Sunday, April 16, 2023


Jonathan Chait thinks it would be better for Democrats to beat Ron DeSantis than Donald Trump:
... the candidate you beat matters for the lessons the defeated party is apt to take away. The Republican party’s evolution toward authoritarianism is the greatest problem in American politics.... What needs to happen at some point is for Republicans themselves to decide their own extremism and anti-democratic tendencies are an impediment to power rather than a shortcut to obtaining it.

As we’ve seen, beating Donald Trump again would only go so far in teaching the Republican party any lessons....

Defeating DeSantis would send a tougher message: The problem isn’t just one man but an entire style of politics. Republicans might see a DeSantis loss as a repudiation of the Trumpist style of totalistic partisan culture war, or even of the uncompromising right-wing social and economic agenda. I wouldn’t bet on this. It will probably take several defeats for the lesson to sink in. But a DeSantis loss would seem to offer a faster road back to sanity for the GOP.
Would it?

A DeSantis post-mortem is already being written before he's even in the race: according to the conventional wisdom, he struggles with voters outside Florida because he's not likable or gregarious. Unless he suffers a massive loss -- which I think is highly unlikely, given President Biden's low poll numbers and voters' anxieties about America today -- DeSantis's personality and maybe one or two of his positions will be blamed. We'll hear what we often hear from Republicans: that voters would like the GOP message if Republicans learned to explain it better.

The GOP takeaway from a Democratic victory in a tight race against DeSantis will be that Brian Kemp or Glenn Youngkin could have ridden the same policies to victory, because Kemp and Youngkin seem nicer. The assault on reproductive rights won't change, or at least not much. The trans-bashing won't change at all. Nor will the gun absolutism, or the demonization of Antifa, Black Lives Matter, critical race theory, and wokeness. If Biden wins the popular vote by five points or less and wins the Electoral College by fewer than 100, as he did in 2020, the GOP will conclude that his victory happened because he lucked out again, winning just the right number of 51%-49% states.

The GOP doesn't learn lessons from close races, except the lesson that it should be even harder for Democrats to vote in the future. Chait is right to say that a DeSantis defeat would at least send the message that Trump isn't the party's only problem. But unless it's a huge loss, Republicans will conclude that only minor tinkering is necessary.

No comments: