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Column: Ron DeSantis’ shoe lifts and the deeper implications of political satire

Photo credit: Alexis David
These boots are reminiscent of the ones Ron DeSantis has recently been accused of putting shoe lifts in. DeSantis has received widespread criticism and mockery for his decision to wear shoe lifts, including at a Republican debate. This mockery has overshadowed the conversation surrounding DeSantis’ policies and actions, a common consequence of the overuse of political satire. 

As a politically active teen interested in pursuing social justice, my TikTok For-You page — TikTok’s page of videos curated to your interests — is full of videos discussing political happenings, short news debriefs and, most of all, satirical videos making fun of hypocritical conservative policies and ideals. I’ve recently begun developing concerns that political ridicule may do more harm than good.

However, I do frequently get a chuckle out of these videos. For example, just the other day, I encountered a video exemplifying the hypocrisy between the common conservative belief that abortion is murder and their support of loose gun control laws. As a liberal, it’s easy to point out moral contradictions in many conservative policies and make fun of them accordingly. I did just that in my 2022 op-ed entitled, “Female cartoons no longer sexy, what a travesty,” highlighting the ridiculousness of Tucker Carlson‘s reaction to “unsexy” M&Ms. 

To me, some conservative talking points are full of double standards and simply absurd. This makes such policies easy targets for ridicule and sarcasm. For example, conservatives will support bans on abortion, as they disallow “murdering children,” but refuse to implement stricter gun-control laws when, just this year, there were 37 school shootings resulting in injury or death.

The other day, I hopped back on TikTok and came across one satirical video discussing casual conservative racism. While watching the video, however, the casualness of this ridicule made me begin to question this type of content.

Satire is an important tool to highlight flaws and hypocrisy in any argument. By creating an over-exaggerated or over-simplified argument, these flaws come to light more clearly. It is also an essential instrument in diffusing tension. However, satire also allows people to diminish the importance of an issue. Many people refuse to take conservative talking points seriously solely due to the amount of satire being created about the “conservative character.”

There’s a danger that this amount of satire could prove to be seriously harmful. If we start laughing off casual conservative racism because it’s “funny,” “stupid” or “sarcastic,” we risk further perpetuating this narrative as people begin believing that the subject matter requires less respect and seriousness. 

There is also a danger that this satire may further the conservative agenda, in response to claims being made about them. Mocking others doesn’t invite them to engage in respectful political dialogue. If conservatives get fed up with people mocking their lack of action, they’re much more likely to regress further into their traditionalist beliefs, rather than engaging in these important discussions.

Just recently, Florida Governor and conservative talking head Ron DeSantis came under ridicule for allegedly wearing shoe lifts to make himself appear taller and, therefore, more stereotypically “masculine.”

This kind of satire not only furthers the animosity between political parties — preventing both sides from thinking of each other in any sort of positive or respectful light, instead reverting to throwing insults back and forth to no avail — but also takes away from the true harm DeSantis is doing. There can’t be healthy political debate when it’s person versus person, rather than opinion versus opinion. 

DeSantis has the capacity to make real, harmful changes, as he already has with his implementation of the “Don’t Say Gay” bill and his rampant bans on books that aim to teach about the harms of racism and homophobia. However, by focusing on his shoe lifts and making a mockery of his character — not because of his laws, but because of meaningless things such as his wardrobe — people begin to forget the harm he has perpetuated and become complacent about the realities of having people like him in power, making him out to be a ridiculous caricature of traditionalist ideals rather than an actual person in power.

Conservative talking heads can also use this criticism to further their agendas against so-called “hateful” and “condescending” Democrats, an agenda they’ve already begun to push — evident in this article by right-wing news organization, American Enterprise Institute.

Admittedly, it is pretty funny that DeSantis leans so heavily into traditionalist views of masculinity that he resorts to wearing shoe lifts every day. However, when a subset of the population begins to care more about a politician’s physical characteristics rather than their destructive policies, it is clear a change must be made.

I am not going to fully besmirch political satire, for fear of being a hypocrite. I still do believe that satire can be effectively used to highlight an argument’s flaws, without demeaning or undermining real threats to American democracy and social realities. But I also think there’s a limit to what we can create satirical content about. For example, making videos joking about conservative racism and homophobia is too far. It is not a topic of discussion that can or should just be laughed off. This type of content can undermine the real-life effects of these injustices and bigotry.

As stated earlier, I think satire is immensely important in highlighting an argument’s flaws and laughing off said argument’s stupidity. But uneducated, misinformed videos on social media that may have real-life consequences that can’t be laughed off.

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About the Contributor
Alexis David, Columnist
Alexis David joined The Oracle in 2021 as a staff reporter and returned in 2023 as a columnist. Her column centers around politics, social justice and identity. Alexis is an avid member of the theater community, participating in both upper school shows and stage managing for the middle school productions, as well as being a member of the "Drama Queens". In addition to theater, Alexis is a co-chair of the Artemis Center and a PAWS leader.

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