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Remember #NeverTrumpers Are Not Our Friends. This One Wants Ron DeSantis As An Alternative!

Updated: Nov 1, 2021

America has never had as existential a threat to the country and Trump and his followers. If the 2016 and 2020 elections didn't get me to abandon my decision to not choose between two evil candidates-- one more evil and one less evil-- than nothing will. And Conor Friedersdorf, writing for The Atlantic, this morning had a far worse idea than Biden or Hillary: DeSantis! Of course, he isn't really floating it for Democrats, but for NeverTrump Republicans. He could have fathered them all in a medium sized auditorium and told them his idea-- Why Never Trumpers Should Bet On DeSantis Now-- though, admitting that DeSantis is "flawed," but claiming he's within the "normal parameters." That's incorrect. No one could be as dangerous as Trump, but DeSantis is far from within "normal parameters."

Joshua Hicks is a progressive Democrat running for a seat on the Jacksonville City Council. He told us that "DeSantis is anti-vaccine, he's anti-teacher, he's anti-women, he's anti-science, and he's anti-democracy. He's against anything that doesn't help his political ambitions or his buddy-in-crime, Donald Trump. He's placed himself over Floridians, time and time again, and his inactions on COVID-19 has resulted in over 60,000 Floridians dead - many of whom were allies of his own party. Ron DeSantis is a failed leader who must be retired in 2022... for the good of Florida and for the good of the country. Listen, after 22+ years of Republican control, Florida Democrats are due for a big win. But it will take a lot of money, support and energy to do so, and it will take supporting candidates, like me, in winnable races, at the grassroots, up and down the ballot." So... not exactly normal parameters for anyone but a lockstep conservative-- like Friedersdorf.

We've been covering the putridness of Ron DeSantis for years, including when he was one of the Republicans in Congress most akin to a fascist. But just between March and the end of August there were a full dozen posts with his name in the headline:

  • Ron DeSantis Would Like To Do To The U.S. What He & Other GOP Governors Have Done To Their States

  • DeSantis lied-- Floridians Died... And So Did Visitors To The Sunshine State

  • DeSantis = Putin?

  • Which Governors Handled The Pandemic Worst Of All? DeSantis? Noem? Cuomo? Abbott?

  • Good News For Florida-- We Found Someone In Government Worse Than Ron DeSantis: Narendra Modi

  • Ron DeSantis Is Trying To Bully Businesses The Same Way He Bullies Florida's Local Governments

  • Florida's COVID Explosion Should Finish Off Ron DeSantis' Miserable Career

  • Midnight Meme Of The Day! Mullah Ron DeSantis Diversifies!

  • Public Enemies: Ron DeSantis & Greg Abbott

  • DeSantis Has Failed Florida-- Even By His Own Warped Standards

  • On COVID, Who's Worse-- DeSantis, Abbott or Noem? All Want The GOP Presidential Nomination

  • Midnight Meme Of The Day! Ron DeSantis, COVID's Best Friend

Friedersdorf, himself, started with the boundaries of normal parameters. "Trump," he wrote, "is trying to hang on as the doddering boss of the Republican Party. Earlier this month, he threatened that his supporters may stay home in 2022 and 2024 unless others in the GOP validate his delusion that he beat Joe Biden. Were the GOP base less easily duped, it would move on, as when George H. W. Bush, John McCain, and Mitt Romney lost White House bids. As president, Trump failed to build his border wall or bring home the troops. No 75-year-old candidate who lost the popular vote to general-election opponents as weak as Hillary Clinton and Biden portends future glory for his party. And Trump energizes intense opposition like no one else, uniting otherwise divided Democrats while alienating a faction of conservatives and independents who normally vote Republican. As if that weren’t enough, America would be weaker with him as president because he tears us apart."

There's no one remotely sane who would disagree with any of that. But wait a minute. He noted that Señor Trumpanzee "remains more popular among the shrinking Republican base than anyone else. So in publications including National Review, The Dispatch, and The Bulwark, anti-Trump conservatives are now debating what to do. They all view the 45th president as an unacceptable leader, deplore the Trumpist turn in the GOP, and lament the dearth of promising strategies for reversing it. Alongside the options they’re considering, I’d add one more: uniting behind Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, the GOP rising star who can boast both conventional political achievements and credibility on the Trumpist right. By failing to unite around any candidate in 2016, Trump’s opponents all but guaranteed that the celebrity businessman would coast to the nomination. In 2024, DeSantis may not be the president that Never Trumpers would choose. He’s too Trumpy for their taste. But their options are limited, and if beating Trump is their highest priority, as I think it should be, DeSantis may be their best bet."

OK, now we're arriving in crazy territory. We're talking about a sociopath who may not be as bad as Trump... but actually may be.

