DeSantis’s Big But


I like Ron DeSantis.  I think he has the most principled and consistent approach to politics of any major figure in America right now, but that may just because he seems to be only one operating by principle instead of going whichever way the wind blows. His competence is also refreshing.

Berlingske Tidende’s editorial board does not agree.

Is Ron DeSantis a better bet for a Republican president than Donald Trump?


It means the world that DeSantis doesn’t come dragging the baggage of chaos, lies, and amorality that will forever stick with Trump.


That’s how it opens, and the rest of the editorial is really just one big but.

The editorial is signed by Birgitte Borup.

Ron DeSantis represents a further development of the conservatism that is the new normal in the United States. Here, the thinking of the right wing today is only to a limited extent supported by the idea of a responsible economic policy, Christian principles or, for that matter, the international outlook or responsibility that once dominated the Republican Party.

The political wings in the US have watered down their own visions to instead become polar opposites of each other. Political development is no longer about what you want, but about how foolish the others are. So also with DeSantis, who is primarily known as an angry culture warrior who fights everything that is woke.

That’s a child’s understanding of American politics—or a Democrat’s.  There’s nothing at all watered down about either side’s “political development.”

The dominant fight right now, culturally and politically, is existential: what is America and what does it mean to be American? The American right is embracing individualism while the American left embraces collectivist identitarianism.

The right embraces constitutional republicanism, which is to say rule of law. The left is increasingly driven by vox populi, which is to say: unfettered majoritarian rule.

The American right is agitating for stronger borders, a more muscular military, and an America-first foreign policy.  The American left is agitating for virtually unfettered immigration (although not to their sanctuary cities), a woke military, and a globalist foreign policy.

The American right is agitating for the restoration of law and order in American cities that have been hollowed out by violent crime, homelessness, drug addiction, and other social and economic crises.  The American left is agitating for more of the very leniency that’s produced those conditions (mainly in cities that have been under Democratic control for generations).

The American right is agitating for fiscal restraint in the name of solvency while the left agitates for profligate spending in the name of compassion, social justice, and equity.

The American right is divided on America’s proper role in the defense of Ukraine and might therefore be described as “Ukraine skeptical”; the American left is almost unanimously in favor of virtually unlimited support for as long as it takes.

The American right is agitating for the depoliticization and deweaponization of federal agencies.  The American left insists those agencies haven’t been politicized or weaponized even as it agitates for the expansion of federal powers to persecute the American right, whom they believe to be militant white supremacist nationalist neo-Nazis.

The American right is agitating for transparent and secure voting processes (most of which, international readers should note, are the processes in place across Europe); the American left is agitating for the liberalization of any and all voting laws.

The American right wants limits on abortion, the left wants abortion on demand.

The American right is agitating for energy independence in America, the left is agitating for a green transition beginning with a phase-out of fossil fuels.

That’s a crude and incomplete and very simplified list, painted in very broad strokes, but whether or not you agree with every characterization I expect you’ll acknowledge that the differences in each of those areas are very real. There’s nothing watered down about them.

A recent (May 17-18) Harvard Harris Poll observes that both major American political parties enjoy 47% approval and 53% disapproval across the electorate. In other words, a dead heat. It also shows that the most favorably viewed political figures in America are Elon Musk (47%), Donald Trump (46%), and Ron DeSantis (45%). The only leftist who is viewed more favorably than unfavorably by Americans is Bernie Sanders (42% favorable, 41% unfavorable). Biden, Harris, Clinton, Schumer, and AOC are all 7-13% underwater (they’re viewed more unfavorably than favorably by 7-13 percentage points).

The most favorably viewed groups and institutions in America are Amazon (78%), the U.S. military (77%), Google (75%), and the police (68%).

Black Lives Matter is viewed favorably by 44% and unfavorably by 42%. Antifa is viewed favorably by only 15% of the American public: a full 50% of Americans view them unfavorably.

Do you think the media do a good job of representing an America in which the military and police are wildly popular and Black Lives Matter and Antifa aren’t? That’s the real America, after all. That’s what an objective observer would present.

