DeSantis has already lost. He lost by making a succession of terrible, impolitic decisions that doom him to Florida retail politics forever.
In the wake of 2020, DeSantis had two major choices: align with Trump or wait for 2028. DeSantis did not align with Trump. Mistake #1. His response to the main attack on Trump since the election, the Jan 6 “insurrection” (looky-loos roaming the Capital building in cosplay garb as feds and overheated weirdos clashed with cops), was to make a few noises about “prosecuting rioters” and refuse to defend Trump.
To me, refusal to defend Trump against risible claims of “insurrection” and “treason” is a major litmus test and DeSantis failed it. In itself it shows a glaring lack of loyalty and a ruthless interest in self-advancement. It shows a politician who is mercurial in the worst way–allowing the enemy to seize ground so that the path is clear for his rise. This is never a good sign for the public interest.
There were always three main strategies for DeSantis to follow:
- Vociferously defend Trump, show loyalty, and wait for the chips to fall. If Trump is damaged badly enough, privately urge that he step aside “for the good of the nation” and pledge to back him in any difficulty. It’s a snake move but the only smart snake move. By not aligning with Trump, DeSantis negated this option.
- Attack Trump outright, disavow his support, and insist on his responsibility for events, claiming they hurt the Party and the public by giving the Democrats political momentum. High risk, but it sets up a clash in the most favorable way to DeSantis by instigating the conflict directly and claiming to do so over principle. It also frames Trump to greatest disadvantage, as someone who made a mistake and refuses to own up to it. DeSantis instead stayed silent.
- Scheme passively against Trump while avoiding direct criticism. This is the option the donors and their operatives dangled in front of DeSantis, and like an idiot he grabbed it. This option was specifically dangled because it gave them leverage over DeSantis–any conflict with Trump would rough him up at the very least, and he would be especially reliant on their support to survive politically, much less prevail in a nomination contest. It also gave the donors maximum freedom to dump DeSantis later, after his kamikaze attack was over, and substitute a preferred establishment politician in his place.
DeSantis chose what is by far the politically dumbest option. Since this last summer it was obvious that the establishment was seeding favorable DeSantis press in the unlikeliest places, such as a conversation between Dude Weed impresario Joe Rogan and Gina Carano, a fairly dumb, mid actress (both of them no doubt had to be coached as to who “Ron DeSanta” was–wasn’t he that guy from Parks & Rec?) Instead of defending Trump, and instead of attacking him, Rodent decided to pretend that the loudest and most prominent republican in the universe didn’t exist. Meanwhile he clumsily scoped out New Hampshire with a push poll–whether he instigated it or whether it was done on his behalf makes no difference, as once it was known and promoted in the media it would have to be explained. DeSantis instead refrained from any response and pretended his only interest was in Florida politics (which he conducted via gimmicks, such as a feud with Disney, that were almost certainly crafted in committee by his handlers).
The choice is particularly disastrous because it has prompted Trump to attack him immediately after midterms–and now Ron Rodent has lost the initiative. He can’t reverse his course of action. If he decides not to run for 2024, he’ll look like a timid schemer who doesn’t have the stomach for a fight. If he goes ahead, he’ll have to confront Trump’s criticism immediately, before he’s had the chance to lay out a strategy (or, rather, have one printed out and handed to him). Although consultants would have advised Trump to hold off, lest he seem insecure in his frontrunner position, Trump chose the smarter option: attack his opponent when he is off-guard, and attack him at his alleged strong point, his easy victory in the governor’s race. I got more votes than you in your own state is a good prediction of how a Trump vs. DeSantis primary contest would go, and Rodent has no retort.
The worst thing about Rodent isn’t that he’s a traitor, it’s that he’s a stupid traitor. This conclusively rules him out for national office. Besides his stupidity, DeSantis lacks charisma–a subjective quality, of course, but look at him. Then compare him to Trump in 2016. There’s really no comparison. DeSantis is insecure, untalented, bad at handling media, and unfocused as an elected official. Adding to that disloyalty and a delusional self-image puts him in Ted Cruz political territory. And Ted Cruz will never be president.
Originally posted in the newsletter of Monterey Peninsula College.