Since the November 8 election, GOP establishment figures and the donor class in that party have coalesced around an idea that Governor Ron DeSantis represents a departure from Trumpism. Opinion pieces like this one The Washington Post have littered publications both online and in print. It’s hard to know if these sorts of views are articulated in ignorance, commissioned and paid for by donor class GOPers, or deliberately penned despite knowing they’re all wrong.
The claim that DeSantis is some how more benign or normal than Trump is patently absurd and what was first fueled by the Murdoch-owned media, now is becoming a mainstream talking point.. It’s so off-base that it calls into question if pundit class is actually paying attention to the reality of what is going on in Florida. It appears they are not, and are simply impressed by DeSantis’ vote getting prowess. It also begs a question why after a deadly insurrection and countless other Trump outrages, has the GOP establishment and donor class, finally moved on? It’s because DeSantis gives party elites a vehicle that’s populist and “safer,” ie actually ideological and autocratic in a manner they desire.
Fears about Trump who has announced he has formed an exploratory committee returning to the Presidency is well-founded. Trump was a demagogic clown, who did damage to the institutions of government and the tone of governing. However, reality is that Trump’s 2017-2021 tenure may prove a critical fire drill for facing a more competent and focused autocrat like DeSantis.
Having survived Trump, it appears many have been desensitized in the public and the media to the threat from a more focused and disciplined demagogic autocrat like DeSantis. It is after all DeSantis that hit the high note on many of the cultural themes that now dominate the right-wing echo chamber, be they LGBTQ+ issues, discussions of “woke” education and books, or hostility toward masks and vaccines. Trump’s right-wing populism may have opened the door to this, but it was DeSantis who has changed the trajectory of the debate and actually implemented right-wing authoritarian ideas as a governing method.
It also should be noted at this point, while DeSantis is a more effective autocrat than Trump ever could be, he lacks Trump’s personality-cult and political/business infrastructure – whether of not DeSantis is likely to get elected President with the cheering on of the donor-class and GOP establishment is one question but what is indisputable is the danger the nation would face if he were President.
The culture wars we’re currently in the midst of, have been more fuled by DeSantis than any other national political figure. Here are some thoughts on why DeSantis isn’t a return to “normalcy” but in fact represents next-level autocracy.
- DeSantis is more competent than Trump and far more capable of getting those around him to completely bend to his will. Trump’s rhetoric gets mimicked by other Republicans but it took him three plus years in office to get advisors around him who would completely cave in to his demands.
- DeSantis is far more focused and disciplined in how he presents his ideology – an ideology which in itself is inconsistent but unlike Trump whose lack of consistent messaging opened himself up the inconsistency, DeSantis has skirted this line thus far.
- Trump, who had no ideology other than maintenance of power was often impressionable to the last person in the room. DeSantis ideology despite its inconsistency is hard-edged and dug-in. He’s never open to changing his mind or pivoting.
- Trump probably lacks empathy for ordinary people but DeSantis for sure lacks empathy and is better than Trump at spinning to make HIMSELF look like the victim of things like COVID-19.
- DeSantis knows how to manipulate the media and opinion leaders better than Trump. He’s fooled many, including myself at various times during his candidacy and Governorship.
- DeSantis does emergencies like Hurricanes and building collapses far better than Trump could dream to and gets the media to back off him during these critical moments where the public is paying attention. We saw this first hand with both Surfside and Ian.
- DeSantis is far more adept at successful bullying governmental agencies and legislators to bend to his will. Anyone living in Florida currently knows this is the case.
- A January 6 repeat is almost certain to be successful with the discipline and focus DeSantis demonstrates v Trump’s impulsiveness, indiscipline and mad ramblings. But as the below bullet point states, it may never come to January 6 if DeSantis is on the ballot.
- DeSantis has already perfected using agencies to engage in data suppression and manipulation so may never come to Jan 6. Trump NEVER fully mastered this. If he had, he may still be President.
- DeSantis is a laser-focused, highly scripted and disciplined politician who has taken all the anger Trump created, all the red meat issues he threw to his base and given them a messaging consistency Trump never could. Trump for all his demagogic rhetoric, meandered all over the place even during individual speeches.
Trump was a wake-up call for those who value democracy, transparency and normalcy. Based on his record and rhetoric in Florida, If Ron DeSantis were elected President, all the lessons of the Trump years will need to be applied to stop a more disciplined and ruthless operator from breaking America for good.
But let’s also consider that Trump is a uniquely American figure, while DeSantis takes after governance style of despots around the world. DeSantis’ rhetoric and governing philosophy is squarely out of the fascist playbook from Eastern Europe. What exactly does this mean?
- DeSantis is solely concerned with centralizing power in his hands or in the hands of those whom he appoints or holds sway over.
- So this means very plainly, DeSantis meanders about in terms of traditional ideology. He’s conservative when it suits him, but what we used to consider liberal when it consolidates power in his hands. So preempting local government, moving left on the environment (centralizing power in his hands on this), taking on corporations all fits in his wheelhouse even if they aren’t conservative views because it gives HIM more power.
- This explains why we have in DeSantis a guy playing culture warrior at the same time as preempting local government authority, drawing his own redistricting maps and taking on the state’s most entrenched corporate interests. It’s pure Populism combined with Fascism, much like Orbán practices in Hungary and we saw Le Pen embrace this past month in France. It can be strongly argued Le Pen after years of pure conservatism moved in this campaign hard-left on economics, funded partly by Hungarian loans.
- DeSantis attempts at voter disenfranchisement and drawing of rigging political maps is right out of the Orbán playbook. It is precisely how Fidesz has become so powerful in Hungary.
- The early moves by DeSantis to remove elected officials in Palm Beach and Broward Counties for “malfeasance” but not breaking the law was a naked power grab to assert HE IS THE POWER.
- DeSantis has recently implied he doesn’t actually want business to relocate to Florida, which is directly contradictory to the bluster from his GOP predecessors. Whatever you think of that, it makes him different than other GOPers.
- He’s more formidable than anything Florida Democrats have ever faced, and given the track record of the party in recent decades, it’s hard to see the party effectively defining DeSantis to voters without some serious outside assistance.
Bottom line is this – DeSantis is far more dangerous than Trump despite a media and elite effort to make him appear more “normal.” We survived Trump but as a Republic may not survive DeSantis.
What a sad commentary of a truly dangerous human being.