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Why Ron DeSantis should launch a normie insurgency

Ron DeSantis can't outflank Trump on culture. Credit: Getty

July 26, 2023 - 3:30pm

Ron DeSantis has had a torrid few months and, just yesterday, it was announced that the Florida Governor had cut a third of his campaign staff.

With Donald Trump riding high in the national polls, DeSantis has, in those same surveys, dropped from around 30% earlier this year to 20% (or even less) today. The ex-president also leads by a considerable margin in many polls in state primaries. So what can the Florida Governor do?

DeSantis’s bid for the GOP nomination has leant into some Very Online culture war issues. He launched his presidential campaign on Twitter. He has set out to inoculate America against the “woke mind virus”. Recent campaign videos have even featured a depressed Wojak. DeSantis allies have attempted to hit Trump from “the Right” on cultural issues, particularly regarding sexuality. 

While this strategy may seem outwardly logical, attempting to lead an “anti-woke” insurgency against Trump may be too limiting for the DeSantis campaign. In fact, it may be working against the Florida Governor. Trump already owns these issues, and although he may not always stick to the conservative line, his constant provocations have helped make him a singular figure of abhorrence for Democrats. In an age of negative partisanship, that counts for a lot among voters. 

Focusing excessively on culture war issues may also cost DeSantis among college-educated Republican primary voters. In national polling from Quinnipiac, he went from winning “white” college-educated Republicans by 29 points in April to losing them by 5 points in July. He lost some of those voters to Trump over that period, but Vivek Ramaswamy, Tim Scott, and Chris Christie (who have comparatively downplayed themes of cultural combat) also saw a boost among that demographic over the past three months. 

DeSantis might instead find more of a political opportunity in a “normie” insurgency — presenting himself as an alternative to Trump who can help restore some sense of sanity (maybe even normalcy) to contemporary life.

It’s often ignored in the national press, but DeSantis’s 2022 landslide victory in Florida had little to do with wokeness or other cultural issues. Rather, his emphasis on pay raises for teachers, his environmental record, and keeping Florida open during the pandemic played much better with the electorate. This was DeSantis’s way of defending ordinary (read: normie) life, so children could go to school and people could go to work. He portrayed himself as the adult in the room — against the excesses of technocrats and identity politics ideologues.

The more comprehensive political coalition that helped return DeSantis to the governor’s mansion might also have a bearing on his presidential campaign. Grants helping municipalities to hire more police officers, investments in strategic industries and infrastructure, and efforts to reduce energy costs are the kind of policy steps that could address populist anxieties and appeal to voters who aren’t on Team Burn It All Down. 

In the 2022 midterms, suburban communities tipped the scales in swing states, and “normie” Republicans often did better than those associated with Trumpian disruption. Georgia perhaps offers the starkest example of this trend: Fayette County, a booming part of the Atlanta suburbs, went for Governor Brian Kemp by 14 points, but Hershel Walker won it by only three points in November (and by a point in the December run-off). Kemp won his race handily, while Walker lost. 

If Republicans hope to muster a national coalition that can win elections, they can’t cede the economic and cultural middle ground.  Pairing a “normie” ethos with a vision that supports the middle class could help DeSantis formulate an alternative to Trump’s political paradigm.


Fred Bauer is a writer from New England.

fredbauerblog

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Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
11 months ago

Normie, allied with basic competence, must surely be the way to go. De Santis seemed to have both until he went nutter on abortion.

America, like every where else, has strident nuttters occupying 10% of the vote, and 90% of the discourse, at each end of the spectrum. Trump is a nutter and Biden is controlled by nuttters.

It really shouldn’t be this difficult but at least you guys have people with ideas and energy unlike the focus group zombies here.

Last edited 11 months ago by Martin Bollis
Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
11 months ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

Maybe he could try completing a sentence without using the word “woke”?

Benedict Waterson
Benedict Waterson
11 months ago

yeh, who could possibly disagree with identity politics ideologues and blank slatists

Benedict Waterson
Benedict Waterson
11 months ago

yeh, who could possibly disagree with identity politics ideologues and blank slatists

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
11 months ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

The abortion thing really turned me off. Florida had a sensible 15-week threshold that 70% of people support. By reducing it to six weeks, he was pandering to the fringe. I would have more respect for him if I thought he truly believed abortion was an immoral act. But I don’t think this is true. He changed the law for purely political reasons, not because of any personal belief.

