Worse Than Trump

Ron Desantis (Taliban: Florida) has announced his campaign for President in a widely-mocked, glitch-filled Twitter appearance, so it may be time to re-read a February New Republic essay “A DeSantis Presidency Could Be Even Worse Than Trump.”

The sub-head is brutal: “Donald Trump was and is a lazy, ignorant narcissist. The Florida governor is a smart, motivated, very right-wing Catholic who wants to remake America as he imagines God wants it to be.”

The article preceded DeSantis’ precipitous plunge in the polls, and takes seriously the possibility of DeSantis capturing the GOP nomination. Back in February, before the general public became more familiar with DeSantis’ agenda (autocratic) and personality (wooden/off-putting/missing), the Florida Governor was viewed as relatively sane and intelligent, at least compared to Trump, and many in the public  assumed that meant DeSantis would be a better president than Trump.

The following paragraphs from the essay reminded me of a gloomy conversation I had with a friend the weekend after the 2016 election. Her most hopeful prediction–which turned out to be very accurate–was that Trump’s manifest incompetence would prevent him from actually enacting much of the damage he was promising.

DeSantis differs from Trump in several ways. While Trump couldn’t care less about “critical race theory” or transgender people, and simply throws stuff into speeches at his rallies that get the biggest reaction, DeSantis is a deeply conservative Catholic and a true believer in the culture wars he engages in. The other key difference is that DeSantis is a Harvard- and Yale-educated lawyer, while Trump skated through a bachelor’s in business where one of his professors called him “the dumbest goddamn student I ever had.”

The damage Trump was able to do was limited by his lack of discipline, ignorance of how the system worked, laziness, and lack of motivation. He is simply a narcissist who likes feeling rich, powerful, and important. DeSantis, however, is none of these things. He is not lazy. He has discipline, motivation, and an intimate knowledge of how to use the system to get what he wants. DeSantis fully intends to remake America the way he believes God would want it to be, and his knowledge of law and governmental structure allows him to do it on a scale, and with a precision, that Trump could only dream about.

The essay noted that DeSantis was pursuing what it called “one of the most aggressively authoritarian agendas in the country” by using two primary strategies: “capturing the referees and strategic ambiguity.”

DeSantis quietly packed both the Florida Board of Medicine and the New College Board of Trustees with ideological fellow travelers to bend institutions to their will. The Board of Medicine now includes campaign donors, Catholics who substitute the Vatican’s positions for that of professional medical organizations, and proponents of conversion therapy, while the surgeon general of Florida is an anti-vaxxer. 

The strategy is to move the decision-making process out of the public spotlight by giving important decision-making authority to people who can’t be held accountable at the ballot box. (Diane Ravich recently noted that DeSantis had gutted Florida’s open records law–another ploy to keep that “capture of the referees” hidden from public view.)

And that “strategic ambiguity”?

DeSantis has made persistent war on “woke” education–from public schools to state universities.

The DeSantis administration swore up and down that the “Florida Parental Rights in Education Act” (the “Don’t Say Gay” law) was simply there to protect vulnerable young children from being exposed to dangerous or obscene ideas, images, or writing. In reality, it was deliberately vague and overly broad. When schoolteachers and librarians reached out for guidance on what is allowed, they were met with silence by the DeSantis administration. This left them with the choice: Do we remove everything from school libraries, or do we risk the potential legal consequences of annoying his administration?

Back when we had a legitimate Supreme Court, employment of this tactic was repeatedly struck down for creating a “chilling effect,” that violated the First Amendment.

The article lists a truly terrifying number of ways a DeSantis administration could use these strategies in support of a radically Rightwing  culture war agenda. I would encourage you to click through and read it all if I thought this little martinet had a realistic chance to be President, or even the Republican nominee. But since February, when this essay was published, Americans have learned a lot about Mr. DeSantis.

Current polling reflects the public’s response to DeSantis’ repetitive attacks on  “wokeness” and the strategic stupidity of picking a stubborn, petty fight with Disney (Florida’s largest employer and largest tourism draw), among other unforced errors.

