Ron DeSantis Is Going to Get Trump Trucked
You can't beat a genuine strongman with fake anti-vax posturing.
1. Fake Versus Real
I wrote about the brewing Trump-DeSantis feud back in July, when it was clear that DeSantis was Single White Female-ing Trump to a degree that was going to get super uncomfortable.
Now the fight is almost out in the open and I am here to tell you that if DeSantis doesn’t back off, he’s going to get blowed up.
(1) DeSantis is a phony. Trump is authentic.
You’re not supposed to remember this, but DeSantis is a smarty-pants, Ivy League elite lawyer who is playacting as a populist crusader. Trump is the real thing.
Just look at the booster stuff: DeSantis almost certainly got the booster. But he’s now caught in No Man’s Land where he has positioned himself as quasi anti-vax, even though he’s received the vaccines.
Or look at the anti-lockdown rhetoric: DeSantis is pushing revisionist history about how he refused to impose any sort of precautions in Florida.
If this turns into a hot war, Trump is going to crush him. Maybe it’s possible to outflank Trump on vaccines, but not if you’re a phony who took the vaccines.
Republican primary voters will smell that a mile away.
(2) You can’t beat Trump on “conservative” policy.
Remember back when Cruz, Rubio, Walker, and the rest were going to box Trump in because he didn’t hold the line on conservative policy orthodoxies? How’d that work out?
Anti-vax is a new conservative orthodoxy and I am skeptical that a fight about policy on these grounds is going to matter to Republican voters, either.
Trump ran right over the GOP field in 2016 on matters of policy by beating them with attitude and affect. And he’ll do the same to DeSantis.
The only way to (theoretically) outflank Trump is on comportment. And even if that were possible, Ron DeSantis isn’t capable of doing it because at bottom, he’s just another establishment elite climber trying to pull off a triple bank shot.
(3) Sunk cost.
So you’re a Republican primary voter. You’ve mortgaged your entire political identity to Donald Trump. You left Reaganism. Took the Trump ride. Bought the t-shirt. Wore the hat.
You’ve forced yourself to believe some crazy shit. About QAnon. About the 2020 election being stolen. About COVID being overhyped. About Joe Biden having dementia. All because this was the price of admission to be on Trump’s side.
And now you’re going to chuck all of that and admit you were wrong about Trump in order to throw in with Ron DeSantis?
That’s not how things typically work for people exiting belief systems.
(4) If DeSantis challenges Trump, he’ll be marked forever.
Ron DeSantis isn’t stupid. He’s seen the same things we’ve all seen. If you’re a Republican and you get crosswise with Trump, one of two things happens: You get pushed out of the party, or you eventually bend the knee in order to stay in the party.
We have so many examples it’s stupid.
What DeSantis should understand is that this choice is a trap. Because even the people who surrender after challenging Trump are politically maimed. They become damaged goods in the minds of Republican voters.
Marco Rubio. Ted Cruz. Lindsey Graham. Nikki Haley. Chris Christie. Kevin McCarthy. Mitch McConnell. Once you’ve bent the knee to Trump, you have to fight like hell just to keep your station. Moving up in the world? Forget about it.
Why is this? Because no one who has submitted to Trump after getting clobbered by him is capable of selling the dominance politics that Republican voters want.
The next leader of the Republican party won’t be a politician who challenges Trump and unseats him. The Republican party is a totalitarian state and in autocracies, you ascend to the throne by being loyal to the boss and positioning yourself to take over when he passes on.1
I suspect that DeSantis is smart enough to understand this. If so, then he’ll wait until the last possible minute and then swerve to avoid a full collision with Trump. Perhaps he understands that Trump has little respect for the people who truckle to him and he thinks that the best way to get to the VP slot in 2024 is by showing just enough alpha that Trump respects him—but not so much as to become a threat.
Nobody has yet been able to thread that needle. And truth be told, I don’t think it’s possible.2
But there’s a first time for everything.
2. All Hail the Hellcat
Last week my colleague Hannah Yoest was telling me about something insane: She is going to run a relay race from the Santa Monica Pier to the Las Vegas strip.
13,000 feet of elevation.
Through the Mojave.
Running for 60 hours straight.
It’s an outlaw race known as The Speed Project and everything about it fascinates me.
So I convinced Hannah to write about this journey. The result is Hellcat.
I know what you’re thinking: Can I handle another newsletter?
But this is the beauty of Hellcat: It’s just one newsletter a week, for ten weeks, until race day. Think of it as the newsletter version of a BBC series: High-quality, limited run. Get it while you can.
The first issue of Hellcat is out now and it is glorious.
If you love running, or adventure, or the amazing things humans can do, then you’re going to love Hellcat.
I can’t wait to take this journey with Hannah. You should, too.
Sign up now. It’s only 10 issues. And it’s free.
3. Letter from a Birmingham Jail
Maybe you haven’t read it since high school. But it remains as powerful today as it was in 1963.
While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling my present activities “unwise and untimely.” Seldom do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. If I sought to answer all the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would have little time for anything other than such correspondence in the course of the day, and I would have no time for constructive work. But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I want to try to answer your statement in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms.
I think I should indicate why I am here in Birmingham, since you have been influenced by the view which argues against “outsiders coming in.” I have the honor of serving as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization operating in every southern state, with headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. . . . Several months ago the affiliate here in Birmingham asked us to be on call to engage in a nonviolent direct-action program if such were deemed necessary. We readily consented, and when the hour came we lived up to our promise. So I, along with several members of my staff, am here because I was invited here. I am here because I have organizational ties here.
But more basically, I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the prophets of the eighth century b.c. left their villages and carried their “thus saith the Lord” far beyond the boundaries of their home towns, and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco-Roman world, so am I compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my own home town. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid.
Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.
If Trump were to suddenly go on to his eternal reward, the immediate aftermath in the GOP would basically look like The Death of Stalin.
If I had to bet $100, it would be that the heir to Trump will either be Don Jr. or an outside figure with their own media platform who coexisted with Trump yet never appeared as a political rival while Trump still walked among us.