The DeSantis Difference | The American Conservative
The presumed GOP leader in a million years shows that you can wage a culture war and good politics at the same time.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks at a press conference at LifeScience Logistics to urge the von Biden government to approve Florida’s plan to import prescription drugs from Canada, saving Floridians an estimated $ 100 million in drug costs annually. (Photo by Paul Hennessy / SOPA Images / LightRocket via Getty Images)
Paul Ryan has returned to Republican politics and the response from the MAGA world has been jubilant. Horsemen galloped through conservative villages and shouted: “He’s back! He’s back! “All over America toasts have been spread on bar counters and kitchen tables. A ticker-tape parade is planned with Ryan waving and half-smiling while red hats scream in droves and confetti comes out of them Pages from Alexander Hamilton’s “Report on Manufactures” rains down from above.
In fact, it’s the opposite of all of that.
Ryan’s recent reappearance for a speech at the Reagan library has been received with disdain by many on the right who view him as some sort of overdue Obama-era library book. However, there is one line in his address that I believe has been wrongly slandered. “Culture is absolutely important, yes,” said Ryan, “but our party needs to be more than a tussle over recent grievances or perceived contempt. We must not allow them to take precedence over fundamentally sound solutions in order to improve people’s lives. “
It may be that Ryan was a little too dismissive of the culture war there. But he’s right, and what’s more, the Conservatives seem to understand that. For evidence, consider the rapid rise of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.
DeSantis is widely considered to be the front runner in the 2024 Republican presidential nomination on the right (assuming Donald Trump doesn’t throw his hat on the circus ring, which admittedly offers a lot). DeSantis’ resume is almost annoyingly good – Yale and Harvard Law, Navy JAG, Bronze Star Medal recipient – but so was John McCain. What makes DeSantis interesting is how well it fits in with the current political moment. More than anyone else, he has managed to combine the two tendencies outlined by Ryan, the need to wage culture war and the hunger for governance-based solutions.
DeSantis’ propensity to fight the left is well known. He recently signed a law that allows Floridians to sue technology platforms that censor them and that prohibits big tech from deplating political candidates. (The Florida governor cleverly likened tech company censorship to authoritarian action in Cuba and Venezuela.) He approved a ban on sports for transgender women on the first day of Pride Month, in what seemed more than a coincidence. He calls for a new rule before the Florida Board of Education that would effectively destroy the doctrine of critical racial theory that he has compared to Marxism. He seldom misses an opportunity to upset the “corporate media”.
DeSantis was also one of the loudest voices on a medical and economic issue that, however, has become a cultural issue in our deeply stupid times: the pandemic. Republicans have no better argument for a Laissez-faire Approaching COVID as the State of Florida. The litany is now known: Florida never implemented a nationwide mask mandate, began reopening beaches last April, sent children back to school last fall, and lifted most bar and restaurant restrictions around the same time. What is often forgotten, however, is the tremendous pressure they have been under to do the opposite. During the coronavirus surge after July 4th, Miami briefly became the epicenter of the pandemic and drew critical glances from around the world. Dr. Fauci cast his shadow. The media did media things.
DeSantis stuck to its plan for the most part, however, listening to state health professionals rather than the ninnies in the federal government. As a result, Florida has a boomtown feeling today. These are not my words; You’re a quote from that right rag New York Times. Florida’s economic recovery during and after the pandemic was invigorating; it faces no existential questions about its future like New York, no short-term outbreaks in Britain like Michigan. It is only to open. That brings us to the other side of that binary, pragmatic policy of Paul Ryan, and this is where DeSantis has a serious track record, if only because of his position as governor. This includes his leadership during COVID, a tax cut package, an expansion of school choices, more money to restore the Everglades, legalization of smokable medical marijuana, and new opioid abuse prevention initiatives.
You naturally come to a point where you find that culture and politics are blurring, that politics is culture, and that culture influences politics. However, if, as popularly and sloppily believed, conservatives want a culture war while independents want political outcomes, then DeSantis is there for you. In fact, he may be the only candidate who really does this. Not to throw another binary formula, but on one side of the GOP right now there are moderates like Governor Larry Hogan of Maryland, who has had real political success but also tends to avoid the culture war. On the other side is Senator Ted Cruz, who was anxious to attack all the right targets but never had to rule a state.
What makes DeSantis so attractive is that it covers both sides of that spectrum. Two powerful realities are united in it: voters are moving to low-tax, exposed, republican-led states; Voters are exhausted from left-wing bullying on issues such as racism and gender. Wrap it all up in a brochure and you have a powerful campaign platform. They also have perhaps the only hope of gluing a very broken Republican party back together.
Therefore 60 minutes tried to smear DeSantis. That is why even David Frum is optimistic about him. And so conservatives should take a second look at governors rather than the auto-calibrating lawmakers and goofy YouTube stars who they sometimes think should run the world. What DeSantis ultimately represents is not Trumpism 2.0 as some have suggested; it is properly managed Trumpism. It’s anti-wakeness, law and order, immigration enforcement, low taxes, deregulation, skepticism about big tech, but eagerly sold and intelligently implemented without the gun slamming in the president’s foot forever.
Of course, we can’t name the Republican area code yet. It’s still 2021 and I personally haven’t given up on my dream of the Louise Mensch / MyPillow Guy single ticket. But experts are going to speculate – that’s what we do, deeply broken creatures that we are – and given that, I’d bet Ron DeSantis will still look like a winner two and a half years from now.