers” despite his own, entirely-late-Ellis-Island-era-arrival ancestral stock. This raises some interesting points on “assimilationism,” especially contrasted with Doctor Fauci — the anti-DeSantis — who is of primarily Naples and Sicily ancestry.
This essay is organized in sections as follows:
(1) Introduction (above).
— (Summary of points), above. —
(2) DeSantis enters the scene: 2018 (the year DeSantis entered national consciousness, but only to be forgotten about in 2019).
(3) The 2020 breakout (gaining fame/infamy during the Corona-Panic Year for opposing the Corona-Panic and refusing all elements of it).
(4) ANCESTRY OF RON DeSANTIS (including subsections on: father’s side ancestry traced back to Italy; a discussion of ancestral stock via y-dna in DeSantis’ main ancestral region, Abruzzo, back a few thousand years; mother’s side ancestry traced back to Italy; on Ron DeSantis and “assimilation.”)
The “Ancestry” section is this article’s longest section and is mostly original research with, as far as I can tell, information never elsewhere published.
(8) Why did he turn against the Corona-Panic so strongly and uncompromisingly? — The full picture considered in light of the above findings; family, temperament, and life-experience and more.
(9) DeSantis for President — Concluding thoughts on what would be the U.S. president who will have the latest mean-ancestor-arrival-year (1910s).
DeSantis enters the scene: 2018
I begin with a brief section on how and when DeSantis entered the national spotlight for the first time. It was December 2017. He was beginning his run for Florida governor.
With Anti-Trump feeling at a fever-pitch, people in the big media agenda-setting centers like New York and Washington took inordinate interest in the Florida race, and so DeSantis was tossed into the soft limelight, but more as an effigy to scorn and mock — as, loosely, a “Trump guy.”
He was officially in the race by December 2017 and handily won the late-August 2018 primary.
DeSantis then won the general election in November 2018.
Following his win came the predictable-enough Red Team cheerleading and Blue Team boohooing.
His image, never more than vague outside Florida, and subject to distortion because of the media hostility to anyone they dubbed a possible “Trump guy,” DeSantis’ image emerged at the time as being, roughly, a “George W. Bush-style ‘dumb jock’-type Republican.” Maybe as a squishy Trump supporter, maybe a let-down. He was too much of an unknown-quantity. He seemed to fit that role of “dumb jock Republican.”
The Florida governor’s race got considerably more attention than usual in 2018 because of Florida’s role as the key swing state since 2000, and 2020 was approaching, the crucial election in which Trump would run for reelection. The 2018 political season was also the peak of Anti-Trumpism. The Anti-Trump side hoping they could pick off the Florida governorship and be positioned strongly for this key swing state in 2020. If it came down to the Florida state government disputing over which “hanging chads” to count and which not to count, they really wanted a ‘Blue’ guy in there, unlike that whole unpleasantness in 2000.
But there was also the symbolism. The Anti-Trump side wanted to show the nation and world that the key swing state of Florida rejected Trump in full force. And so the spotlight came down on Florida, more than usual, more even than its population-size and other characteristics would merit.
In the end, the Anti-Trump side was disappointed when DeSantis won, even narrowly (half a point), despite the Democrats winning in almost every ‘swing’ race in the USA.
This left many resentful of DeSantis, who had snuck in a victory when, by all rights, the state belonged to the ‘Blue’ team — especially ahead of the Nov. 2020 presidential election. US agenda-setters entered 2019 with much ill-feeling against Ron DeSantis for snatching that victory in Florida. The year passed with little further interest in DeSantis except that carried-over ill-feeling.
Breakout in 2020
All the above about 2018 was dramatic in its own time, but turns out to very much have been DeSantis’ political pre-history.
His real story begins with the events associated with the Great Corona-Panic of 2020. The Corona-Panic and its consequences put him in the spotlight. He turned against the Panic early and became a star, or a villain depending on which side of the Pro-Panic/Anti-Panic divide the observer fell on.
Many, even sympathizers, said he was taking an enormous gamble, that if his Anti-Panic (anti-lockdown, anti-mandate) policies ended up “costing lives,” he would be ruined forever, a political dead duck in addition to moral guilt. He felt sure he was doing the right thing after closely following the medical studies (as this website and others did throughout the Panic, concluding by April and definitely be May 2020 that all signs pointed to mega-scale false alarm). He refused to kowtow to Corona-Ayatollah Fauci and his backers.
The Pro-Panic side cast DeSantis as a villain. The Anti-Panic side, domestic and international, loved him. Either way, he got lots of attention.
We can see the outlines of the two distinct spikes of interest in Ron DeSantis on Google Trends — one associated with the 2018 governor’s race and then the long Corona-Panic period:
We see that there was no national interest in Ron DeSantis at all before the 2018 Florida governor’s race. Effectively zero. No one knew who he was. The first sign of any movement was in December 2017 (week of Dec. 17-23 — the Trump tweet was Dec. 22). But interest was minimal before August 2018, the Republican primary.
Interest spiked in line with the 2018 general-election campaign and, unsurprisingly, peaked in the election month of November 2018 — this during the hypercharged anti-Trump political wave. After the election, interest faded back to low levels, where it remained until a point in March 2020. Then it jumped again. It has remained elevated ever since. There have been several distinct spikes between March 2020 and the present (this writing, Oct. 2021).
Here is the same graph for Jan. 2019 (post-inauguration) to Oct. 2021, with a few weeks highlighted:
Interest in Ron DeSantis was consistently at very low relative levels before March 2020. His median weekly “score” on this scale for Jan.-Feb. 2020 was 1; mean: 1.8. Interest in Ron DeSantis spiked in March 2020, the in-earnest start of the Corona-Panic. It never quite went away; in 18 months he has never faded back to 2019 and Jan./Fe. 2929 levels.
A novel political split had occurred, one much more important than the so-called “novel coronavirus.” DeSantis soon emerged into a figurehead of the Anti-Panic side; against him stood almost all the major institutions of society and the elite, and many people devoted to the Panic with a religious-like devotion. Interest in DeSantis, as measured by Google Trends reached peaks with regularity; probably at least as much of it was negative and positive.
The awesome power of the Corona-Panic continued to roll on nationally and internationally, with few political figures willing to fight it. DeSantis, though, successfully dismantled all institutional, state-level forms of the Panic and its reach within Florida by August 2020 already. Florida cut off most of teh Corona-Panic’s tentacles that had infiltrated the state. Some regrew on their own; other Corona-Panic tentacles were always trying to probe ways in. The whole thing get renewed vigor once the Biden people came in. A considerable local (Florida) Pro-Panic constituency was also active, such as the now-high-profile ‘DeathSantis’ agitator, lawyer Daniel Uhlfleder (on whom, see discussion in a previous post’s comments section and on whom more momentarily). And so it went on and on.
One of the spikes in interest visible on the graph came in early February 2021. It reached “43” on the scale during which mid-August 2021 = 100. This was when DeSantis was in the news for his showdown with the then-new President Biden and Corona-ayatollah Fauci. Biden threatened, according to a reliable report, to cut off travel and vaccines to Florida if DeSantis continued to oppose the Corona-Panic and refuse lockdowns and mandates.
