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Watch your back, Donald. The apprentice is making moves

Donald Trump may be leading the 2024 polls, but Ron DeSantis is eyeing the White House. Trump's apprentice may soon be telling him: "you're fired!"

When DeSantis comes marching in... governor Ron and Trump together in Florida, 2020. Photo by Brendan Smialowski/AFP

In that classic film of the bad protégée All About Eve, there is a scene in which Bette Davis discovers that the young actress she has given a break to has taken over her part.

The part is the lead, and so Davis sweeps into the empty theatre at rehearsal, her full-length mink and shoulder-length hair flying, to confront the judas.

In US politics, a clown car has been added to the train wreck that the republic’s political life is rapidly becoming. Enter Ron DeSantis, governor of Florida, who is gearing up to challenge his mentor and current king of the Republican Party, Donald Trump. As Oscar Wilde wrote: ‘You’d need a heart of stone not to laugh’.

Who could have predicted this, six years ago? One day, while Trump sat in the White House glued to his favourite so-called news channel, Fox News, a perky young man appeared who flicked all the then-president’s switches by praising his brilliance. It is said that Trump turned to his minions and told them that the young guy reminded him of him. He told them to keep an eye on DeSantis.

This anointing was conveyed to Fox News and the network put him on speed-dial. DeSantis was rolled out to opine on everything under the sun and, more and more, Trump touted him as a future leader.

Soon after, DeSantis decided to run for governor of Florida. He ran against the African American mayor of Tallahassee, a man widely tipped to win. DeSantis used phrases like “monkeying around” to describe his opponent, which caused him to be accused of being a racist.

His riposte was that he did not understand the term to be racist, not even in context. This was an interesting response from a guy who had graduated magna cum laude from Yale in History and cum laude from Harvard Law School – in other words, with distinction. But Trump and his MAGA court didn’t care about fancy Latin terms. To them, DeSantis demonstrated a New York City word: moxie.

Brass neck. Balls. So Trump got the Florida division of his cult ramped up and in a very close count, DeSantis won.

Trump has made no secret of the fact that he intends to run for a third time for the White House. And, although his rallies are not covered on mainstream TV, they still attract massive crowds.

But the vaccine roll-out has revealed a big problem for The Donald.

After president Biden publicly lauded Operation Warp Speed, the development and dissemination of a vaccine to fight the virus, Trump has revelled in the praise. He even said at one rally that he had received a booster jab, which elicited some boos from the crowd.

Trump brushed them off as outliers, but the alarm bells were ringing. Trump is many things but he is not an anti-vaxxer.

Yet in his desperate and constant attempts to garner adulation from wherever, he had neglected to see that the MAGA monster he created had escaped the lab.

He and DeSantis, who refuses to state whether he has been boosted – and is a mortal enemy of Dr Anthony Fauci – and Trump, now issue edicts from their rival mansions. The former president from Mar-a-Lago and the governor a few hundred miles north in Tallahassee. Trump now refers to DeSantis in the third person while talking about vaccine hesitancy and De Santis does not refer to him at all.

The governor’s latest move is to propose what he calls an “anti-woke” bill. This would effectively allow Florida residents to sue school districts that teach or promote Critical Race Theory, a title that is a total gift to opportunists like him.

The proposed bill reads in part: “An individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, does not bear responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex. An individual should not be made to feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race.”

The phrasing “should not be made to feel…” is, of course, a kind of legal nonsense and Harvard Law grad DeSantis knows this, but the wording is enough to grab the attention that he wants. And possibly make the Trump Base look at another option to the ongoing drama that is the Big Lie – that the 2020 election was stolen from him.

DeSantis has not stated that he is running for president in 2024. But it is easy to sense that he is biding his time.

Because this is the lineup, so far, for the presidential election of 2024: Donald Trump will be 78, Joe Biden will be 82, Bernie Sanders will be 83. And yes, Hillary may come back because it really isn’t ever over for her. She will be 77.

And there could be Ron DeSantis, who will be 46.

Plus no one in the older group is a military veteran, a status Americans love. But DeSantis is a former Navy man, medalled by both the Navy and the Marines for service in Iraq out of the Judge Advocate’s Office. His work was with the commander for Navy SEAL operations. He was also founder of the right wing/conservative Freedom Caucus during his time as a congressman in the House.

Now the Republicans may have two candidates to choose from: The Master and his Apprentice. NBC created The Apprentice for Donald Trump with its trademark yell: “You’re fired!”

It would be, as Southerners might say, “somethin’ else” if Trump had those words yelled back at him as the clown car rolls on.

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