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
11 months ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

Maybe he could try completing a sentence without using the word “woke”?

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
11 months ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

The abortion thing really turned me off. Florida had a sensible 15-week threshold that 70% of people support. By reducing it to six weeks, he was pandering to the fringe. I would have more respect for him if I thought he truly believed abortion was an immoral act. But I don’t think this is true. He changed the law for purely political reasons, not because of any personal belief.

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
11 months ago

Normie, allied with basic competence, must surely be the way to go. De Santis seemed to have both until he went nutter on abortion.

America, like every where else, has strident nuttters occupying 10% of the vote, and 90% of the discourse, at each end of the spectrum. Trump is a nutter and Biden is controlled by nuttters.

It really shouldn’t be this difficult but at least you guys have people with ideas and energy unlike the focus group zombies here.

Last edited 11 months ago by Martin Bollis
Steve White
Steve White
11 months ago

The problem with Ron DeSantis is he’s simply a product manufactured and propped up by the Never-Trumper Republican establishment class. This is how they think. They thought: “We can get those stupid American’s who voted for the orange menace to like this guy if we get him to start talking about things that fire them up like he does.”
So, they chose a few culture war issues, and he started hammering them. His positions got a mild response, but then it turns out that on issues of substance, like the Ukraine war (a sacred cow for the blue-blood Neo-Con Republican establishment) he’s a double-talker. In other words, he’s a phony. People can smell phony, and he smells like a rotten phony!
Trump, for all his faults
and he has a lot of them, genuinely believes the things he says, and the issues he takes on he believes in…and here is the thing, he will talk about things that the establishment doesn’t talk about. He’ll just bring them up, and say stuff that nobody in the media is talking about, and therefore they are telling us what the “significant-issue-of-the-day” is. He sort of marches to the beat of his own orange colored drum.
Really though, RFK Jr. is the real story. That man is a great man, a man of great substance, and I’m not even a Democrat. That man has some things to say, and if we are smart we will listen to him. He has, as they say “gravitas” like no one else running on either side. It’s like he was plucked out of another time, or another generation, and is here now in the political clown-world days to show us what a man of substance and character looks like, sounds like, and talks like. He has that sort of air of unstoppableness about him… I hope he doesn’t end up like his father and uncle.

Last edited 11 months ago by Steve White
Steve White
Steve White
11 months ago

The problem with Ron DeSantis is he’s simply a product manufactured and propped up by the Never-Trumper Republican establishment class. This is how they think. They thought: “We can get those stupid American’s who voted for the orange menace to like this guy if we get him to start talking about things that fire them up like he does.”
So, they chose a few culture war issues, and he started hammering them. His positions got a mild response, but then it turns out that on issues of substance, like the Ukraine war (a sacred cow for the blue-blood Neo-Con Republican establishment) he’s a double-talker. In other words, he’s a phony. People can smell phony, and he smells like a rotten phony!
Trump, for all his faults
and he has a lot of them, genuinely believes the things he says, and the issues he takes on he believes in…and here is the thing, he will talk about things that the establishment doesn’t talk about. He’ll just bring them up, and say stuff that nobody in the media is talking about, and therefore they are telling us what the “significant-issue-of-the-day” is. He sort of marches to the beat of his own orange colored drum.
Really though, RFK Jr. is the real story. That man is a great man, a man of great substance, and I’m not even a Democrat. That man has some things to say, and if we are smart we will listen to him. He has, as they say “gravitas” like no one else running on either side. It’s like he was plucked out of another time, or another generation, and is here now in the political clown-world days to show us what a man of substance and character looks like, sounds like, and talks like. He has that sort of air of unstoppableness about him… I hope he doesn’t end up like his father and uncle.

Last edited 11 months ago by Steve White
Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
11 months ago

This is baloney on stale bread from a RINO.

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
11 months ago

This is baloney on stale bread from a RINO.

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
11 months ago

Don’t try to overcomplicate it – he’s losing because he is a horrible politician with grotesque policies.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
11 months ago

Could you give some examples? I googled him, but almost every headline is about how unlikeable he is – very little on his actual policies.