Already by fall 2020, DeSantis was a regular target of the national-level US media, which increased in 2021, which reinforced interest in him. This ire (and interest) were from his consistent, firm-line Corona-Anti-Panic position, refusing lockdowns, blocking onerous mandates, opposing masks and blocking local attempts to go around the statewide ban. He attacked proposed vaccine-passport systems, vowing that no such system will ever be allowed in Florida as long as he is governor. He became a bete noir of the Corona Pro-Panic side and in essence mocked them for pushing panic unnecessarily.
Throughout 2021, the “DeathSantis” group and its ringleader Daniel Uhlfelder has been releasing anti-DeSantis ads attacking him for failing to take Corona seriously. One which they released in early October 2021 reached a new low and was widely mocked (see discussion), widely mocked because it makes DeSantis look good and it made the Pro-Panic side itself, which funded and produced the ad, look bad:
That brings us up to the present, October 2021.
(I should add a brief mention that there were no major disturbances, riots, mass looting, or arson-sprees in Florida during the post-lockdown “George Floyd” riots of mid-2020, because DeSantis deployed his national guard promptly and forcefully. The governors and mayors hit by the rioting/looting/arson sprees all refused to deploy their national guards; these the same people who aggressively pushed flu-virus lockdownism and have never repudiated it.)
The DeSantis momentum was unstoppable. Whereas only the heartiest of Anti-Panic stalwarts were enthusiastically with him in the beginning in mid-2020 and others hedged or waited it out, by early- and mid-2021 he had accumulated a major following. A July 2021 “straw poll” found DeSantis might be ahead of Trump for the Republican 2024 nomination.
The influential, global-agenda-setting Economist spotlighted DeSantis in its “Lexington” column in July 2021, written just before the US-domestic Corona-Panic flames were rekindled:
THE RISE OF RON DESANTIS(The Economist, July 24, 2021)
Florida’s governor offers a more efficient style of Trumpism. That does not seem reassuring…
Whoever is writing the Lexington column these days (it switches every few years but they are supposed to stick to a house-style as if the the same person were always writing it) seems to be working on that aforementioned, outdated view of DeSantis as a “Trump guy,” and possibly as some variant on “dumb-jock Republican,” the common view back in 2018.
We may recall that Trump was partially paralyzed by the Corona-Panic, or at least by the mighty powers of the ascendant Pro-Panic coalition. Trump fumbled, stumbled, flip-fopped, and gave mixed signals. DeSantis successfully took on and defeated the Panic. There was never any stumbling or fumbling or mixed-signals. Granted, it was not an election year for DeSantis. But whatever the reason, DeSantis was much better on the Corona Question than Trump, who was outmaneuvered much of the way. The biggest problem was that Trump tried to counter-demagogue on it all (e.g., the childish insistence on calling it “The China Virus”).
The future is yet to be written. As it stands now, DeSantis is the clear favorite for president in 2024 for millions of people, and the clear favorite overall if Trump does not run. This prestige and acclaim he gained for his stand during the Corona-Panic, one of the few voices of the Anti-Panic side in major office (see: “Where are the opinion leaders for the Anti-Panic side?” [Feb. 2021]).
Many of us see DeSantis’ refusal to cave into the Corona-Panic and his root-and-branch rejection of the Panic after closely following the latest data is a sign of moral courage, strength of mind, analytical and critical reasoning abilities. Only occasionally does this mix of qualities appear in the same man, and rarer still is such a person a majorly successful political career, as in governor of a state.
What is the provenance of such a man in today’s world? Whence cometh moral courage in this age in which it seems so lacking? In other words, we still would like to know: Who is Ron DeSantis? We seek not a resume or curriculum vitae. We seek to know who this man is. This can be hard but especially with politicians, for many of them deliberately create inoffensive and bland public-facing images.
If there are answers in the Ron DeSantis family story, genealogy, and ancestral story, the purpose of the rest of this essay is to look under the various stones we can find try to find answers.
Having no special access for interview or the like, I offer up this research-based portrait of Ron DeSantis’ parents and further ancestors back to the great-grandparent generation. The overall ancestral picture gives us lessons and some surprises.
ANCESTRY OF RON DESANTIS
Ron DeSantis’ ancestry is traceable entirely to the late Ellis Island period and back to central-southern Italy on all branches. His ancestors were mostly from mountainous, interior areas.
The earliest arrival was in 1900. The latest was 1920.
The “Ellis Island Era” generally dates to 1884 to 1914, with minimal “Ellis Island”-type arrivals before or after. DeSantis’ ancestral median-year-of-arrival happens to be 1914.
We can be confident in saying that a President Ron DeSantis would have the latest mean-year-of-ancestor-arrival of any president, including Barack Obama (whose father’s 1959 “arrival” to study in Hawaii a while, is offset, by much earlier median ancestral-arrival on the mother’s side).
I present now a full investigation into Ron DeSantis’ ancestors.
Ronald Dion DeSantis b.1978 (“Ron Jr.“)
It turns out that Florida’s governor is actually a “Ron Jr.” He has never marketed himself that way. But his father is also named Ronald D. DeSantis. When confusion is possible I am going to use “Ron Jr.” and “Ron Sr.” to distinguish the two.
- Father: Ronald Daniel DeSantis (“Ron Sr.“), b.1946.
- Mother: born Karen Rogers, b.1948.
Ron DeSantis Sr., the governor’s father, has ties to Pennsylvania and Ohio in earlier years of life and presumably still has many relatives there. But in his mid-twenties Ron Sr. left the industrial Midwest — which was just then starting to show first signs of “rust” — behind and went south to Florida.
Why exactly did Ron Sr. decide to leave Ohio, and why to Florida and not somewhere else? I don’t know, but the same meta-narrative still holds now, some fifty years later, now with the turn that people opposed to the Corona-Panic and see threats of destructive flu-virus lockdowns and onerous mandates, and see Florida as free of such depressing things. In Ron Sr.’s time there was no such thing — the severe influenza wave of 1968-69, the year before Ron Sr. married a local young woman; it passed in traditional flu season(s) with most people hardly noticing it. By the time his wedding (Oct. 1970) approached, it seems unlikely Ron Sr. would have remembered the flu wave of 1968-69 at all.
Ron Sr. was a blue-collar worker, as described by his son, the now-governor of Florida. He has presumably been retired some years, very likely in full retirement by the time his son’s political career got rolling in the early- or mid-2010s.
As for his personal background: Ron DeSantis Sr. is of entirely Italian ancestry, and quite late-arriving Italian ancestry at at that, with his all four grandparents (the governor’s paternal great-grandparents) arriving late teens and early twenties in the 1913-1920 period. The four lines consolidated in industrial Pittsburgh area (Beaver County) and Youngstown, Ohio (Trumbull).
Compiled from original research, by me (E.H. Hail) using various sources including US decennial censuses, newspaper archives, obituaries, and information on several genealogical websites.
Governor Ron Desantis (Jr.)’s four paternal great-grandparents (of eight total great-grandparents). Numbers refer to Ron DeSantis Jr.’s eight great-grandparents from father’s father’s father (1) to mother’s mother’s mother (8). Here they are:
- (1) Nicola DeSantis: born 1898 in Cansano, L’Aquila province, Abruzzo region, Italy. Immigrated in 1915 to Greater Pittsburgh; steel mill worker; lived in much of adult life mainly among other Italians (Census 1940); died Beaver County, Penn., in 1971.
