We talked a bit about Ron DeSantis in a thread I recently started here (Nikki Haley announces US presidential run for 2024), so I thought we discuss his run in greater detail here.
First, let’s not argue the point that DeSantis (or Haley) could theoretically win the GOP nomination. Either could, since there is no strong GOP candidate. But based on the current field (those two plus Trump, Pompeo, and a few even weaker prospects) whoever wins is going to be a weak candidate about whom few are enthusiastic and who has no chance against Biden. Think Dukakis (D) in 1988 or Dole (R) in 1996.
What I wish to argue is that DeSantis is a weak Republican primary candidate that will not be enthusiastically embraced by the GOP electorate and has no chance of winning the general election against Biden.
I’ll break it up into two parts.
DeSantis is a weak Republican primary candidate that will not be enthusiastically embraced by the GOP electorate.
This is probably the more controversial of the claims, but I feel that I am on solid ground. For 2024, owing to the complete dominance of Trump and Trumpism in the GOP since 2016, there are three types of GOP primary candidates: Trump, Trump imitators, and those trying to break with Trump. All three types are weak:
Trump is weak because he has already lost to Biden (big L on forehead), he can only serve one more term, he is disgraced in the public eye, and he has mounting legal issues. Further, enthusiasm for this criminal is only a small fraction of what it was in 2016. Howbeit, the GOP is still nuts enough and stupid enough to nominate him despite these factors, and I think he has the biggest chance of winning among current candidates.
Trump imitators are very weak, since the debased and ignorant GOP voters still want Trump (insofar as they are enthusiastic about anyone at this point). Nevertheless, they will still choose a Trumpist over a non-Trumpist.
Those trying to break with Trump (including half-assers like Haley) are the ultimate weak sauce. It’s like trying to give a meth addict camomile tea when they’re tweaking.
Needless to say, DeSantis is an unashamed Trump imitator. The problem is that, while one can say and do dickish things like Trump, one cannot really imitate or emulate Trump. Trump is sui generis. Like Hitler before him, Trump had the rare ability to channel the resentment and rage of the masses to the degree that he did. (I am using past tense because, now that Trump is a loser, his power is greatly diminished.) Also like Hitler (though his style is much different), Trump was a great speaker with strong charisma.
Further, DeSantis is certainly a dick, and he’s clearly an authoritarian, but he’s not amoral like Trump. Unlike Trump, DeSantis has a real marriage. He has beliefs. He sounds like a pol because he really is one, and he’s riding on the rails of American political traditions. Say what you will about the guy, but he IMO would not try to pull a January 6. I actually think he would make for a pretty normal GOP president (which is something that totally sucks but isn’t as bad as Trump). But here’s the thing: GOP voters don’t want that. They want, to the extent that they are not fatigued from wanting it and getting a good taste of it, a guy who will really fuck things up. Like Trump.
Despite all this, the fantasy has been that DeSantis can take up the mantle of Trumpism and yet be, unlike his mentor, intelligent, focused, in control, etc. He could be Trump without the baggage but with the ability to, you know, actually be president!
But it’s not true because:
- DeSantis is a very poor public speaker. He doesn’t hold rallies; he can’t work a crowd.
- DeSantis has no discernible charisma–or personality, for that matter.
- DeSantis comes across as your standard self-aggrandizing pol, speaking and thinking according to the template–the very opposite of Trump, in this respect.
- DeSantis is a Trump toady and mentee and conveys no “alpha male” dominance of his own. He’s a Himmler, not a Hitler.
- DeSantis will have to face Trump in the primary, and he will immediately be shut down by the real alpha dawg. He in no wise has the power to defy or dominate Trump with any credibility.
In short, although he is doing his best to be a fascist culture warrior, DeSantis just can’t offer the Trump drug the GOP electorate has become used to mainlining. The only reason that this reality hasn’t sunk in yet is that people are fantasizing about DeSantis without having experienced him much yet (listening to this guy try to talk is painful!).
OK, even if we grant that DeSantis can’t compete with Trump on Trump’s terms, surely he can blow away the rest of the GOP field, right?
I don’t think even that is true. Let’s take DeSantis versus Pompeo. Sure, the latter is a completely unappealing candidate, but he can speak with much more intelligence and gravitas than DeSantis and destroys him away when it comes to knowledge of, probably anything, but at least of foreign policy, the functioning of the federal government, etc. (Pompeo is Heydrich reborn–the dude is scary!). I actually think even Nikki Haley would fare better than DeSantis in a debate in terms of gravitas, dominance, and such other qualities as people currently fantasize DeSantis has.
Thus, while DeSantis’s wingnut cultural warrior antics will appeal to GOP primary voters, he won’t really seem very strong or dominant compared to other candidates, and certainly not compared to Trump himself. It’s a no-win situation for him. He will not power his way to a definitive win.
DeSantis has no chance of winning the general election against Biden.
Here the fantasy has been that DeSantis, by emulating Trump, can pick up the Trumpist GOP base but seem sane and competent enough to get enough votes outside this base to beat Biden.
Not a chance. Even if he wins the GOP nomination, DeSantis will only have tepid support from the Trumpist base, which will negatively impact GOP voter turnout.
Then there is the reality that DeSantis is weaker than Biden in almost every way:
- Biden is the better speaker and has more charisma and gravitas (even though he is not particularly strong in these qualities himself).
- Biden is much more experienced. He is the incumbent, after all, which is always a challenge to beat.
- FWIW, Biden is taller (6’0" versus 5’9").
- Biden is a fairly popular and successful president and is seen as hopeful and inclusive, whereas DeSantis is moderately popular and “successful” in a red state sort of way but is seen as divisive and contentious on the national stage. Put another way, Biden is seen as and self-identifies as moderate whereas DeSantis is seen as and self-identifies as right-wing.
The only way I see DeSantis as possibly winning is if Biden cannot run. Even then, his victory is not a given.
GOP prospects for the 2024 presidential election are terrible for multiple reasons. Whether he wins or not (and even if he doesn’t continue his run), Trump is going to turn the primary into a shitshow. The fantasy has been that somehow DeSantis can square the circle of Trumpism by bringing some normalcy and competence to it, but it’s a nonstarter. He will be beaten down by Trump or just the shadow of Trump while looking weak and moronic compared to other candidates with more intelligence, experience, and gravitas. Even if he should limp his way to the nomination, DeSantis will be crushed like a bug by Dark Brandon.
Those are my thoughts. What are yours? Thanks!