And really, no one wants to have a beer with this guy.


  1. Desantis would be way more dangerous. (Most Trump opponents would.) Trump’s only saving grace was his honestly-stunning combination of complete incompetence and ridiculous stupidity.

  2. I think the polls are like 60-30 now, which doesn’t leave much hope for DeSantis. He has some anti-corporatism views, which are a good thing, but he is not sure who is hitching their wagons to this guy.

    Which leaves Teflon Don!!

    How in the world can the so-called greatest country have two geriatric plunderers vying for president?

    I think we have a rematch, and Don wins this time giving credibility to his “big lie conspiracy.” We made it right!!!

    Hard to watch…

  3. DeSantis and his woke law/act is doing exactly what the law was to prevent or was it?
    The W.ar on O.ur K.ids and E.mployees.

  4. I copied and pasted Warren’s final comment from the May 29th blog; “The point of the election is to win, and it takes 270 EVs to win. No third party candidate has a path to 270 EVs and voting for one is just a selfish feelgood exercise. If you’re not going to vote for one of the major party candidates, stay home.”

    All blog issues and all who read and comment are primarily basing their fears, expectations and hopes on the popular vote; the determining Electoral College vote appears to be forgotten in this coming nightmare of an overabundance of candidates from both parties. DeSantis can easily be expected to accumulate southern state EC votes to support the strong resurgence of States Rights and sovereignty commission (white) control of all residing within their state borders.

    The Electoral College needs to be ended; the 3rd party splitting their votes and the amassed southern determination for white rule are both Pro reasons to end it. Can anyone find a Con reason to maintain it?

    An old saying from post Civil War and Reconstruction era; “Hang onto your Confederate money boys, the south’s gonna rise again.” is happening now.

  5. Not that I’m smarter than the average bear, but I saw DeSantis for the danger he is long ago—clinging ferociously to the same ideologies that stir up the Trumpers, and frighteningly smart enough to actually accomplish them. I agree with JoAnn that the EC is the sticking point and needs to go. A bigger sticking point is, how can that be accomplished?

  6. With the federal budget. Out-of-control almost anybody is better than Biden or Trump. Obama has certainly done a number on the federal deficit. Also remember when we had a $9 trillion debt.?? Obviously nobody remembers and nobody really cares. Whether we like it or not it is causing multiple Scenarios of the failure of the federal government. And according to the Durham report, we see major corruption throughout the US government. It’s sad to see the continuance of the FBI being weapon I used throughout the years. Yes DeSantis is not somebody that maybe we would like to see in there because of some of his policies. But if someone doesn’t rain in the federal government and its abuses , and the fact that it runs outside of the constitution on a daily basis, we may never see a government that is for the people by the people definitely not for the coming generations.

  7. I thought that the federal budget was set by Congress. Presidents can lead (the last one who knew how to do that was FDR), but Congress has the last word and vote.

  8. To anyone paying attention, the deficit gets out of hand much more significantly when Republicans are in control. Clinton left with a budget surplus. Bush bushwhacked the deficit, sending it soaring. It originally soared under Obama, until the great recession was brought under control, then declined in four of his last five years in office. Trump exploded the deficit with his tax cuts, tripling it in 2020. It has turned down once again under Biden. The effect on the debt should be obvious and the conclusion should be: Democrats = good; Republicans = bad. The Democrats lack the skill set necessary to make this point to the American public, so voters blame Dems for bad economies, when in fact they should blame the good old GOP. If they did that, we might not have to teeter on the edge of financial disaster every time the Debt Ceiling needs to be raised under a Democrat.

    On topic: Does anyone remember when JFK was running for office? He kept telling everyone the he was a firm believer in the separation of church and state. It was his hardest litmus test . Don’t you wish it still were that hard?

  9. No, no, no, a thousand times no. DeSantis is not “worse” than Donald Trump. You disagree with DeSantis more on policy than you do with Donald Trump. I get that. I also get that DeSantis is more competent than Trump and thus more able to enact those objectionable policies.