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
11 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Why don’t you start with his attempts to bully private companies and his subsequent humiliation.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
11 months ago

I need to read more on this, but from what I can tell he seems to be trying to de-fang companies that are adopting Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance (ESG) initiatives. From what I’ve gathered so far about ESG policies is that they are highly controversial and undemocratic. In effect, they circumnavigate democratic processes in order to place state decision-making power into the hands of unelected officials and experts. Disney, Bud-Light, and many others seem to have gone down this route which is why many of them are losing money. In short they are massively neglecting their duties to their shareholders (e.g. making profit) in order to promote agendas that are controversial to a large majority of the electorate.

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
11 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

What business of it of his what policies private companies choose to adopt? What has that got to do with democracy? You do know that Disney profits rose by almost 30% in 2022? ESG policies are only controversial to a tiny minority of far right wing extremists.
You seem incredibly poorly informed on this subject, much like DeSantis. I suggest you try to expand your sources of information beyond the conservative echo chamber.

Last edited 11 months ago by Champagne Socialist
Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
11 months ago

“ESG policies are only controversial to a tiny minority
. “ You’ve given yourself away as one of the 10% of nutters.

No doubt you are also active on Twitter and the others. Probably all from a bedroom in your mum’s house.

I predict you will be active on here for a week or two then, like all the others incapable of a coherent argument, will go in search of somebody else to screech at.

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
11 months ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

Au contraire, cherie!
The “nutters”, as you so charmingly refer to them – you really should try to come up with your own material BTW – are the lunatic fringe who seem to feel that corporations should not be allowed to try to make the world a slightly better place for us all to inhabit.
I note that you did not try to refute the other points that I make. Good choice on your part!
I ditched Twitter the moment that Elon Musk took over – good decision on my part!
I’ll tell mom you said hey!

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
11 months ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

Au contraire, cherie!
The “nutters”, as you so charmingly refer to them – you really should try to come up with your own material BTW – are the lunatic fringe who seem to feel that corporations should not be allowed to try to make the world a slightly better place for us all to inhabit.
I note that you did not try to refute the other points that I make. Good choice on your part!
I ditched Twitter the moment that Elon Musk took over – good decision on my part!
I’ll tell mom you said hey!

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
11 months ago

You make a lot of assumptions here. Private companies are not islands unto themselves. They have vast sums of money and political influence at their disposal. I am deeply uncomfortable with company policies that run counter to democratic processes or enforce a moral framework that employees and customers may disagree with.
Disney profits and stock are actually down, not up. While there are many factors that contribute to this, one major reason is that most parents are uncomfortable with the company’s political and sexual messaging toward younger viewers. Yet, Disney continue to churn out movies and cartoons that net them very little profit (“Elemental”, “Lightyear”, and “Strange World” to name a few). The only people it seems keen on pleasing is a small group of very vocal activists who are more concerned about an agenda being passed through than it is about entertaining the majority of its customer-base. That’s rather strange, don’t you think?
ESG policies are deeply controversial, not just to ‘right-wing extremists’ (a term too easily applied to those who question current political orthodoxy), but to anyone who cares about democracy.
This newspaper article does a pretty good job of explaining it better than I can:
https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/editorials/biden-insists-on-anti-worker-anti-democracy-esg-principles#:~:text=ESG%20represents%20a%20genuine%20threat,voters%20repeatedly%20and%20steadfastly%20reject.
I do try to live outside my ‘echo-chamber’ as you describe it. I understand that on the surface ESG goals sound noble and virtuous particularly if they support long-held and cherished views. But we do need to question where our views come from, how our opinions are formed, and be aware that human nature is deeply flawed. If people are suspicious of big companies accruing yet more political power, does that really make them ‘right-wing extremists”?
Thank you for your response to my previous comment. I’ll end this one with a quote from HL Mencken:

“The urge to save humanity is almost always only a false-face for the urge to rule it. Power is what all messiahs really seek: not the chance to serve. This is true even of the pious brethren who carry the gospel to foreign parts.” 

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
11 months ago

Densantis doesn’t have authority to govern ESG. He can forbid state officials from investing public money to promote environmental, social and governance goals, and prohibit ESG bond sales. This is perfectly reasonable as a governor. He can’t forbid private companies from investing or subscribing to ESG. What am I missing here?