- (2) Maria Nolfi: born 1901 in Cansano, L’Aquila province, Abruzzo region, Italy. Immigrated in 1920 to Greater Pittsburgh; married Nicola DeSantis prob. 1921 (first son b.1922); died in Beaver County, Penn., in 1944.
NOTE: After the death of his wife Maria in 1944, Nicola DeSantis remarried a widow whose birth-name was Esther Pratt (1908-1987), previously married to an Angelo E. Galzarano (alias “Charles Johnson”) (b.1898, Brazil; d.1943, Pennsylvania).
- (3) Salvatore Petrella: born 1889 in Italy (region undetermined). Married ca.1911 in Italy and had a son b.1912 in Italy. Immigrated alone in 1913 to Greater Youngstown, Ohio (Trumbull County); worked as an “oiler” for the railroad.
- (4) Maria Dominique Casasanta, born 1893 in Italy (region undetermined). Immigrated in 1915 to join husband. As of mid-1940, she was still an noncitizen and had not yet submitted an application for US citizenship, though her husband had submitted papers by then.
- 1915 is the median year of entry into the USA for Ron DeSantis Jr.’s paternal great-grandparents (mean year: 1916/17; range: 1915-1920). But the median year of citizenship acquisition may be in the later 1930s, as some of them made no rapid effort to get US citizenship; some may even have still been “enemy-aliens” when the U.S. declared war on Mussolini’s Italy in Dec. 1941.
- Most of the people associated with these lines (including some of their parents) are buried at [Catholic] Mount Olivet Cemetery, Aliquippa, Beaver County, Pennsylvania.
The Abruzzo region, home the DeSantis ancestor and more still of Ron DeSantis (Jr.)’s total ancestral stock, is here:
However, the DeSantis ancestors (and also some on the maternal side) are from the interior and not the coastal part. They were mountain people from the L’Aquila part (province, as they call it) of Abruzzo:
Several hometowns we find in the genealogical paper-trail are in mountain towns in the Apennines mountain range.
Now, a brief step into prehistory via dna testing, a different sort of discussion entirely:
Ancestral stock via y-dna lines
The DeSantis paternal line (father’s father’s father’s…) traces to the interior southern part of Abruzzo province in the 19th century.
According to one genetic study (n=107), males with patrilineal descent from Abruzzo have y-lines (male lineal descent y-haplogroups) at the following rates:
- 45-50% are male lines typical of northern-central-eastern Europe and the non-Mediterranean European meta-narrative — R1b, R1a, and I lines. These are the usual mix of Stone Age European descendants (Paleolithics and Mesolithics), and the Bronze-Age Indo-Europeans (R1b and R1a).
- up to 20% are lines associated with the Neolithic farming expansion (G and E1b1b).
- 20-25% of the male lines are of Greco-Anatolian or kindred stocks (mainly J2). Much of this probably dates mostly to the Bronze Age but mainly into the historical period; a portion is probably associated with the Greek colonization project in southern Italy in the first millennium BC.
(On the Etruscans, the mysterious early kingdom who preceded the Greek colonists and the Romans: the Etruscan Origin question seems lately to be solved and indicate Etruscan male-ancestry was Indo-European but t hat the particular band of IE conquerors, whose later culture we call Etruscan, for some reason came to assimilate to the pre-IE culture and language they encountered — Etruscan was definitely non-Indo-European as a language — but in any case the “Etruscan” genetic-ancestral component should be placed in the “45-50%” above, especially R1b.)
- An aggregate of around 10-15% of the male lines in Abruzzo trace to other sources, not classifiable above. These are harder to pin down with single, unified, coherent meta-narratives except that they come from points east and south; some measure of extra-European Roman-Empire-era population movements that assimilated-in locally must be in here. This element includes a circa-5% Semitic element; the rest is mainly or nearly entirely non-Semitic, but from the Mideast or that general direction.
The above is just for male lines (y-haplogroups). Female ancestry (mtdna) tends to be drawn from older population-stocks. When recent-arrival men showed up on the scene and made good, they took local wives, giving to their male offspring the foreigner (man)’s y-line but giving female offspring the native (woman)’s mtdna. (The reverse — the intrepid woman who arrives from afar, makes good, and takes a local husband — must have happened only rarely, if ever.) As such, the all-population share of Paleolithic, Mesolithic, and Neolithic ancestral-stocks are probably somewhat higher from the female side than from the male.
As for Ron DeSantis’ Abruzzo ancestry specifically, if it is as heavily derived from the mountain people and less from the coastal people — and this is a best-guess based on ancestor birthplaces, many in the interior Apennine range –then his ancestral-stock likely draws more from older populations than from those arriving after the Neolithic.
Mountain people have a way of hanging on. The Neolithic “G2a” y-line is especially strong in mountainous areas of parts of Europe and the Caucuses, but much less common in the open flatlands of Europe. The hypothesis is that the various Bronze Age and later conquerors who came through in later millennia didn’t bother very often to push into the mountains and preferred the fruited plains and forests; who wouldn’t?
It this hypothesis is true, it is no surprise that DeSantis does not look like a stereotypical Mediterranean but seems to have more Cro-Magnid, Alpine, or Dinaric influence than any Mediterranean proper. Within physical-anthropology he would certainly not be classified of Mediterranean type. Mountain ancestry probably explains this, as well as the accidents of phenotype-expression versus genotype; Ron DeSantis’ sister looks considerably more Mediterranean:
And now we return to the paper-genealogy trail.
Ron DeSantis Jr.’s mother was born Karen A. Rogers in 1948. Despite the name, Karen Rogers is mainly of Italian ancestry, much like her husband Ron Sr.
The surname “Rogers” was originally “Ruggiero.” An ancestor who arrived in America at age seventeen took to calling himself “Tony Rogers.” His birth name was Antonio Ruggiero and he came from Caserta, Campania province, southern Italy — the province on whose western coast sits Naples, one of the places in Italy most associated with “corruption , disorganization, and organized crime” — one wonders whether the interior-dwelling people such as this man born Antonio Ruggiero who renamed himself Tony Rogers also felt in this negative way about the western metropolis of his home province. Although in a different province, this is not so far off from the DeSantis-surnamed ancestor’s home-region in southern Abruzzo province.
The other male immigrant ancestor here was Robert Kresienzo Delisio, born in Abruzzo, the same province as the DeSantis line.
In any general north-south division of Italy, both Campania and Abruzzo are in “south,” but in a north-central-south division of Italy, Abruzzo may be deemed “central” (Italian Wikipedia puts Abruzzo as part of Central Italy under a “socio-cultural definition”). Governor Ron DeSantis has at least some Abruzzo ancestry on both sides. More importantly than the region level may again be the fact that the places of origin are in the interior, generally in the uplands and nowhere near the coast. This also applies to most of the maternal-side ancestors.
