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The rise of Ron DeSantis

Is America ready for the Ron DeSantis Show? Both Republicans and Democrats are tuned in...

Ron DeSantis, the Republican governor of Florida, who has been tipped as a possible 2024 presidential candidate. Photo: Giorgio Viera/AFP/Getty

There is a scene in All About Eve, that classic film about a protégé taking down a mentor, in which we see Bette Davis’ ageing diva Margo Channing ringing her director/lover in the middle of the night.

She is calling him to say that she has forgotten his birthday, what with her opening and all, and is apologising. He blithely tells his New York-based lover from his base in Hollywood that all is well. Channing’s protégé, now personal assistant, a woman she had literally plucked off the streets, had taken care of everything.

Margo Channing sends him love, hangs up, then sits up in the bed. She lights a cigarette in the dark. And metaphorically so do we. Her protégé has become something else: her possible destroyer.

Donald Trump must have had that kind of “wake up and light the cigarette” moment with Florida governor Ronald Dion DeSantis.

One way that you know that you’re living rent-free in Trump’s head is when he gives you a nickname. His nickname for DeSantis is “Ron DeSanctimonious”.

The former president is raging, even threatening to spill the beans on DeSantis, saying he knows things about his rival that even Ron’s wife does not know.

Lowball stuff, you might say, but this is 100% grade-A Trump at his most desperate, his most transparent. Word is that he is truly devastated at no longer being president; shattered that he wields no power; crushed that he was defeated by a man he called a loser. And now, he has plans to take on a winner. A big one.

In his run for re-election, DeSantis crushed his opponent, the former Florida governor Charlie Crist. The result of the tally was nothing short of a rout, not only of a man DeSantis called an “ageing donkey” – the donkey being the symbol of the Dems – but of the Democratic Party itself in the one state that could always be depended on to decide the presidency.

Not any more. Florida is Republican red. It is now a Republican Party bellwether, thanks to DeSantis.

Born in Jacksonville to parents descended from Italian immigrants on both sides, he went to Harvard and Yale; served in the US military during the Gulf war as an attorney; married a television news woman, a breast cancer survivor. They have utterly photogenic little kids.

As a congressman, there was no daylight between Ron and then-president Trump. He was 100% MAGA. When he decided to run for governor against a popular Florida mayor, he practically lived on Fox News, extolling the virtues of the guy in the White House.

Oscar Wilde once stated: “One must have a heart of stone to read the death of little Nell without laughing”. This is also true of the demise of Trump.

Especially after Trump presidency-creator Rupert Murdoch had his New York Post put a huge picture of DeSantis and his family accepting victory under the headline: “DeFuture”.

Trump’s recent announcement that he would run for the presidency again – made earlier than usual, clearly in an effort to blindside the Department of Justice’s Mar-a-Lago investigation – was placed on page 27 of the same paper. Takedown does not even begin to describe the utter humiliation.

What DeSantis has done is to tap into the dark side of the American collective unconscious. He took on the mighty Walt Disney Corporation, a company that almost has its own laws in Florida, and almost dismantled it over its outspoken pro-LGBTQ stance. This battle was so intense that it had to have contributed to the recent return of legendary Disney CEO Bob Iger who, at the time he left, when asked if he would come back, replied: “Come back as what?”

DeSantis diverted legal asylum seekers to Martha’s Vineyard off the coast of Massachusetts. Most folks in the US have hardly even heard of the place, but you know it if you went to Harvard. Like DeSantis did.

It is uber-posh; one of the bastions of liberalism. Barack Obama had his 60th birthday party there. What DeSantis did by shipping desperate people there from another country and another language was what one commentator called “frat boy” stuff. As crass and possibly illegal as it was, it worked because DeSantis speaks for the guy who thinks that he can’t get into the conversation about America. Like Trump did once. Like Boris Johnson did here.

The problem for Trump now is that he is a loser. Which DeSantis most decidedly is not. The “red trickle”, as outgoing Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi called the Republican numbers in the recent midterm elections, places the party in the position of either listening to the American people – who clearly are tired of the crazies, as shown by how many election deniers lost – or going all in for the cultural warrior that is DeSantis. Emphasis on “warrior.”

He is the guy who fought against common sense and restricted Covid regulations, even going so far as to attack the mild-mannered and deeply respected Antony Fauci, Trump’s non-partisan Covid czar. The guy who taught his little kids to say “build the wall”. The guy who accused his African American opponent in his first governor’s race of “monkeying around”. The guy who signed into law a statute forbidding taking down statues after one of Christopher Columbus was attacked in Miami. The guy who even proposed a bill against teaching children about the historic rights and wrongs of the nation of their birth which he called: “Stop Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees”.

Yes, you’re right: its acronym is “WOKE”. This bill is so egregious that a Florida judge has ruled that it violates the First Amendment to the Constitution. That amendment reads in part: “Congress shall make no law… prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech”.

You would think that a guy who had read history at Yale; and graduated summa cum laude from Harvard Law School would know that he would get a ruling like this. And you would be right. But the Secret Sauce of DeSantis is that he is a Bad Boy; the one who says the quiet part out loud.

The domain once inhabited by Donald Trump.

One surefire way to make sure that Joe Biden runs again is for the Republican Party to nominate Donald Trump as its candidate for president. Joe will defeat him again for the very same reason that he defeated him the first time: Americans wanted to change the channel.

But are they ready to move on to the Ron DeSantis Show? Both Republicans and Democrats are tuned in.

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