by Batya Ungar-Sargon
Wednesday, 9
November 2022
Analysis
20:50

Ron DeSantis: the new champion of Trumpism

The Florida Governor has found a winning formula
by Batya Ungar-Sargon
Governor Ron DeSantis has turned Florida into a GOP stronghold. Credit: Getty

Democrats were expected to suffer a crushing red wave in Tuesday’s midterm elections, but it never materialised. Despite polls and pundits predicting massive Republican gains, the results have been tepid at best, with control of the Senate leaning Democratic and the House teetering toward a slim Republican majority.

Many are breathing a sigh of relief, casting Trump’s election night losses as a sign that his influence over the party is waning. Indeed, candidates endorsed by former President Donald Trump fared especially poorly, with many routed by Democratic opponents in what were seen as winnable races.


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But the real lesson of the 2022 midterm elections is slightly different: Trump might be over, but Trumpism had a great night. Trump the man is simply no longer the conduit of his own legacy.

The clearest sign of the health of Trumpism without Trump was the biggest blowout of the night: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s victory over Democratic challenger Charlie Crist. The Democrats and their allies in the media have done their best to cast DeSantis as a hate-mongering authoritarian, yet he won in a landslide against Crist, a notorious flip-flopper who infamously told a reporter that he did not want the votes of DeSantis supporters. DeSantis netted what may turn out to be a 15-point victory over Crist, and a 20-point lead over his own numbers from just four years ago. It was something DeSantis made a point of noting in his acceptance speech:

It’s clearly apparent that this election we will have garnered a significant number of votes from people who may not have voted for me four years ago, and I just want to let you know I am honoured to have earned your trust and your support over these four years.
- Ron DeSantis

How did he do it? Despite what the Democrats want us to believe, DeSantis is no Right-wing extremist; he cruised to victory thanks to a record of ruling over Florida for the past four years as a populist appealing to the middle and working class irrespective of their party affiliation. DeSantis has figured out something that’s lost on most politicians, that there are a lot of Americans who are culturally conservative and fiscally protectionist in both parties whom no one is speaking to. These voters are united on issues like Covid-19 lockdowns, sexualised messaging in early childhood education, and immigration, and on each of these issues, DeSantis took a big swing that signalled his willingness to represent this forgotten constituency and give them a voice.

In other words, he took Trump’s central insight, that the white working class has been abandoned by an elitist, Leftist cultural hegemony that looks down on working Americans, and he expanded it to include working-class Hispanics and working-class liberals. That’s why he explicitly thanked Miami Dade County, a heavily Hispanic area that was once considered a Democratic stronghold. He didn’t just win Cubans, either, who always lean conservative; DeSantis grew his share of the Puerto Rican vote by 20 points, from 34% in 2018 to 55% on Tuesday.

In flouting the Covid-19 restrictions, DeSantis told working class Floridians and small businesses irrespective of party that they mattered. His Parental Rights in Education bill, smeared by the media as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, got majority support from Democrats. And his recent stunt of flying Venezuelan migrants to Martha’s Vineyard not only exposed the hypocrisy of liberal elites but cost him no Hispanic votes. The opposite: “He has cojones” is the new rallying cry of Miami Dade County.

This is the real MAGA message: You make America Great Again not by following a specific leader but by leading as a representative of a multi-racial working-class coalition that has been abandoned by both parties in favour of the educated and the rich. Out of any leading politician in the country, it is Ron DeSantis who understands this best. Donald Trump may be fading away, but his legacy lives on.

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Michael Coleman
Michael Coleman
28 days ago

It may have been intended as a compliment, but labeling DeSantis with “Trumpism” is unfair to Ron. Trump frequently promoted populist policies but as the events at the end of his term showed, Trump was mostly concerned about Trump.
DeSantis is a populist, not a Trumpet.

Mark E Roberts
Mark E Roberts
28 days ago

Exactly!
DeSantis is in the way of the Trump tank, and Trump will annihilate DeSantis to advance Trump re-election. I voted for Trump twice but want him to go away and let competent & courageous conservatives, such as DeSantis, win. I appreciate Trump’s accomplishments, such as the Abrahamic Accords, but now a DeSantis can carry such policies forward better than a forever assaulted & self-wounding Trump.

Ari Rete
Ari Rete
27 days ago

You argue that Trump is mostly concerned about Trump. But his lead in polling data for a GOP primary is overwhelmingly dominant over DeSantis. So, are you smarter than those who’d likely vote in that GOP primary? Or are you falling for media narratives and framing of the Establishment that those likely voters are not?

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
24 days ago
Reply to  Ari Rete

So you still believe in polling?

Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
28 days ago

We need a new term for Trump’s policy agenda, to help separate the policies from the man. There are many who support the policies but detest the man.