Here are Governor Ron DeSantis’ four maternal great-grandparents (Karen Rogers’ four grandparents), all of which are associated with the Greater Youngstown, Ohio, area. Numbers again refer to Ron DeSantis Jr.’s eight great-grandparents — here from mother’s father’s father, (5) to mother’s mother’s mother, (8):
- (5) Antonio Ruggiero (a.k.a. Tony Rogers): born 1894 in San Bartolomeo in Galdo, Benevento province, Campania region, southern Italy. Immigrated in 1912 to Youngstown area (living in Lowellville, Ohio, as of 1940); for a time in the 1910s worked as a “quarryman” (1917 draft registration) and later (1919-60) worked as “pipe fitter” for a power plant (1940 Census; obituary); died in 1965 in Youngstown.
- (6) Rosina “Rose” Storti: born in 1898 in Castlefranci, Avellino province, Campania region, southern Italy. Immigrated in 1916 to Ohio; married Tony Rogers in 1917; died in 1960 in Youngstown.
- (7) Robert Kresienzo Delisio: born 1896 in Pacentro, L’Aquila province, Abruzzo region, Italy. Immigrated in 1900 to Youngstown area, Ohio; long of Lowellville, Ohio; worked with the railroads, 1915-1963; as of 1940, he was a “field clerk” for a railroad superintendent (1940 Census) and later was a full superintendent; he was a highly active Republican and secretary of the county committee for much of the 1950s-70s; died in Youngstown in 1979.
- (8) Anna Antoinette DeOto: born in 1898 in Campobasso region, Italy (historically part of Abruzzo). Immigrated in 1909 to the Youngstown area at about age at ten; married Robert Delisio in Oct. 1919 in Youngstown; died in 1989 in Youngstown.
- 1910/11 is the median year of arrival for these four people, Ron DeSantis Jr.’s maternal great-grandparents (mean year: 1909; range: 1900-1916).
Just as with the paternal-side ancestors, the Italian hometowns are in the mountainous interior and not on the coast.
In the USA, the central ancestral locations for several of these ancestors is Lowellville, Ohio, which was once a thriving place with stable, well-paid blue-collar work but which by the late 20th century was a quintessentially “Rust Belt” town. It has been in clear multigenerational decline for some time.
Here is Lowellville’s relative location between Youngstown, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh (small Lowellville is actually very close to downtown Youngstown, about eight miles east):
A street scene in Lowellville near its height in the 1950s, resembling tens of thousands of such “main streets” (this is a riverside secondary “main street”; the town peaked at circa 2,600 in midcentury; today it is down to the 1,100 range):
There are three functioning churches in Lowellville today, a Catholic, a Methodist, and another small independent Protestant church whose centenarian pastor recently died (Aug. 2021) (things don’t change much in Lowellville).
The population is now down below 1100, of whom exactly one was Black per the 2000 Census; by the 2010 Census, it had risen to a grand total of three Blacks residing in town, amid 1100-some or so Whites.
In time, the Rogers family came more into the orbit of Youngstown proper. Karen Rogers and Ron DeSantis Sr. were married in Youngstown, Ohio, in October 1970. This is long local-regional continuity given that both families consolidated nearby from central-south Italy several generations earlier, in the 1900s-1910s period.
Karen Rogers’ own life, before her early-1970s-era move to Florida with Ron Sr., was entirely associated with Youngstown but I find little trace of her actions. But she and Ron Sr. left in their twenties and settled down into the new, exciting world of west-central Florida.
There are still plenty of traces of DeSantises hanging around the Youngstown area. One is “DeSantis Vending,” a vending-machine supply company. Across the state line in northwestern Pennsylvania there is “DeSantis Janitorial Supply Company.” An Edward DeSantis (born ca.1989) ran for the Democratic nomination in the westernmost Congressional district in early 2020 but lost to Kristy Gnibus (born ca.1984), who lost easily to the ten-term Republican Congressman Mike Kelly.
That wraps up the family-and-ancestral picture of the Ron DeSantis family covering a span of about a century-and-a-half, briefly touching on the genetic-history of Europe/Italy but mainly on what the ancestors were up to in the formative years of their time in America, all the way up to the fateful early-1970s move south to sunny Florida by a young Ron DeSantis Sr. and his bride (where Ron Jr., future governor, was born a few years later).
Now to briefly touch on the political and cultural context of what DeSantis’ central/southern Italian, late-Ellis-Island-era, western-Pennsylvania-and-industrial-Ohio ancestry.
The Ron DeSantis ancestral portrait and “assimilation”
A century ago, it was assumed that Southern Italians were possibly a political lock for the Left. Especially those recent arrivals — and the eight people profiled here had a median arrival year of 1914, the symbolic final year of the true Ellis Island period (which immigration crashing with World War I and then subject to tight restrictions starting in 1921).
Many among the young Italians (and other Ellis Island nationalities) in America seemed angry-anarchistic types, some variety of Hard Left. Or maybe too clannish to go in for traditional Anglo-Saxon political and social arrangements. In other words, they would not quite fit in and be a long source of friction. (See: Hajnal Line Theory; in most drawings of the line, Abruzzo province sneaks in just barely on the core-European side.) And after all, it was “Sacco and Vanzetti,” not “Stanford and Vandenburg.”
There were plenty of reasons a century ago why an informed observer would have been skeptical of the Southern Italian population-jolt into parts of the USA that began in the 1880s and peaked in the 1900s, still going strong up to 1914. Immigration-restrictions of the day were alarmed.
Old-stock Americans like Richard Nixon, for one. Nixon was famously Quaker. While only partially of Quaker ancestry he was of entirely colonial-American ancestry (the profile of Richard Nixon’s ancestry here at Hail To You is among the most consistently popular posts). Nixon’s father’s generation would have been among those most liable to worry about the Italians and others.
Flash forward to our time, especially to the year-of-destiny 2020. The descendant of the Ellis Island Italians, Ron DeSantis, stands as the defender of traditional values and against the mandates and the hocus-pocus of the Corona phenomenon.
On the other hand, we have Doctor Fauci.
Known by some as Ayatollah Fauci, the US government’s top, unfireable, bureaucrat-for-life is 3/4ths descended from Southern Italians via Naples and Sicily and 1/4th Swiss. That Swiss ancestor spent much of his life in Naples, that mafia-prone metropolis on the coast of the province in which DeSantis also had some ancestors. But DeSantises’ ancestors hre were interior hill-dwellers, including the man who renamed himself Tony Rogers in the 1910s-20s (see Mother’s side).
So we have an interesting contrast. Doctor Fauci’s immediate ancestors were same-province paisanos of some of DeSantises. Ironic! This dramatic contrast ought to say something, but I’m not sure what. It deserves more thought.
DeSantis is against onerous, Oriental-despotism-style mandates and the bizarre erection of a virus-centric mystery-religion.
As I’ve pondered the “Corona Cult” since spring 2020, I’ve sometimes been reminded of anti-Catholic positions of yore, also thematically relevant here because all the DeSantis ancestry appears to be the usual sort of Italian-Catholic (unlike former Congressman Tom Tancredo, whose ancestors got away from Italians and became Presbyterian in Colorado). Protestants looked down on their ‘Roman’ brethren for, so the line went, believing in magical incantations, incense, and all the bells-and-whistles, and for being dupes who (supposedly) never bother reading the source material for themselves. The anti-Catholic line amounted to calling Rome’s version of Christianity a kind of smoke-and-mirrors affair, its adherents misguided, and the religion tempting but disempowering to the individual.
