With the midterms behind us and 2024 already shaping up, the elephant in the room needs to be addressed. Trump has all but announced his intention to run, and there is no reason to think DeSantis won’t do the same. There are other possible contenders (Haley, Pompeo, Pence, Noemi, etc.) but Trump and DeSantis have already emerged as the clear front runners. And with the information available to us now, I would argue that DeSantis is the better choice.
Let me be clear, I am very grateful to Trump for what he accomplished during his presidency. I voted for Trump in the 2016 primary, in the 2016 election, in the 2020 election, and would wholeheartedly vote for him again in 2024 if he is the nominee. I support almost everything he did during his tenure, I loved how he took the media to task, and I felt the Deep State-media alliance against him was one of the most despicable, unconstitutional stains on our nation’s history. He exposed Conservative Caribbean Cruises Inc. for the weathervane fraud that it was. He destroyed the Bush, Cheney, and Clinton dynasties. He changed American politics forever, and try as they might, neither the Left nor their NeverTrump sock puppets can put the toothpaste back in the tube.
Trump was exactly the right man for 2016. But Trump is currently devolving into more of a permanent liability than anything else, and he’s reached a point where his faults outweigh his virtues.
In 2024, he will turn 79 years old which, despite his obvious advantage in mental capabilities when compared to Biden, is still pretty old to be president.
Throwing big rallies is not enough. Most of his handpicked candidates just got thrashed in the midterms, calling into question the amount of influence he retains in crucial swing states. He supported these candidates because of their personal loyalty to him. If we can fault McConnell for doing this (as we should), can we not fault Trump for doing the same?
Trump had a bad habit of getting into public spats with administration officials who had resigned or were fired (Mattis, Kelly, Bolton, etc.). Radioactive disasters like Anthony Scaramucci and Michael Cohen should never have gotten any closer to the White House than the outer fence. Whether these officials parted ways because of policy or personal differences, or both, is immaterial. The pattern that emerged was one of constant dysfunction.
He tolerates zero criticism, even if legitimate. He fights every single battle on principle, rather than saving political capital for the ones that matter. He made every midterm campaign rally about him. On election night, he openly gloated when Republican candidates lost. And now he’s taking unprovoked swipes at DeSantis, a move that betrays fear and insecurity rather than leadership or confidence. Bluntly put, he doesn’t know how to keep his mouth shut. It’s petty, and it got old a long time ago.
We will never know with 100% certainty what exactly happened in the wee hours in November 3, 2020, but in a sense that doesn’t matter. The election should have never been that close, and Biden should have been blown out of the water in a repeat of Mondale’s 1984 drubbing. Trump’s unpopularity can be attributed in significant part to both the nonstop media barrages as well as the fraudulent investigations. But to deny that Trump’s personality played no role whatsoever in deterring would-be voters is to deny reality. Do I personally think that his personality should play a decisive factor? No, I don’t. But millions of people do, and the evidence suggests that we’ve done little to convince them otherwise.
Now, don’t get your tights in a bunch because I’m pointing out Trump’s flaws. Unless your argument is that Trump is a perfect human being, then you too have criticisms of the man. For years, we’ve all kept quiet about them in the interests of presenting a unified front. But the misgivings I’ve highlighted are the ones that many of us know to be true.
DeSantis, on the other hand, possesses an indispensable quality that Trump lacked: discipline. That does not mean that he is a Romney-style pushover. It means that when he attacks, he does so calmly, effectively, with laser-like focus, and at a place and time of his choosing. He controls the narrative, and he forces them to respond to him, not vice versa. He takes nothing personal and continually forces the media conversation back towards policy. He pulls his punches until he knows he will connect. And when he connects, they feel it for the next month.
Trump was inexplicably naïve about the Deep State, often criticizing it but never fully grasping the power of the leviathan he was up against. DeSantis could enter office with no illusions, and could use his mandate as an opportunity to completely gut, reform, and/or discard agencies running as their own self-contained governments.
DeSantis is not a NeverTrumper. He is heir to the movement, evolved and retooled to meet the needs of the moment. With DeSantis, we get Trumpian policy achievements without the Trumpian baggage train. DeSantis’s handling of COVID lockdowns, federal overreach, parental rights, hurricane disasters, and the Florida economy shows he can govern effectively and deliver tangible results. His PR victory over Disney and his public exposé of the Martha Vineyard hypocrites shows he can mop the floor with the Left in the culture wars.
We should do our utmost to avoid a bloody primary which leaves the eventual winner with a Pyrrhic victory, securing the nomination but too damaged to beat the Democrat. Don’t mistake the dearth of quality candidates on their side as a source of comfort. True, their current roster is indeed abysmal. They’ve scraped the bottom of the septic tank and, as of now, can only dredge up Harris, Newsom, Buttigieg, and Pritzker as possible replacements in the event that Biden is gently escorted offstage to the Play Doh table. But we can’t place all our eggs in the basket of a candidate who might be able to win crucial swing states by a few thousand votes each. We need a strong, disciplined conservative to emerge early, who is capable of uniting broad swathes of the electorate, and whose margins of victory are so wide that any doubt about the mandate from the voters, much less the integrity of the election, won’t even be issues.
On November 15th, Trump is expected to announce his intent to run. When DeSantis announces is anyone’s guess, but he’ll probably continue to wisely hold his cards close to his chest for the foreseeable future. It’s also prudent of DeSantis to continue to not respond to Trump’s insults, which are clearly meant to draw him into a family feud that can only diminish DeSantis while keeping the attention on Trump.
Trump should be president right now. But he isn’t. We can make 2024 about 2020, as Trump insists on doing, or we can move on. If we play our cards right, we can make DeSantis a two-term president with congressional majorities whose accomplishments will have outshone even those of Ronald Reagan. Or we could try to “own” the libs again with a Trump candidacy that stands no chance of winning. The choice is ours.
**By Christopher Skeet