Ari Rete
Ari Rete
27 days ago

I prefer Ron to Don as well on a personal level. But we sometimes need unfortunate personalities to do unfortunately dirty work. Do you care if our Marines are chauvinists or curse like sailors when they are holed up in a mountain pass fighting insurgents? Do you care that your heart surgeon cheats on his wife regularly when he’s the one saving your life? Would you rather we have politically-correct but less competent or courageous folks doing those jobs?
If Ron is as competent and courageous as Don, then I’m with you. But how do you know? At least with Trump, we know what we will get. We know that he will go head to head against the CIA and NSA and DoD’s intelligence agencies, since we learned that he was willing to call out Gina Haspel, Chris Wray and others, and that he undressed 4-star generals for letting the occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq drag on for 20+ years. Do you know whether Ron will show the same spine? What if he pulls an Obama and campaigns as a reformer, but then capitulates to the Deep State? At least Trump now knows how to avoid being bamboozled by these folks, so we won’t see another Comey sending FBI agents to frame his DNI because they were clueless. With Ron, you’ll get the same risks with a neophyte.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
27 days ago
Reply to  Ari Rete

No. I care that Trump’s unfortunate personality is too much of a turn-off for floating voters, and that a Trump GOP nomination will result in another woke Democrat Presidency.

Rob Keeley
Rob Keeley
28 days ago

I’ve been rooting for Ron for months, so it was great to see him storm to victory. Sane, strong and unafraid. He is exactly what the USA (and the world) needs.

Last edited 28 days ago by Rob Keeley
leculdesac suburbia
leculdesac suburbia
28 days ago

I’ve been writing this in every comments section of every heterodox website and publication I can find, as a former lifelong progressive and D activist who remains a gender critical feminist. But I would hardly call this “MAGA.” I’m not sure “MAGA” ever articulated this–it was simply that voters fed up with DNC corporatist identity politics in 2016, before it had taken on such neo-totalitarian dimensions, believed Trump’s adoption of much of Bernie’s platform.
Go to Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism (FAIR) to see this view articulated by the Board Members like Abigail Shrier, McWhorter, Bari Weiss, Glenn Loury, etc. Or see Tulsi Gabbard, WHO SHOULD BE DESANTIS’ RUNNING MATE. Second wave feminists like Naomi Wolf, Gabbard, and others have long seen the inherent sexism of the supposed “sexual revolution” which is crystallized in transactivism, in which safeguarding of women and children is discarded in the name of promoting a straight male sexual paraphilias as a civil right. By people who see the world in simple D/R terms, this gets read as “culturally conservative,” but it’s also feminist. What you describe below is the position of many long-term liberals w/ a brain and an understanding of misogyny and who are serious anti-racists and see how the dumbing down of CRT is harming more Black people than helping them.
……” there are a lot of Americans who are culturally conservative and fiscally protectionist in both parties whom no one is speaking to. These voters are united on issues like Covid-19 lockdowns, sexualised messaging in early childhood education, and immigration, and on each of these issues, DeSantis took a big swing that signalled his willingness to represent this forgotten constituency and give them a voice.”

Will Crozier
Will Crozier
28 days ago

Great comment! I’m a huge fan of DeSantis and I hope Americans outside of Florida will be supportive of him.
This probably isn’t the article to bring this up but I keep reading commenters stating that trans ideology is a misogynist coup. Personally, I’m highly sceptical that the driving force behind the ideology is misogynist, even if it’s concrete beneficiaries (typically depraved male sex pests) clearly don’t give a [email protected];t about women and want to use whoever they can for sexual exploitation. Rather, I content that the ideology is driven by anti-western leftists who think that breaking the sex binary will be useful in dissolving our civilisation. This is the sense I get when listening to the activists. The rape of women and girls by pretend women is merely collateral in pursuit of the “greater good” to these pitiless ideological activists.

Rocky Martiano
Rocky Martiano
28 days ago

As a non-American I found it difficult to decode some of the jargon in your post. However, I strongly agree with your shout for Tulsi Gabbard to be DeSantis’ running mate. That would be the strongest presidential ticket in a generation.

Ari Rete
Ari Rete
27 days ago

It’s obviously true that lots of people on both sides of the traditional left-right spectrum see through the noble lies of the Establishment. And it’s great that some of these folks realize that they are cynically held up as props to support continued maintenance of corrupt power that is in reality working against those very groups (e.g., African American democratic leadership perpetuating poverty in crime in heavily Black areas for decades while claiming to be the champions in their fight against white supremacy).
But the real question is whether DeSantis is truly a committed reformer, or just another example of that cynical deceit. And the corollary question is whether he has the stones to remain that reformer once the entire pressure of the Establishment starts the slow-motion coup against that would-be reforming President–and the four years of paralyzing and obviously false allegations and investigations of Trump, one should understand, will be levied against DeSantis as well.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
26 days ago
Reply to  Ari Rete

He seems to say and do the right things, and there is only one way of finding out Ari, by getting him elected. And there isn’t an alternative that’s even close to achieving what you say you’d like.

