What does DeSantis offer that Trump doesn’t? By Gerard Baker.
First, a side-note on Twitter’s role:
The novel choice of announcing your bid for US president via a live, audio-only interview on Elon Musk’s Twitter Spaces channel was always a curious one. What could possibly go wrong? In the event, almost everything. …
Going with Twitter in the first place was a dubious call. A common mistake the politically obsessed make is to think Twitter is real life. Because they spend eight hours a day scrolling through the latest meditations from Gary Lineker or searching for clever affirmations of their views on the budget deficit, they assume everyone does.
This used to be a particular failing of the left. But since Musk acquired the platform last year, it’s often now conservatives whose epistemic universe has shrunk to 280 characters. ..
Right-wingers have hastened to the little blue bird like a blind fledgling waddling to its mother in a gathering storm, but the Musk embrace may well end in tears for them. He is first and foremost a business opportunist, as happy to laud the leadership of communist China as he is to build a giant green energy business with the help of big government subsidies. …
By choosing Musk’s social media platform for his launch, he was both raising a finger to traditional media and embracing one of the few business leaders in America, especially in the tech and entertainment field, who have publicly taken a stand against the excesses of wokery. …
The DeSantis strategy so far, in the pre-campaign stage, has been to present himself as a more effective vehicle for the radical change that Trump himself brought to US politics.
In four years as governor of America’s third largest state, he has shown himself to be an iconoclast on all the requisite political and cultural issues: curtailing Covid lockdowns, banning the teaching of sexuality to five year olds, cracking down on illegal immigration – all the kinds of things that drove disaffected voters to Trump seven years ago.
But if Trump is offering more of the same — and since, he has, after all, already delivered the White House to Republicans once — what’s the appeal of a candidate with the same message who has never been tested on the national stage, let alone won a national election?
The answer is obvious but still, for now, apparently unsayable: Trump’s character, a man whose language and behaviour, especially his denial of the 2020 election result and his role in the violent assault on the Capitol on January 6, 2021, represents a continuing challenge to the stability of political institutions and constitutional norms.
For now, though, his hold on Republican primary voters is so strong that his challengers, including DeSantis, recoil from making the case and instead revert to euphemisms about the former president now being “unelectable”.
At some point, the Florida governor is going to have to launch a more direct assault on Trump the man. If he can pull that off, this week’s little Twitter fiasco will be a historical footnote.
I’d rather DeSantis didn’t assault Trump’s character. Anyway, it’s not as if there’s a shortage of such assaults.