What's Tony Thinking

Rooting for Ron?


Should we be rooting for Ron DeSantis, the Florida governor who appears to be running for the Republican Presidential nomination for 2024. If he does run, it means he will be running against Donald Trump.

I don’t know a lot about DeSantis, except that he’s supposed to be pretty much like Trump only smarter, which doesn’t sound good. So I appreciated Andrew Sullivan’s recently column comparing DeSantis and Trump. Sullivan challenges the idea that DeSantis is only a slightly less vulgar version of Trump. Here’s Sullivan,

“If you really believe that Trump remains a unique threat to constitutional democracy in America, you need to consider the possibility that, at this point, a Republican is probably your best bet.

“One stands out, and it’s Ron DeSantis, the popular governor of Florida. And yet so many Never Trumpers, right and left, have instantly become Never DeSanters, calling him a terrifyingly competent clone of the thug with the bad hair. He’s ‘Trump 2.0’ but even ‘more dangerous than Trump,’ says Dean Obeidallah. ‘He’s dangerous because he is equally repressive, but doesn’t have the baggage of Trump,’ argues a fascism scholar.”

Noting the frenzied warnings about DeSantis, Sullivan does a helpful compare and contrast between Trump and DeSantis. He suggests that the claims that DeSantis is Trump “2.0” are a false equivalency. Moreover, DeSantis may be the only one who can dislodge Trump from a third run at the Presidency and its likely disastrous consequences.

My thoughts are these: first, it probably is sloppy thinking to just dismiss DeSantis as a Trump clone, only worse. And second, there are so many with huge sunk costs into Trump that they need some face-saving way of letting go of the screaming meanie. Yes, many of Trump’s base Base, if you will, won’t ever detach. Expecting significant numbers of that cohort to see the light and recant their fealty ain’t gonna happen. As noted, too many “sunk costs” emotionally, ideologically, financially. They’ve invested too much. Information or facts from the January 6 committee not withstanding.

They need a “face-saving” alternative, someone they can turn to that allows them to rationalize moving on from Trump. DeSantis may be it.

What if he is? What if DeSantis withstands Trump’s withering ridicule and accusations of being a traitor to become the Republican nominee in 2024?

That would, it seems to me, raise big questions for the Democrats. Namely, can they come up with a really compelling Presidential candidate who isn’t mainly a culture warrior, but has some appeal to what has been the Dem’s historic constituency, the working classes? Can they come up with a candidate who has more to recommend her or him than not being Trump?

DeSantis as the nominee would mean the Dem’s can’t just run against Trump. They would have to have something more to say, and someone to say it, that is more than “I’m not him.” And that appears to be a big challenge for the D’s. After all, the D’s are so into the anti-Trump strategy that they have been funding Trump endorsed candidates for the 2022 mid-terms, believing that is their best bet. Not only might that strategy backfire, it suggests a desperate lack of conviction on the part of Democrats, as in “the best we can do is find nut-cases to run against.”

There should be and will be lots more close ups on DeSantis and his record, but I appreciate Sullivan getting the ball rolling. Not only does DeSantis raise a challenge to Trump, his candidacy changes the game for the Democrats in important and challenging ways. Will they rise to that challenge?


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