James Watson
James Watson
25 days ago
Reply to  Ari Rete

I’d love to see Trump back in the White House and I don’t altogether trust DeSantis to return to Trump’s policies or to undertake the Herculean task of uprooting the entrenched undemocratic forces in and around Washington. The problem is that the presidency and hopefully control of Congress has to be wrested from the Democrats in 2024 for anything to change. Therefore the question to be faced is whether years of lies and distortion from the Democrat-controlled media have made Trump unelectable. It doesn’t seem a good sign that in recent months his net unfavourability in opinion polls has dropped well below Biden’s.

Last edited 25 days ago by James Watson
joe hardy
joe hardy
27 days ago

I would like to note that there is no such thing as a liberal working class anymore.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
27 days ago

Good comment, but please eschew the woke racist practice of capitalising “black”.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
28 days ago

“Trump might be over, but Trumpism had a great night”

Trumps endorsement seemed more of a hindrance than a help for most of his candidates, and the Republicans will be disappointed with the results of the election even if they end up controlling both houses. Trying to link DeSantus’ victory to Trump seems to be clutching at straws

Martin Smith
Martin Smith
28 days ago

The Democrats cleverly promoted Trump candidates in certain seats thinking, correctly as it turned out, that swing voters would be more likely to vote Democrat under such conditions. However, did they play their trump card one election too early, and finish off Trump only to enable the more appealing DeSantis? On the other hand will they now be able to sit back and watch The Orange Man destroy DeSantis in a fit of narcissistic rage? Only time will tell.

Last edited 28 days ago by Martin Smith
Wyatt W
Wyatt W
28 days ago
Reply to  Martin Smith

What worries me is what that narcissistic rage will result in after (hypothetically) a DeSantis primary win. Would Trump run 3rd party and siphon off ~10% of the GOP base? Would he discourage people from voting? It wouldn’t take much in some purple states to cost the election. Cults of personality are really disappointing.

Martin Smith
Martin Smith
28 days ago
Reply to  Wyatt W

Lock him up!

Ari Rete
Ari Rete
27 days ago
Reply to  Wyatt W

What if Trump really wants to do what’s best for the country and does none of the things you’re worried about? The corrupt lefties all assured us that Trump would not leave the WH without military forcing him out. That was a lie. Maybe your claims that he is merely a cult of personality narcissist are also a lie. No one can see the future or read his mind, but I’d be careful about falling for Establishment framing when there are many facts that counter your implied position.

Jim Stanton
Jim Stanton
24 days ago
Reply to  Wyatt W

I don’t believe there are as many Trump supporters as people believe.
Trump voters want something different. Not the same old politicians from both sides Nancy Pelosi and Liz Cheney screwing everone else for their own benefit.
I didn’t support him but it was hard not to as it was an alternative. Now that there are better alternatives, like DeSantis come 2024, Trump will slowly fade away but those of us who want someone to represent us will only continue to grow from people of both political parties.

Hendrik Mentz
Hendrik Mentz
28 days ago

During end times people call out for a Moses. Trump is theatre.

Gerald Arcuri
Gerald Arcuri
28 days ago

This opinion piece merely demonstrates the ignorance of its author. Trumpism, as she defines it, is an illusion. Ron DeSantis is an actual, reasonable human being. To compare him with the irredeemably narcissistic and bellicose Donald Trump is a travesty. The fact that a politician successfully presents conservative ideas in a culture that abhors them does not make him or her a “Trumpist”. Seriously. Can’t this author demonstrate a little more intellectual nuance and insight than this?

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
27 days ago

Of course {anti-woke minus Trump} is a winning formula. It’s just common sense.

Daniel Lee
Daniel Lee
25 days ago

This is all true, except that it doesn’t factor in the share of Trump’s high negatives that weren’t due solely to his own admittedly ham-handed behavior. He was also the focus of an intense, years-long, and hugely dishonest character assassination campaign by the Left and its wholly-owned press. That will now be turned on DeSantis and we can expect exactly the same kind of hatchet-job coverage of him as he turns toward the presidency. The fun part will be watching the media suddenly start running “Trump wasn’t so bad compared to this new, evil DeSantis demon” stories.

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
24 days ago

DeSantis has the future written all over him. Trump is already diminishing in the rearview mirror.

Health Advocate
Health Advocate
21 days ago

Florida Governor Ron Desantis is a notable member of St. Elmo’s club (secret society) at Yale. St. Elmo’s is a member of the “ancient eight consortium” which includes the seven other original secret societies at Yale: Skull and Bones, Scroll and Key, Wolf’s Head, Book and Snake, Elihu, Berzelius, and Mace and Chain.