In many ways this old characterization of Catholicism reminds me very much of the Corona Religion, as we have seen it develop. That version of a religion (the 19th-century and early-20th-century anti-Catholics’ caricatured version of the Roman Church and its beliefs, practices, and effects on people) never could have triumphed in the old America. But the Corona-Religion did triumph. Considerable resistance aside, it won millions of converts and essentially took power and achieved all its main aims.
One of the few main line of resistance we find in Ron DeSantis, an inheritor of the tradition supposedly that pushes such magical beliefs. The question of “assimilation” presents itself. I’ve looked closely enough at these immigrant ancestors to spot some probable signs of assimilation among Ron DeSantis’ ancestors in the 1910s-20s-30s era, though mainly on his mother’s side.
Looking at the first-generation (the Italian-born):
There is Karen Rogers’ paternal grandfather and his choice to call himself “Tony Rogers” (nee Antonio Ruggiero). He had arrived in 1912, at age eighteen; already on the June 1917 draft registration, he gave his name as “Rogers,” but someone crossed it out and wrote “Ruggiero.” (One imagines the Ohio draft board man asking the foreign-seeming man in front of the board if “Rogers” was really his name, No? It’s not your legal name, you say? Please write your legal name.)
Tony Rogers, circa 1930s?, hanging around Lowellville, Ohio:
Tony Rogers gave his children the following (non-Italian) names: John, Mary, James, Anne, Philip, Ernest, and Samuel. Philip Rogers is Karen Rogers’ father (and the Florida governor’s grandfather). The youngest son (who died in 2021 at age 85) had the name Samuel F. Rogers, the exact same name as the U.S. military’s first medal-of-honor recipient for deeds performed in Korea, a sailor during a brief combat incident in 1871. But that 19th-century Samuel F. Rogers was of (likely) colonial-Protestant extraction, whereas this one is of entirely Italian ancestry of southern tendencies.
Then there is Karen Rogers’ other grandfather, Robet Delisio. One interesting thing here is Delisio’s birthplace is a mountain village in the interior of L’Aquila province, Abruzzo region, just a few miles on foot along a mountain pass to the birthplace of the DeSantis ancestor, Nicola DeSantis. Their descendant-lines only met in the 1970s via the union of the future Florida governor’s parents. But the two emigrants (Robert Delisio and Nicola DeSantis
He stands alone among the men of this generation in the Ron DeSantis (Jr.) genealogical tree for not living among other Italians during his adult life. Although the town in which he lived — Lowellville, Ohio — in 1940 had plenty of Italians in it, most his nearest neighbors were US-born White-Protestants (1940 Census) and not one his immediate neighbors were Italians.
Delisio was the earliest-arriving ancestor of Governor Ron DeSantis, but arrived only in 1900. Still, in the grand old tradition of “in the land of the blind, the man with one eye is king”; Delisio may have been particularly proud of having been the most-American among these Italians he was associated with, having arrived at about age 4.
The Delisios’ nearest fifteen neighbor families in 1940 (per the Census) were surnamed as follows: Williams, Zuercher, Burns, Masters, Williams, Badal, Erskine, Shaffer, Price, Sonnenlitler, McIntosh, and Cunningham. The other families profiled here (DeSantis, Petrella, and Ruggiero/Rogers) all lived among other Italians at this time.
Robert K. Delisio was evidently a lifelong Republican, and a highly active one at that, serving on the Mahoning County [Ohio] Republican Committee as secretary for twenty-eight years. So loyal was he to the Republicans that his obituary starts with these words: “Services for Robert K. Delisio, 83, a member of the Mahoning County Republican organization for most of his life, will be…” (obituary in Cleveland Plain Dealer, Jan. 1, 1980). Ron DeSantis Jr., governor of Florida, may have inherited a little more than just a 1/8th-or-so share of genetics from this maternal-side great-grandfather…
To turn briefly to the politics of our time:
Karen Rogers’ native Youngstown is the county seat of Mahoning County, Ohio. This is one of the traditionally-strong-‘Blue’ counties which Trump flipped. Such counties appear all across Middle America.
Mahoning County had voted Democrat for generations running, often by big margins (two-to-one, sometimes more), in almost every election between 1936 and 2012. Trump tipped it Republican in 2020, after finishing near even in 2016. The county had gone ‘D’ by around thirty points for most of the past thirty years before Trump’s two campaigns. (This large-Democratic-majority county is the same one in which great-grandfather Robert Delisio was on the Republican County Committee for nearly thirty years in the mid-20th century.)
These are the kinds of people to whom Governor Ron DeSantis has family and community ties. Whites out there somewhere in Middle America who had voted ‘D’ their whole lives but tended to defect to Trump in 2016 and 2020.
There is sometimes perceived to be a tendency of Ellis Island-stock people, particularly those of one particular religion, to be resentful of White-Protestant America. The old “ethnic” tendency is to bloc-vote Democrat, in no small part because the Republicans were (supposedly) the party of the native White-Protestant elite. This does not appear to be true on some of Ron DeSantis (Jr.)’s ancestral branches. if it was ever true for his own father and mother, they defected soon enough, for Ron Jr. was raised with a basically conservative outlook with Republican sympathies which Ron Jr. absorbed from a young age (on which, more in a later section, especially on the Clarence Thomas hearings of 1991 and its formative impact on the thirteen-year-old DeSantis).
What happened with the Ron DeSantis family is a case study in multigenerational assimilation to a mainline US “Middle America” norm, with signs of such from early on (the immigrant, first-arriving generation) in some cases. It was a cake baked over enough generations that Ron DeSantis Jr. — the current governor of Florida and possible future U.S. president — feels confident enough in it, feels it enough his own, to make it unpretentious and unforced, or disingenuous-feeling, which is not true of some of our recent-foreign-origin pundits.<a id=”childhood”
Ron DeSantis (Jr.)’s childhood, 1980s-90s
In summary, we’ve seen that Ron DeSantis is Florida-born and Florida-raised, to parents of Italian ancestry and Youngstown-area and Pittsburgh-area, blue-collar personal origins. We’ve seen hints at least that DeSantis clearly embraces a general Middle America attitude despite his elite connections.
Even today he feels distant from the metropolitan-elite and its attitudes, which is a key to his political attitude. Oftentimes it is shallowly rooted, sharp (mid-high- and high-IQ-range), ambitious, and reasonably conformist people who most readily fall into the status trap. Plenty of residents of Florida fit the bill there, for Florida is a state with lots of shallowly rooted people. This didn’t quite happen with DeSantis even after he passed through the meat-grinder of the Ivy League.
DeSantis was raised a Christian, a boy scout, and a sports player — especially fond of baseball, where he was a strong hitter and often used as the designated hitter to replace weak-batting pitchers.
Here is a late-1980s example of future-governor Ron DeSantis active with the Boy Scouts, even at that age competitive and enterprising. They raced self-made vehicles. The event was a “Boy Scout Mobile Derby” at Clearwater Mall, Florida, with dozens of entrants from a number of regional cub scout troops:
So it went on into early adolescence. The 1990s began and soon came a decisive moment in DeSantis’ life. It was the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings to the US Supreme Court, September and October 1991. DeSantis was starting seventh grade and watched with the spectacle wit precocious enthusiasm.