A child (or Democrat) following American politics by means of establishment news sources and social media would certainly see the simplified view set forth by Borup—the hot takes, the sick burns, the talking head shouting matches, the unhinged jeremiads and viral videos—but that’s just surface stuff.  The mainstreams of the American left and right are diverging enormously, but that divergence is based on substantive differences.  Yes, each side spends a lot of time talking trash about the dangerous stupidities of the other, but neither side has failed to articulate an actual vision.

To describe DeSantis as “an angry culture warrior who fights everything that is woke” is to accept the left’s characterization of the man—which is falling into the very superficiality Borup pretends to be lamenting.

Ron DeSantis achieved national fame during the corona pandemic, where he became synonymous with the anti-authoritarian concept of freedom that is the sounding board of the new conservatism. He chose to stay open while others closed, and the rebellion made him widely popular. Florida signalled its approval last fall with a midterm election that effectively canceled Florida’s swing state status and made the state arch-Republican.

Ron DeSantis has proven that he is willing to fight his cultural battles to the bitter end, even if he has to compromise on conservative principles like protecting businesses and jobs.

“Protecting businesses and jobs” is not a conservative principle.  It was a Republican principle for a long time, but conservatives have always prioritized individual liberty above nearly everything else and there are few larger threats to Americans’ liberties right now than the monopolistic corporations who’ve evolved from business into cultural stewards. (Apparently to the great delight of Americans, as the favorability of Amazon and Google attest.) He isn’t abandoning a principle to go tilting at windmills: he’s simply prioritized conservative principles in a way that Birgitte Borup disdains.

Unfortunately, DeSantis has shown himself willing to allow himself to be squeezed into a template that critics have dubbed “Trump Light.” In his attempt to be as Trumpian as possible, he has blurred some of the differences that could have signaled renewal in both the political United States and in the Republican leadership. Otherwise, it would have been refreshing, especially considering that he is only 44 years old, graduated from both Harvard and Yale, and has officer training.

His critics have called him worse than Trump light: he’s already been called a fascist and a neo-Nazi, and just the other day the NAACP went so far as to issue a “travel advisory” to blacks, warning them against travel to the allegedly racist hellscape of Ron DeSantis’s Florida.  (The chairman of the NAACP, a black man, makes his home in Florida; no news yet on whether he intends to move.)

DeSantis is not trying to be as Trumpian possible: it’s simply that Trump is part of the reality of American politics right now.  He upended the applecart of American politics-as-usual, for better and for worse, and now everyone’s tripping over all those apples.  To engage in American politics is to be forced to grapple with Trump.

My own principle objection to Donald Trump as a 2024 candidate, as I’ve stated before, is that he cannot win. He cannot win because the system is rigged against him.  I’m not saying voting machines are rigged, or that voting processes are rigged. I’m saying the entire machinery of American government, business, and culture are openly and avowedly rigged against him.  His views and policy preferences are well within the American mainstream, but his person will not be metabolized by enough of the American body politic for him ever to be allowed to compete on an even playing field.  Some of that’s his own fault, most of it’s really not.  But he cannot win.

Put the young, healthy, and ruthlessly articulate Ron DeSantis on a debate stage opposite the palpably senile Joe Biden, however, and it’s a landslide for DeSantis, probably with coattails long enough to establish substantial Republican majorities in the House and Senate.

Democrats know that, of course, and that’s way they’re attempting to portray DeSantis as Trumpian.

And when I say Democrats, I also mean the establishment American media.

And also the Danish editorial board of Berlingske Tidende.

Lastly: “it would have been refreshing, especially considering that he is only 44 years old, graduated from both Harvard and Yale, and has officer training.”

That’s all still true. . .  and irrelevant.  If you think the American right gives a damn about ivy league credentials at this point, you really ought to stop pretending to understand it.

I’m pretty sure we’d take a charismatic C student from a mediocre state college if we believed he or she were up to the job of taming Leviathan, establishing energy independence, slowing down the green hysteria, protecting our borders, beefing up our military, and emphasizing individual liberty over identitarian collectivism.

NOTE: I was down with a hellish virus this week, hence the limited output, both here and over at Substack.