Ron DeSantis listed here:
https://web.archive.org/web/20210817022634/https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Elmo_(secret_society)

But then Ron DeSantis’ name is suspiciously scrubbed here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Elmo_(secret_society)

Health Advocate
Health Advocate
21 days ago

I have seen it reported that Sinister Dr. Fauci, former CDC director Redfield, Florida AG and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis are ALL in a diamond mining business in Oklahoma together.

Last edited 21 days ago by Health Advocate
Health Advocate
Health Advocate
21 days ago

Did Governor DeSantis ever remove from a controversial Florida bill that the state has power to mandate vaccines when they decide it’s necessary?

Health Advocate
Health Advocate
21 days ago

Why did the liberal elites who are carrying out WEF plans ALLOW DeSantis to win, when they’re stealing other elections?

Health Advocate
Health Advocate
21 days ago

Is there a way to post photos/infographics etc. here?

Ari Rete
Ari Rete
27 days ago

“Despite what the Democrats want us to believe, DeSantis is no Right-wing extremist; he cruised to victory thanks to a record of ruling over Florida for the past four years as a populist appealing to the middle and working class irrespective of their party affiliation. DeSantis has figured out something that’s lost on most politicians, that there are a lot of Americans who are culturally conservative and fiscally protectionist in both parties whom no one is speaking to. These voters are united on issues like Covid-19 lockdowns, sexualised messaging in early childhood education, and immigration, and on each of these issues, DeSantis took a big swing that signalled his willingness to represent this forgotten constituency and give them a voice.”
A few things: First, DeSantis barely defeated a drug-addled disaster of a candidate in his first election, and DeSantis was indeed called an extremist by that opponent and the Democratic machine during that first campaign. Had he lost, there’d be no great record to run on. That the GOP ran first-time populists in many areas is not a bug but a feature of the populist system: you have to start somewhere with candidates not yet corrupted by the old Establishment GOP. This will take time.
Second, Trump is not a right-wing extremist. He is a former Democrat who was great friends with the Clintons. During his time in office, many of his policies aligned close to traditional Democratic positions. Indeed, just as the GOP chose to impeach Clinton (the last-resort of a desperate opposition party) precisely because he had outmaneuvered them into cleaning up excessive welfare rolls, so has Trump outmaneuvered the Dems by presenting himself as the only option for the middle and working classes. The result is the same: impeach and disparage with over-the-top claims (i.e., just as the Clintons are “murderers,” so is Trump Hitler reborn).
Third, if Trump steps down for DeSantis, who has a great record running a state, but lacks Trump’s strong record of running a country (until the pandemic disrupted everything), then you can be sure that the outmaneuvered Dems will use the same tactic on DeSantis that they have used on Trump. And worse, DeSantis, who lacks the wealth, brand equity and perhaps courage of orange man, might just turn into an Obama (i.e., campaign on a reformist message and then capitulate to the worse elements of the Deep State once in power). And that would be a huge opportunity missed.

Jim Stanton
Jim Stanton
24 days ago

Best article I’ve read in a LONG time. Well done!

Ari Rete
Ari Rete
27 days ago

A few things: First, DeSantis barely defeated a drug-addled disaster of a candidate in his first election, and DeSantis was indeed called an extremist by that opponent and the Democratic machine during that first campaign. Had he lost, there’d be no great record to run on. That the GOP ran first-time populists in many areas is not a bug but a feature of the populist system: you have to start somewhere with candidates not yet corrupted by the old Establishment GOP. This will take time.
Second, Trump is not a right-wing extremist. He is a former Democrat who was great friends with the Clintons. During his time in office, many of his policies aligned close to traditional Democratic positions. Indeed, just as the GOP chose to impeach Clinton (the last-resort of a desperate opposition party) precisely because he had outmaneuvered them into cleaning up excessive welfare rolls, so has Trump outmaneuvered the Dems by presenting himself as the only option for the middle and working classes. The result is the same: impeach and disparage with over-the-top claims (i.e., just as the Clintons are “murderers,” so is Trump Hitler reborn).
Third, if Trump steps down for DeSantis, who has a great record running a state, but lacks Trump’s strong record of running a country (until the pandemic disrupted everything), then you can be sure that the outmaneuvered Dems will use the same tactic on DeSantis that they have used on Trump. And worse, DeSantis, who lacks the wealth, brand equity and perhaps courage of orange man, might just turn into an Obama (i.e., campaign on a reformist message and then capitulate to the worst elements of the Deep State once in power). And that would be a huge opportunity missed.

Last edited 27 days ago by Ari Rete
Paige M
Paige M
24 days ago
Reply to  Ari Rete

Uggghh. Trump had no political experience at all when he ran for president. This is not a comment on him but rather in what world is DeSantis less qualified than Trump? Seriously what an utterly bizarre take on his capabilities.