DeSantis has described witnessing what he called a “ridiculously unfair treatment” they gave to Thomas, (which was similar but less-crazed, less-hyperemotional, less-surreal than the 2018 attempt to derail the Kavanaugh confirmation, at the time DeSantis’ first campaign for governor was reaching its own peak).
As a career lawyer he admires Thomas, who “sets the standard” for jurisprudence at the SCOTUS level. (These comments and others in the following section are from the Tucker Carlson Today interview with Ron DeSantis, April 19, 2021.)
Soon DeSantis entered high school (Sept. 1993), approximately coinciding with Clinton’s first term as president. Clinton was reelected over Dole when DeSantis was a high school senior. He was a baseball star on the school team, but he was also doing well academically and the future looked bright./a>
Young-adulthood encounter with the US academic-cultural elite, (Yale), late 1990s
DeSantis did extremely well in high school and got accepted to Yale in 1997.
Until age 18, DeSantis says he had “never heard anyone criticize God” in person. I would interpret this to mean that he had heard such comments, here and there, but they were something so distant from his lived experience as to not exist as something real, rather as some kind of dark underworld which one could live a full life never once intersecting with.
Then he showed up at Yale. Plenty of people there “criticized God.” That despite Yale’s own explicit New England Protestant origins. Yale, and most institutions like it, at some point became fairly clearly post-Christian. Not just with some post-Christians around, but party-line post-Christian. People in our time (2010s/20s) realize this a lot more than people did in the 1990s. It (post-Christianization, post-Westernization in some intellectual sense at least) was already true back then but much less understood or felt or appreciated.
And so the long encounter with Yale became a great culture shock to eighteen-year-old DeSantis.
Reminiscing in 2021, DeSantis said this of his early encounter with Yale (starting in Aug. 1997, his first semester):
“When I first went to Yale — I grew up in Florida, I was a blue-collar kid — I showed up my first day in jean-shorts and a t-shirt, because that’s what we wore on the west coast of Florida. It was a major culture shock. That was not something that was received very warmly, and I never quite fit in there…And I really rebelled against the Leftist orthodoxy that I saw on that campus.”(from ‘Tucker Carlson Today‘ interview, April 19, 2021)
The long encounter with the New Elite, which is hard to properly describe but includes aspects of being “post-Christian,” “post-American,” “post-White,” and more, a moveable feast of grievance, a set of cultural-political doctrines. We would now call all this generally “Deep Blue” (in the Red-Blue political color scheme someone made up arbitrarily) and in the 2010s a long set of descriptors came to be, terms like “social justice warrior” and lately “woke.” It all shocked and offended the young Floridian enough to set him on the path he went on. The path to becoming Florida’s governor. The path to fighting Hard Left racial-politics-pushers. To fight the Flu-Lockdown-pushers. And both at once if necessary. Against the full weight of the institutions.
An aside: When Ron DeSantis entered Yale, the elite university was already down to around 35% White-Christian, having started the 1990s around 50% White-Christian and being about in the 50-60% range in the 1980s. The trend was rolling on, such that by the late 2000s, not so many years after Ron DeSantis graduated, Yale was at the cusp of tipping below 25% White-Christian for the first time (according to research compiled by Ron Unz in 2012 (“The Myth of the American Meritocracy“). By the late 2010s, White-Christians were as low as 20% at Yale (according to Ron Unz’ College Demographics Tracker), and likely to be consistently below the 20% in the 2020s; a radical change in a generation-plus, for
- Early 1980s: Yale at 60-65% White-Christian;
- Early 1990s: Yale down to 50% White-Christian;
- Late 1990s: Yale approaches or breaches 35% White-Christian threshold (DeSantis’ time at Yale)
- Late 2000s: Yale approaches or breaches 25% White-Christian threshold
- 2020: Yale down to as low as 20% White-Christian
To the extent the New Elite was founded in large part on networks of people whose connections derive from Yale and other elite universities, the New Elite was naturally suspicious of White-Christendom as such and to some extent even strongly identified White-Christians as people. This trend is what DeSantis picked up on in the late 1990s.
(Similar encounters by men, especially of the b.1970s, b.1980s, and b.1990s generations led to a range of responses, often something like cognitive dissonance, anger, depression, and seeing the society as fundamentally now for them, the now well-studied “male drop-out phenomenon.” The alternative coping strategy is internalization of feelings of moral inferiority and weaponizing oneself on behalf of it. Neither of these strategies is healthy; maintaining a steady rudder in such storms can be difficult, and we can hardly blame most for failing to do as well as Ron DeSantis did.)
DeSantis was on the elite track after his Yale years (1997-2001) and then Harvard Law (2003-2005), taking a JD at the latter. Those with an especially close eye may notice a gap year in that academic CV: Immediately after graduating from Yale in May 2001, DeSantis took a job as a history teacher at a prep school in Georgia, which he has said was because he wanted to be on the school’s baseball coaching staff. This after playing baseball his whole life, including on Yale’s team. He was not ready to fully hang up the glove just yet, and in 2002 and 2003 was considering trying to get an office position in major-league baseball, which by 2004 he had given up on, instead entering brief naval reserve service and, one the unnecessary wars being on at the time, he ended up going to Iraq.
DeSantis taught (and coached) at the elite private school in Georgia during the 2001-02 school year after which he left for Harvard Law.
Reentering the Ivy League meant reentering the elite, or the elite-track, but DeSantis was still in an entirely non-political world. He did various things between 2002 and 2011 — including, for a time, being on a military legal staff in Iraq, 2007-08 — but all his 2000s-era activities majorly recede in importance to our story here, as the key moments in his life are his initial contact with the US agenda-setting academic elite world in the late 1990s, which was so profoundly shocking him, and his entry into politics circa fifteen years later as an elite-credentialed major, in-system dissident.
DeSantis was unlikely surprised at all when Yale and Harvard alumni both went out of there way to condemn him for his anti-lockdown policy, such as this Aug. 2021 hit-piece by Daniel Alter (Columbia, BA, ’88; Yale Law, ’91):
DeSantis, 2011-2017: the quiet years
Prior to entering semi-national-stage US politics in 2018, DeSantis had previously won three terms to the US House (2012, 2014, 2016) representing an area around Daytona Beach, northeast of Orlando.
The district boundary went inland up to the Sanford city border. That city was briefly famous in 2012-13 after a local Black youth named Trayvon got in a nighttime physical confrontation with an overweight neighborhood-watch guy known as George Zimmerman on the lookout for burglars. During the scuffle Trayvon bloodied the pudgy neighborhood-watch volunteer but ended up shot dead. For some reason this became national headlines and gave birth to a series of elite-media-driven stories in the mid-2010s, which became an elongated moral-panic. It had largely faded by 2018 and 2019. Then in mid-2020, after 2.5 months of Corona-Panic lockdowns, it returned with major riots, looting, and all the rest.
In any case, DeSantis was running for Congress in the adjacent district during the George Zimmerman controversy. He snuck a victory in the seven-way Republican primary in mid-2012, then by early 2013 was in Washington as a Congressman, including during the Zimmerman trial (verdict: not guilty; had he been tried in mid-2020 or later, he would have been found guilty for sure).
For what it’s worth, he earned an “A” immigration-policy score from NumbersUSA during his 2013-2018 time in Congress, indicating he is a clear immigration-restrictionist. His only poor grade was for failing to move to “reduce unnecessary work visas,” but on everything else he got an “A.”
