DeSantis-Is-Worse Season is here already

AP Photo/Brynn Anderson

This one is for everyone who imagined — OK, hoped — cool heads would prevail at least through, oh, I don’t know, the Independence Day weekend. Sort of let Ron DeSantis get his feet wet, introduce himself, see how he fares scarfing down a county fair corndog or two. (We know how much the Florida governor likes finger food.)

I count myself among the hopelessly guileless. Are there no honeymoons in presidential politics? Guess not.

It’s not like we didn’t know what was coming. Trump-is-bad-but-DeSantis-is-worse has been written on subway walls and tenement halls for months. Because, history instructs us, the next Republican with legitimate designs on the White House is always (always, always) worse than those who went before.

Listen, when you can paint Mitt Romney, decent fellow, hero savior of the Salt Lake City Olympics and patron saint of state-supported health care, as some sort of dog-hating, cancer-mongering, tax-dodging, racist/sexist Nazi, your soul is broken.

Also, your brand is as your brand does.

So it is that the dam restraining the inevitable didn’t even last until the official start of hurricane season — try reasoning with that! — which arrives with gusto tomorrow. 

Hogging the limelight lately has been former U.S. Rep. David Jolly, formerly a reasonable, rational figure on the center-right, someone whose future, pre-Donald Trump, seemed incandescent. (As a Tampa Tribune columnist back in the day, I once carried on a lively, friendly correspondence with his mom; back then, both of us wrote admiringly of her son.)

Anyway, since Jolly ignominiously lost his Pinellas County-centered seat to a figure who subsequently was enfolded into the candidate-protection-system for his avalanche loss in the Florida governor’s race last November … oh, where were we — ah, yes, David Jolly. The former congressman has wandered left, becoming Big Media’s Favorite Variety of Republican®, that is, one who regards everyone in the GOP as falling into one of two groups: bad and worse.

A regular casher-of-checks from MSNBC, Jolly appeared Sunday with host Mehdi Hasan, the progressive’s progressive, fulfilling his role as the token righty to produce the sort of enthusiastic head-bobbing among far-left panelists rarely seen outside novelty shops.

Ron DeSantis, Jolly proclaimed, “is a very dark figure on the political landscape.”

“I say this with conviction — I think Ron DeSantis is far more dangerous than Donald Trump for a very specific reason,” former Rep. David Jolly said Sunday on MSNBC’s, “The Mehdi Hasan Show.”

“Donald Trump is willing to ignore the rules, ignore the Constitution, and frankly lead to the incitement of January 6th,” said Jolly, who is a political contributor for MSNBC. “But Donald Trump is a transactional figure and he’ll do whatever it takes to win.”

Jolly said that he believes DeSantis, the Florida governor, “is a cultural warrior who wants to take us back 100 years and believes he can use the Constitution to that end and ultimately has a very dark vision of what America will be.”

This sort of rhetoric plays sweetly in the ears of our friends on the left, precisely because it comes from a bonafide never-Trumper, a lifelong Republican who left the GOP over its stubborn affections for the former president. If Jolly thinks DeSantis is worse, well, take it the bank, right?

Jolly is not alone, of course. He’s merely the darling pundit of the moment. Members of the establishment left have been having at DeSantis-the-Worse for months.

Los Angeles Times columnist Nicholas Goldberg and HuffPost correspondent Dustin Seibert harmonize: DeSantis is dangerous because he endorses many of the same alarming-to-them positions, but he’s capable and focused, not easily distracted by the squirrel of the moment.

Goldberg, all earnestness and gentility, puts it this way:

DeSantis, who has been governor of Florida since 2019, is not out of control in the same way Trump is. He’s stolen from the Trump playbook, but he’s more disciplined, more subtle. As president, he wouldn’t be constantly going off-script or excoriating his enemies; he wouldn’t have to fend off impeachment votes. He might actually read the briefing papers, work the system and participate in the governing process. Unlike Trump, he’s apparently got a voracious work ethic.

But here’s the question: Could those very qualities make him an even more dangerous president? Could he be worse than Trump, God forbid, because he’s more effective?

Oh, no, gentle readers! Suppose DeSantis really, truly is … Trump without the drama? (Actually, DeSantis is so very much more than Trump, but that’s another column.)

Now Seibert:

Imagine Trump, but with a stalwart dedication toward legislation that moves the country in a direction that should terrify most reasonable human beings.

Ah. The “reasonable human beings card.” Well, gee, I’m convinced.

The only noticeable difference between their pronouncements is Seibert’s gleeful hyperbole: DeSantis would return America to the age of “burning witches,” has ideas about the constitutional carry of firearms “throw[] a match on a kerosene-doused haystack,” and “co-opt[s]” “woke” “as a dog whistle.”

Inflammatory? Of course. Irresponsible? Pretty much. Siebert’s True Believer readers now are bound to liberally litter their conversations and social media with claims that the no-good arsonist DeSantis does, indeed, want to set the nation aflame.

On the upside, Seibert — unintentionally, for certain — spends the bulk of the piece listing the assertive legislative accomplishments for which a critical mass of  Floridians are grateful: Banishing the practice of certain acronyms (CRT, DEI) from tax-supported schools; protecting little ones from drag performances and gender orientation studies; enabling juries to impose capital punishment with supermajorities; and cracking down on illegal immigration.

All of them — Jolly, Goldberg, Seibert — arrived at the same handwringing conclusion: As president, Ron DeSantis would track true to the pole star that got him elected, effectively and efficiently carrying out the promises he presented to the electorate that chose him, and caring little for the nippers of ankles that so occupied No. 45.

If I were a Person of the Left, I’d imagine that scenario, indeed, is a prospect exponentially worse than four more years of Donald Trump.

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