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
11 months ago

“ESG policies are only controversial to a tiny minority
. “ You’ve given yourself away as one of the 10% of nutters.

No doubt you are also active on Twitter and the others. Probably all from a bedroom in your mum’s house.

I predict you will be active on here for a week or two then, like all the others incapable of a coherent argument, will go in search of somebody else to screech at.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
11 months ago

You make a lot of assumptions here. Private companies are not islands unto themselves. They have vast sums of money and political influence at their disposal. I am deeply uncomfortable with company policies that run counter to democratic processes or enforce a moral framework that employees and customers may disagree with.
Disney profits and stock are actually down, not up. While there are many factors that contribute to this, one major reason is that most parents are uncomfortable with the company’s political and sexual messaging toward younger viewers. Yet, Disney continue to churn out movies and cartoons that net them very little profit (“Elemental”, “Lightyear”, and “Strange World” to name a few). The only people it seems keen on pleasing is a small group of very vocal activists who are more concerned about an agenda being passed through than it is about entertaining the majority of its customer-base. That’s rather strange, don’t you think?
ESG policies are deeply controversial, not just to ‘right-wing extremists’ (a term too easily applied to those who question current political orthodoxy), but to anyone who cares about democracy.
This newspaper article does a pretty good job of explaining it better than I can:
https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/editorials/biden-insists-on-anti-worker-anti-democracy-esg-principles#:~:text=ESG%20represents%20a%20genuine%20threat,voters%20repeatedly%20and%20steadfastly%20reject.
I do try to live outside my ‘echo-chamber’ as you describe it. I understand that on the surface ESG goals sound noble and virtuous particularly if they support long-held and cherished views. But we do need to question where our views come from, how our opinions are formed, and be aware that human nature is deeply flawed. If people are suspicious of big companies accruing yet more political power, does that really make them ‘right-wing extremists”?
Thank you for your response to my previous comment. I’ll end this one with a quote from HL Mencken:

“The urge to save humanity is almost always only a false-face for the urge to rule it. Power is what all messiahs really seek: not the chance to serve. This is true even of the pious brethren who carry the gospel to foreign parts.” 

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
11 months ago

Densantis doesn’t have authority to govern ESG. He can forbid state officials from investing public money to promote environmental, social and governance goals, and prohibit ESG bond sales. This is perfectly reasonable as a governor. He can’t forbid private companies from investing or subscribing to ESG. What am I missing here?

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
11 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

What business of it of his what policies private companies choose to adopt? What has that got to do with democracy? You do know that Disney profits rose by almost 30% in 2022? ESG policies are only controversial to a tiny minority of far right wing extremists.
You seem incredibly poorly informed on this subject, much like DeSantis. I suggest you try to expand your sources of information beyond the conservative echo chamber.

Last edited 11 months ago by Champagne Socialist
R Wright
R Wright
11 months ago

No self-professed socialist would nakedly defend massive corporations like Disney. What sort of bizarre troll campaign is this?

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
11 months ago

I need to read more on this, but from what I can tell he seems to be trying to de-fang companies that are adopting Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance (ESG) initiatives. From what I’ve gathered so far about ESG policies is that they are highly controversial and undemocratic. In effect, they circumnavigate democratic processes in order to place state decision-making power into the hands of unelected officials and experts. Disney, Bud-Light, and many others seem to have gone down this route which is why many of them are losing money. In short they are massively neglecting their duties to their shareholders (e.g. making profit) in order to promote agendas that are controversial to a large majority of the electorate.

R Wright
R Wright
11 months ago

No self-professed socialist would nakedly defend massive corporations like Disney. What sort of bizarre troll campaign is this?

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
11 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

“Unlikeable” is a typical journalistic phrase by someone who can’t be bothered to do the work.

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
11 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Why don’t you start with his attempts to bully private companies and his subsequent humiliation.

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
11 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

“Unlikeable” is a typical journalistic phrase by someone who can’t be bothered to do the work.

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
11 months ago

Please confine your comments to the Guardian.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
11 months ago

Could you give some examples? I googled him, but almost every headline is about how unlikeable he is – very little on his actual policies.

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
11 months ago

Please confine your comments to the Guardian.

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
11 months ago

Don’t try to overcomplicate it – he’s losing because he is a horrible politician with grotesque policies.