What had inspired DeSantis to run? Evidence suggests it was the “Tea Party” phenomenon of 2010 which decisively pushed DeSantis, then in his early thirties, towards politics.
In 2011, DeSantis published a book, Dreams from Our Founding Fathers: First Principles in the Age of Obama. The title of DeSantis’ book was a not-too-subtle swipe at Obama’s quasi-racialist memoir, Dreams of My Father, and in its choice of “founding fathers” against “framers” (by the 2000s the more-standard term in academia) was another taunt at the system.
The book Dreams from Our Founding Fathers was published by “High-Pitched Hum Publishing,” a minor press operating in Jacksonville, Florida. The book’s politics appears to be in the Tea Party vein and also coincided with DeSantis’ own first run for Congress in 2012, the year the Republican vice presidential nomination went to a one-time Tea Party star named Paul Ryan (later to emerge as a bitter Never-Trumper and retiring in shame in 2018).
DeSantis played in the Congressional baseball game in summer 2017:
But the vague image of DeSantis as “dumb-jock Republican” loosely on the George W. Bush model — an image which emerged in 2018 and held in 2019 — was wrong. Admittedly, some of the details are similar: George W. Bush had been a Yale, too, 1964-68 (graduating ten years before DeSantis was born) as well as Harvard (Business School, in GWB’s case), and both had interest in sports, but aside from that they have little in common.
(Some observers believe the Bush family wants more than anything to cling to a position in a perceived American elite, some kind of anachronistic Protestant Elite, and as such will simply go along with “whatever” the current agenda-setting elite says or does and never protest, even talking themselves into believing whatever it is. If this is an accurate picture of the Bushes, it is not of Ron DeSantis. Florida’s anti-Corona-Lockdown stalwart has no pretensions to the quasi-aristocratic elite status of the kind the Bushes allegedly do.)
DeSantis reminiscing again about his fateful first real encounter with the Elite Consensus of our time:
I remember sitting in class [at Yale]. Everything was about how bad America was in some of these classes. I had never heard anybody criticize America.
I’d never heard anyone criticize God! Or Christianity. Yale’s motto is ‘For God, For Country, For Yale.’ They hated God, they hated the country …
I realized early on: this was not quite where I fit in.”(from ‘Tucker Carlson Today‘ interview, April 19, 2021)
To get another insight into Ron DeSantis’ basic world-view, we can turn to Ron DeSantis’ (“blue-collar”) father, who is clearly more like a typical Trump base-voter than a Yale elite of our time. Florida’s own state-wide opinion-shaping elite tried briefly, during the 2018 campaign, to smash Ron Sr. down for his badthink. In 2017, Ron Sr., then in his early seventies, had written several comments like this to social media:
“Affirmative action should be applied to the NFL and NBA. The leagues should be made up of 13% Blacks and the rest White. Can anyone argue with this based on past affirmative actions?”(from social media post by Ron DeSantis Sr. [father of the governor], 2017)
If Ron DeSantis Jr. ever runs for president, expect a social-media lynching and “tattle-tale journalism” of this kind on national scale. A tiring and decadent form of the craft, but alas a tempting and easy one. The attempted takedown was titled: “DeSantis’s Father Spread Racist, Misogynistic Rhetoric on Social Media,” publication date, September 2018.
(Meanwhile, Ron DeSantis’ opponent was later found involved with a gay escort who overdosed on meth in a Miami hotel room, but this kind of proclivity inspired far less hit-pieces during or after the campaign.)
Ron DeSantis says the shock of the late-1990s at Yale seems quaint to him in retrospect. He says that in the late-1990s and 2000s, he believed that some of the extreme ideas at universities, “that once you get into the real world, none of that’s going to fly.” He goes on:
“I think that was probably true even a decade ago. Now, all that nonsense from the universities [from the 1990s], it’s running key institutions! Corporations, media, all these other things.
I look back on [my 2000s-era beliefs] as quaint. A lot of the threats that we face are much, much more significant…than they were ten of fifteen years ago.”(from ‘Tucker Carlson Today‘ interview, April 19, 2021)
He has lately lightly made fun of his own book, and his own Tea Party-era thinking in 2010-11, saying “Obama…was a piker compared to what this Woke Left is doing now.” The political criticisms he made when conceiving and writing the book in 2010-11 seem hopelessly obsolete now. And in 2010-11 he could not have guessed that there would be flu-virus lockdowns and etc.
Why did he turn against the Corona-Panic so strongly?
The Ron DeSantis backstory — his Ellis Island-era Italian ancestry, the several generations of his family who lived in the industrial Midwest, his parents’ midcentury childhoods and young-adulthoods, his parents’ move to Florida in the early 1970s, his own 1980s-90s upbringing, and his at-first-disorienting encounter with the late-20th-century New US Elite world via Yale in the late 1990s — all leads up to his entry onto the national and international stage with the 2020 Coronavirus Panic and the lockdowns and the masks and the forced injections and the attempts to institute limits on travel and activity via internal “health passports” over a flu virus, and all the rest of it.
Ron DeSantis has already earned his place in history, even if he is struck dead by lightning tomorrow and never becomes president, as some have been talking about since mid- or late-2020, for he was the most forceful large-state governor to take a hard line against the Pro-Panic forces and their endless desire for lockdowns and all the rest.
DeSantis’ approach to the Corona-Panic may have been roughly as follows: the New Elite which he had known since age 18 at Yale, which already years ago had been absorbed in various delusions and status-signal markers, were often the same people who ended up on the side making mega-errors in “dealing with” Wuhan-Corona in 2020. In part they were stuck in a groupthink bubbles, in part other things were going on, but this called for someone free.
All reports from insiders suggest Ron DeSantis was furiously researching all the relevant medical aspects of Wuhan-Corona in 2020 and was conversant with the most-informed, could talk about the wacko “Imperial College Model” (millions of deaths without hard-lockdowns!) released like a toxic gas onto the discourse by a Pro-Panic fanatic named Niall Ferguson.
He knew at least the underpinnings of the major story that was No-Lockdown Sweden, and took the right lessons from it:
Ron DeSantis said this on “Lockdownism,” its would-be enforcers and its fanatics (which I came to call the Pro-Panic side):
“It’s a totalitarian impulse. …Go back [to] communism and some of these things. There’s a philosophy, an ideology about that, but then there’s just an impulse to dominate other people…
Look at what someone like me, what I’m trying to do. I want you to live your life. I have no interest in ‘locking you down.’…I want you to be able to do stuff.
On the flip side of that, there are other people who just feel very differently about it. Just think about…if you’re walking down the street…and you don’t have a mask on, and someone’s on the other side of the street with a mask, and they storm over to you, and yell at you, for not having a mask on! I’m just thinking to myself, ‘if you’re worried about them, wouldn’t you just want to stay away from them, and mind your own business?’ But the impulse is ‘You need to be obeying!’…”(from ‘Tucker Carlson Today’ interview, April 19, 2021)
We are all in part the products of our family/ancestry/genetic inheritances, and in part the products of our unique circumstances and times, and really always the intertwining of the two and the dice-rolls of fortune. The case of Ron DeSantis demonstrates this well.
