Memory  /  Book Review

Ron DeSantis’s Context-Free History Book Vanished Online. We Got A Copy.

Ron DeSantis, who has attacked Florida history lessons and aims to run for president, dismisses slavery in his 2011 book as a “personal flaw” of the Founding Fathers.

In the lead-up to this spring’s release of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s book “The Courage to Be Free,” a funny thing happened on the internet: His first book, published in 2011 before his political career began, disappeared.

“Dreams From Our Founding Fathers: First Principles in the Age of Obama,” was once available at the click of a button as an e-book, but no more. A used hard copy is selling for $1,950 at the only online bookseller that appears to have it. The publisher, a small vanity label in Florida called High-Pitched Hum Publishing, did not respond to phone calls or social media messages about why the e-book was removed.

Fortunately, The Washington Post purchased a digital copy last summer, in anticipation that it may someday become more relevant. Now, with DeSantis (R) expected to declare his bid for the presidency officially this week, that time has come.

“Dreams From Our Founding Fathers,” in title, cover and content, is essentially a troll of former president Barack Obama’s 1995 memoir “Dreams From My Father,” which recounted Obama’s upbringing and young adulthood before he entered Harvard Law School.

In his book, DeSantis, who has moved to stop history lessons in Florida that might make students uncomfortable and who attacked an AP African American Studies course he said “lacks historical value,” dismisses slavery as a “personal flaw” of the Founding Fathers, irrelevant to the really important stuff: context-free, cherry-picked quotes from James Madison and Alexander Hamilton.

His writing is coherent, pretty lively and includes — angels and harps! — footnotes to his sourcing. This alone makes it better than the vast majority of politicians’ attempts at writing history. And though DeSantis aligned himself with the tea party movement when he wrote the book, he does not subscribe to its conspiracy theories claiming Obama was a secret Muslim or born in Kenya. He also does not think “death panels” are real — though “concerns about them are not foolhardy,” he writes.

But DeSantis’s thesis is twofold: that Obama was conducting a dangerous power grab, and that the Founding Fathers would have been appalled if they were still alive to see it.