The Only Way Forward Is Mean
Ron DeSantis is in trouble. In the wake of relentless attacks on him by the former President — it is remarkable that one candidate for President can casually call another candidate for President a child molestor and no one even makes a big deal out of it anymore — DeSantis’ polling numbers have started to plummet.
The general consensus is that DeSantis, for all his meanness (and let’s not forget how mean that Martha’s Vineyard stunt was), just can’t match former President Trump in that regard. Here’s my New York magazine colleague Jonathan Chait:
DeSantis has diligently worked to make the libs hate him as much as they hate Trump. He has even conjured his own legal trouble, having overstepped his authority in Florida repeatedly (allegedly misappropriating funds to lure migrants to Martha’s Vineyard, illegally firing a prosecutor, violating the First Amendment with his Stop WOKE law). You can almost imagine a future DeSantis holding a press conference outside a liquor store he just robbed in a bid to get his own mug shot.
All this painstaking work has generated a real upsurge in support for the Florida governor. And yet he may discover that manufactured passion never feels quite like the real thing.
Because DeSantis is losing traction as Trump becomes more apocalyptic, his only real response to attract Trump’s voters is to become … meaner. And we will see it. It will not be illogical for DeSantis to do so. Because DeSantis was slow to respond to Trump’s initial attacks on him, he is seen as somehow weaker, more Jeb Bush-like, and thus easy prey for Trump. If you were a political consultant, the best advice you could give to DeSantis would be to be hit back as hard as he can, to be nasty — to be mean. It’s the smart move. I am no doubt he will do it.
And: This is why we are where we are. I do think that DeSantis has some inherently mean tendencies; the Martha’s Vineyard stunt is a sure-fire indicator of that. But I do not think that he possesses the inherent cruelty, the crass disregard of anything that doesn’t directly indulge him, the instinct to destroy everything is his path, that Trump has. I’m not sure anybody has that the way that Trump does…