In thousands of words here I mentioned his sibling, a sister, only once in passing. His one sister died in 2015 in England unexpectedly:
That his sister died at age thirty could be another reason why he opposed time-wasting lockdowns. He came to see the Pro-Panic was dug in for the long haul, but also that “all life-years matter.” The unexpected death of his sister in her prime is a reminder that we can die any time, that it is best to spend well what time one does have, not waste it cowering in fear and refusing to meet life eye-to-eye. Extreme Safetyism rolls over into its opposite, becoming anti-human, anti-life. This is a philosophical discussion, but the living memory of his sister is a kind of memento mori of the principle.
The decisive turns in Ron DeSantis’ own life seems to be his years at Yale in the late 1990s. Twenty-plus years later he emerged as one of the leading Republican political figures in America. A lot of water has passed under the bridge since then, and the new political split of Corona Pro-Panic vs. Anti-Panic in 2020 and 2021 caught many off guard and unawares, but he soon came out swinging against the Panic on a firm-data basis, the same conclusion as many of us reached at different stages in spring-to-summer 2020.
The answer to why Ron DeSantis became a Corona Anti-Panic hardliner (or holding onto being a normal person pre-2020) comes from his own personal outlook, an adult life entirely distrustful of the U.S. New Elite, a well-honed instinct to treat the elites’ pronouncements with a healthy skepticism.
“DeSantis for President” and concluding thoughts
Ron DeSantis has a good chance of becoming president, and efforts to fight the Corona-Panic positioned himself for such a bid.
He would be the first president with a mean year-of-entry into the United States in the 20th century (we have to use “mean” and not “median” because Barack H. Obama is in the dataset, and fully half of his ancestry entered the USA, for a short while, in 1959 or so).
A President Ron DeSantis would be the only president with not a single ancestor arriving before year 1900. He would also be the first “Italian” president. And yet nothing about his politics fit certain political stereotypes about Italians, or the fears many had a century ago on what the heavy absorption of Italians into the US body-politic would mean.
The old idea, current among older-stock White-Protestants in the USA and Canada about the Ellis-Island-era Southern Italians being too hard to assimilate deserves a brief reconsideration, a century or a bit more past the peak of such thinking.
I am still struck by the contrast between two of the titans and figureheads the Corona-Panic controversy of 2020-2022 in the USA: Fauci and DeSantis (see remarks on Fauci in “Ron DeSantis and Assimilation” section). Between the two of them, they have about 95% Italian ancestry, maybe more, and most if not almost all of it is from points south of Rome.
In Fauci’s case, the outlines of the old wariness of Italians do seem roughly true, in outline and applied to a different time and circumstances. But they seem completely false when DeSantis is brought in.
So what is this? Is Fauci a case of “failed assimilation,” versus DeSantis as “successful assimilation”? Or is it maybe that Fauci is one generation older than DeSantis? If this is a proper tree to bark up, dare we ask what caused Fauci to fail to “assimilate” whereas the DeSantises did it so well?
Or was there some difference on the origin-side? DeSantis’ Italian ancestry is mainly from the mountains of the interior; Fauci’s Sicilian and Naples ancestry may be of a different type. In other words, the ancestral proclivities may have already been there before either man was born.
Long-form investigations of someone’s family and ancestral origins like this may risk “ancestry-determinism.” Surely Ron DeSantis himself is largely master of his own fate? Could make his own decisions? And so on. Not some kind of puppet of his own ancestry. And I was careful to organize this essay to include much of what Ron DeSantis himself did with his life.
The central question is:
How did this relatively little known man, Ron DeSantis, end up becoming a champion of freedom, standing successfully against the onslaught of endless-lockdown-mania, forcing masks and more on people, against a brutal elite-consensus on behalf of the multifaceted social-phenomenon that was/is the Corona-Panic?”
I believe I’ve found ways to probe at this question from multiple angles. DeSantis has no elite origins but made an elite life for himself, by luck and skill and talent and hard work.
The decisive encounter of his life was arriving at Yale in 1997, and his four years there were a long-running culture-shock. He came to understand that the system was against people like him. The salient point was that he was a White-Christian. The system then emerging at such elite institutions as Yale saw him as a domestic hurdle to overcome, and saw him as a White-Christian, not as an Italian. He was sharp enough to pick up on this relatively early. Far more people understand it today. He stayed grounded enough to not get swept away by it very much. But we are still left with the intriguing puzzle of “why” the pressure of the Yale world and fitting in with the New Elite did not break him? There is no immediate answer here, but I believe family and ancestry research gives good hints.
Stepping back from the analysis, I foresee one type response to all this to sound a lot like this:
“Who cares about who his great-grandparents were? It’s all so much navel-gazing.”
I think that attitude is misguided. I think ancestry matters. (Of course I do; I did research and write this now ten-thousand-word behemoth of a research-and-commentary piece.) Ancestry is just a way of expressing people’s understandings of who they are. Most often — directly or indirectly, consciously or no — self-perception and identity is shaped via ancestry, actual or perceived. That matters a lot.
We are not a random collection of identityless, replaceable drones, as some element of professional culture would cast us as. Going the other direction, we may be said to be all acting out some set of inputs inherited from ancestral tendencies — to some extent at least.
DeSantis himself seems to consciously embrace the White-Protestant-American tradition (e.g., his book title including the phrase “our founding fathers,” not “the founding fathers”). In fact, Ron DeSantis sounds more like an old-line defender of traditional liberties than many descendants of the old torchbearers. He seems a man by instinct, and rhetoric, and action, against leviathan-like, cruel, authoritarian-style impositions. He shows up quite many of the descendants of the longtime torch-bearers of the traditional liberties kindlers of the flame, namely the NW-Europeans, White-Protestants, and especially White-Protestant America.
Ron DeSantis’ potential winning bid for the presidency in 2024, or beyond, if successful, will come from his preaching the traditional White-Protestant cultural-political line (laissez faire; no state-backed virus-religions, no endless and onerous mandates characteristic of traditional Mideast and Asian despotisms; no running a surreal Panic regime; no bizarre attempt to build a top-down anti-white racial caste system). I again wonder what this says about White-Protestants.
To be direct about it, the USA was, from the start and for the first circa 350 years, a White-Protestant project. It kind of still remains one today, even at this late date, but the train is rather off the tracks. We are still in the USA in considerable numbers. White-Protestants founded all the underlying institutions, even if many have gone astray by now. A good portion of White-Catholics are effectively Protestants whose churches have Mary statues but who are personally and politically now otherwise hard to distinguish from Protestants. (I suspect this may apply to the DeSantis family.)
It’s true White-Protestants have the occasional leader who stands out. Besides Florida the best and most-high-profile success story was when the Lutheran governor of South Dakota, Noem, dismantled the Corona-Panic in her state. But we do not have enough bold leaders willing to challenge the status quo or stand against the system in an unwavering way. What is this unwillingness to fight a system which is (now) hostile to them? It’s as if we exist under an occupation regime. Whatever it is, Ron DeSantis seems less beholden to it.
Ron DeSantis for president is the right decision. Whatever combination of good-fortune or inherited traits or attitudes made him what he is, it’s turned out well.
To paraphrase Lincoln speaking about General Grant: “We cannot spare Ron DeSantis. He fights.”