Wednesday, March 15, 2023


Earlier this week, I was thinking about that Trump suck-up TV ad Ron DeSantis ran during the 2018 gubernatorial primary -- the one where he reads The Art of the Deal to one of his kids and "builds the wall" with another one:

The ad appears to have been effective -- DeSantis won the primary by 20 points, and he went on to win the general election. But for the moment, at least, it sent a message about DeSantis: Like Lindsey Graham or Mike Pence, he was a beta to Trump's alpha.

Since then, however, he's been trying to replace Trump as the president of red America. His strategy has been to be the right's biggest hero on issues that were ignored by Trump, or that weren't a focus of the right in the Trump years: critical race theory, trans youth, "wokeness." It's been working for DeSantis. He's seen by many on the right as the new boss. Even the ones who prefer Trump in 2024 seem to see DeSantis as America's future alpha authoritarian.

But DeSantis's Putin appeasement on the subject of Ukraine makes him look like a beta again. He looks like a follower of Trump, not a leader.

Maybe the base doesn't care. Maybe he'll just be seen as properly engaging in Correct Thinking, and no one will care that he's chasing Trump. Maybe Republican voters will pay more attention to the cutting-edge ways he's distinguishing himself from Trump and other GOP presidential hopefuls. (Will his state really pull the liquor license of the Hyatt Regency Miami because it hosted a Christmas-themed drag show, with children reportedly in attendance? Children were allowed to attend if accompanied by their parents, but DeSantis loves parental "freedom" until it becomes the freedom to do something DeSantis doesn't approve of.)

DeSantis may have seen this as just a box he had to check as he forges his own path to the nomination, but he's being potrayed as a follower, not a leader. We'll see how that plays out.

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