    But that overlooks the fact that Donald Trump does not believe in American democracy. He does not believe in the Constitution. He does not believe there should be any limits to his authority as President. He believes he is above the law. Trump celebrates autocrats and wants to be an autocrat as President. As President he took corruption to a whole new level.

    On any of those scores, DeSantis is not even in the same league as Donald Trump who is an existential threat to the future of American democracy.

  10. the donations to a worthy cause,er, diminished returns. desatan has the education and right wing chriatians, as i see it,when all is said and done,in his lose to whoever, before the election, will tell the best story,how the christian right supported satan,and their attitude that shows their so called god is a mistake. donate what ya want,though trump won by suprise, the rest of the country is aware of the issue/s,your freedom. seems the news and social media braggarts are biggest whores to promote for ad money,over morals and democracy. theres little resemblance to the so called GOP today,now its who ever has the most toys and the biggest most disgusting life. taking from others will send a message,and the news media should be focused on that,before they lose their right to print. then again,what their selling is the end of our democracy..

  11. The minute Texas flips blue (which will be very soon), the Ds will be touting the benefits of the electoral college and it will be Republicans wanting to get rid of it.

  12. Paul, I think you are describing Desantis and the other nominees, too. The GOP has demonstrated that it doesn’t believe in the constitution, except if it benefits them. And they believe in using power to get their way despite precedent (see the SC) or the consequences (see the recent debt limit “negotiation”). Have you not seen them fawning over Orban and others? Way too many of them are currently siding with Russia over Ukraine!

    The only area that Trump has an edge is that he _really_ loves authoritarians. But the difference isn’t enough to overcome the fact that the others might actually be able to enact some of their evil ideas.

    Every one of them would be truly awful, but I’m not convinced Trump would be worse overall. (And I have to admit, I can’t believe I’m saying it, either, since Trump is a truly, disgustingly horrible human. But there it is.)

    Also, your analysis of the EC is incorrect, in my opinion. Even if Texas goes blue, getting rid of the EC would still just make things worse for the GOP (and conversely, better for Dems). The GOP will _never_ support changes to the EC. The EC and gerrymandering are the only things keeping them relevant at all.

  13. So Texas is turning Blue, eh. They are now in court trying to get policing control over their entire border with Mexico….wake up and get woke….

  14. I’d prefer to pour a beer over this guy…but, what a waste of a good brew!
    Yes, he’s much more dangerous a fellow than TFG. And, no, I doubt TFG will
    beat Biden.

  15. Which is worse, Trump or DeSantis? Would you rather be lynched or shot to death?

  16. Dare I suggest that the only way to ensure that Biden wins is to scare the hell out of non-MAGA voters with CONCRETE examples of what could happen instead of touting the wonderful things the DEMS have done (and dream of)?

    Consider the National Emergency Powers Act…it almost allows a President to do anything they damn please….

  17. Peggy is correct. If you look closely at history, the Republicans are responsible in greate measure to larger budget deficits and therefore larger contributions to the debt then Democrats, because of greater spending and budget cuts to the wealthy and the corporations that own them. Teresa is also correct. It is Congress that passes the bills that become taxes or tax cuts and spending or spending limits. Unfortunately, the Republicans have been doing the bidding of idiotic Republican presidents ever since Ronald Reagan who was a complete puppet of those who were buying him.

  18. Peggy is correct. If you look closely at history, the Republicans are responsible in great measure to larger budget deficits and therefore larger contributions to the debt than Democrats, because of greater spending and budget cuts to the wealthy and the corporations that own them.

    Theresa is also correct. It is Congress that passes the bills that become laws controlling taxes or tax cuts and spending or spending limits.

    Unfortunately, the Republicans have been doing the bidding of idiotic Republican presidents ever since Ronald Reagan who was a complete puppet of those who were buying him.

  19. Paul – you are partly correct. Trump. wants to be king, while DeSantis just wants his vision of the world to prevail, even if it destroys universities, all libraries, lives of LBGTQ+ people, and freedom in general.
    The question becomes: Do you want to die by drowning or burning?”
    I think you might agree that neither is a good choice.

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