We have been waiting for a while, but finally there is a new player about to enter the presidential race.
Regardless of one’s political affiliation and loyalty, Ron DeSantis is very much one to watch. With a young family and beautiful wife, the family portrait on the White House Christmas card in 2025 is a very real possibility.
DeSantis started in the Donald Trump school of politics with an increased element of sophistication. He has spent the last year declaring a war on wokeness, which is ultimately defined as being aware of racial prejudice, oppression, and injustice. He has sought to eliminate any element of Critical Race Theory in all schools and universities throughout the state, eliminate any funding or support for diversity training, and introduced and furthered the whole “Don’t Say Gay” legislation in his home state.
He has publicly sought to embrace the right to bear arms in Florida, supporting gun rights and the second amendment. He has focused much of his energy on appealing to the conservative base, and one question that a campaign will answer is whether this focus allows Democrats to paint him as an extremist that can never appeal to moderates.
Can DeSantis really appeal to an undecided voter when actively pursuing and embracing policies that are seen to appease the most conservative within his party? Time is a great healer in politics, and typically an electorate in any country has a very short-term memory.
One theory that abounds is that DeSantis must pursue such policies in order to compete with Trump in his attempts to wrestle the party base away from the former president. Only time will tell if DeSantis would move closer to the center on a national campaign, but to model himself on Donald Trump is not necessarily a recipe for success with Trump losing the last election.
Any movement away from the current conservative base may not necessarily lose him support from the party, but it may lead to a reduced level of enthusiasm and thus turnout on election day from the base.
Trump is the de facto leader of the Republican party. Yet, while his recent challenges may not necessarily be having a direct impact on his numbers, they may begin to wear on the candidate himself. Indictments and charges and civil trials can all take their toll, and while people will point to President Biden’s age, Trump is not too far behind either.
As the pressure mounts on Trump, has DeSantis left his announcement too late in terms of fundraising, or has he timed it perfectly to swoop in and take over from the former president?
From an Irish perspective, DeSantis and his policies can appear extreme and strange. He has waged war on trade unions in education. In the United States, you either love or hate the trade union concept. Democrats view them as protecting the individual employee and are very much in favor of such organizations. Republicans see them as a socialist ideal, which is seen as the first step on the road to communism. DeSantis has signed legislation in Florida ensuring no teacher can set up a direct deposit from their pay packet to their union, thus seeking to strangle the teacher unions of any funding.
He has sought to increase the role of parents in the classroom and this has seen many books controversially banned in different counties around the state. I studied “Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry” as part of my Junior Certificate studies back in Ireland, yet it has been removed from schools in Palm Beach County along with “To Kill a Mockingbird” and a graphic version of the “Diary of Anne Frank” after complaints from parents.
A first-year teacher who recently taught her class about the environment rewarded her class by showing the Disney animation “Strange World” in her class. The teacher is now under investigation by the state after a parent complained that there was an openly gay character in the movie.
DeSantis will be loved by the conservative base. He will be despised by liberals. Can he really capture the undecided? He will have youth and vigor in his favor over President Biden, and in general, his policies mirror those of Trump. Can youth and vigor help moderates disregard policies that they may regard as more extreme?
Should DeSantis overtake Trump and claim the Republican party’s nomination, we will see him take one of two routes that will have long-term implications for the country. If he pursues his current course that he has followed in Florida on a national level, he will continue to promote and sow division within the country. This will not guarantee an election win, but if he were to win, it would be hard to see him uniting the country. If he moves towards the center, he may lose some of his base, but may appeal to a more moderate voter looking for a change from the Donald Trump and Joe Biden years.
There is a consensus that Biden could beat Trump in 2024, but it would be very close. There is no certainty for Biden if he were against DeSantis.
The conundrum for DeSantis is that he may have to appeal to the most conservative of the Republican base to have any hope of overtaking Trump, yet this could ultimately harm his chances against Biden.
Will America go for the new kid on the block, or hang tough with what they've got?
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