Still, Friedersdorf insists that "DeSantis frustrates and disappoints" him but... "within normal parameters." Friedersdorf wrote that DeSantis hasn’t yet frightened him, as Trump does, "as being superlatively incompetent, divisive, morally degenerate, or authoritarian. As MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough put it last June, when COVID-19 numbers were failing and DeSantis was peaking in the polls, 'We’re going from the political heroin to the political methadone.' However bleak the analogy, that’s a significant step toward recovery!" If that's how the analogy is interpreted, it's a bad analogy.

These are the 10 states with the biggest populations. The first number is their population. The second-- which is how I listed them-- is the number of cases per million people. Take a look at what Ron DeSantis purposely caused among Floridians:

  • Florida- 21,477,737 (172,083 cases per million residents)

  • Georgia- 10,617,423 (153,907 cases per million residents)

  • Texas- 28,995,881 (146,139 cases per million residents)

  • North Carolina- 10,488,084 (140,875 cases per million residents)

  • New York- 19,453,561 (135,478 cases per million residents)

  • Illinois- 12,671,821 (133,803 cases per million residents)

  • Ohio- 11,689,100 (131,996 cases per million residents)

  • Michigan- 9,986,857 (127,678 cases per million residents)

  • Pennsylvania- 12,801,989 (121,999 cases per million residents)

  • California- 39,512,223 (121,424 cases per million residents)

Funny how the state with the most mandates is in last place and the state that has outlawed mandates is in first places. What a coincident-- not. And by the way, Of all the big states, Florida has the most deaths/million-- 2,770. Texas has 2,469/million and California? 1,827.

In the U.S., 58% of the population is fully vaccinated. Calirfornia's population is 61% fully vaccinated, Texas' is 53% and Florida is looking pretty good at 60%-- looking pretty good until you look at the counties that supported Trump most strongly when he ran for governor in 2020. These are the 5 counties that voted most strongly for Trump, followed by the 5 counties that voted against him most strongly... along with their vaccination rates:

  • Holmes Co.- 89.0% Trump (26% fully vaccinated)

  • Lafayette Co.- 85.4% Trump (36% fully vaccinated)

  • Baker Co.- 84.6% Trump (31% fully vaccinated)

  • Dixie Co.- 82.7% Trump (31% fully vaccinated)

  • Union Co.- 82.1% Trump (33% fully vaccinated)

And the counties that gave Trump the smallest percentage of their votes:

  • Gadsden Co.- 31.4% Trump (53% fully vaccinated)

  • Broward Co.- 34.7% Trump (64% fully vaccinated)

  • Leon Co.- 35.1% Trump (51% fully vaccinated)

  • Alachua Co.- 35.6% Trump (60% fully vaccinated)

  • Orange Co.- 37.8% Trump (61% fully vaccinated)

You get the picture, right? The counties where DeSantis has his base-- unvaccinated. The counties where people most likely feel he isn't within any normal parameters-- the counties responsible for Florida's vaccination rate not being in the toilet with East Virginia's, Idaho's Wyoming's and Alabama's.

Friedersdorf points to DeSantis (43) as being much younger than either Trump (75) or Biden (79 next month). Yeah, so? Hitler was 45 when he became chancellor of Germany. He goes on to claim that what makes DeSantis "a plausibly acceptable candidate for anti-Trump conservatives" is that he barely won a purple state so he moderated his far right extremism. Tell that to all the dead Floridians and those who will suffer from long-term COVID effects for the rest of their lives. And he has also pursued some normal right-wing policies that aren't fascist per se, just pro-rich people. And he claims that "even before the Capitol riot on January 6, lots of anti-Trump Republicans had already left the GOP. Afterward, tens of thousands more Republicans changed their voter registration to quit the party."

Surveying all the tumult, Bill Kristol, the longtime movement conservative and Never Trumper, published a February 22 column at The Bulwark setting forth a controversial proposal: “Why shouldn’t anti-Trump Republicans at least consider becoming a kind-of-Old-Republican wing of Joe Biden’s Democratic party?” he asked. ”Moderate Democrats [meaning corrupt conservatives bags of shit like Manchin, Sinema, Gottheimer, Schrader, Case and the rest of the vomit from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party, aka- Democraps], historically speaking, get no respect. Sure, they win elections. And they govern pretty successfully. But they get ignored by the media, by their side’s intellectuals, by donors, even by Democratic political pros. And now they’re getting ignored by Never Trumpers. Maybe it’s time they get attention and respect.”
Another faction believes it’s unrealistic to expect many conservatives to cast votes for a Democratic Party that takes positions opposite theirs on abortion, guns, foreign policy, and tax-and-spending issues. So is a third party a better alternative? In a recent Los Angeles Times column, the conservative author Jonah Goldberg suggested “a third party with a simple, Reaganite conservative platform combined with a serious plank to defend the soundness of elections.” If a Republican nominee met its requirements, “a new party of the right could endorse the Republican, the way New York’s Conservative Party does. If not, a non-Trumpy candidate could play the role of spoiler by garnering enough conservative votes in the general election to throw the election to the Democrat.”
But a third party struck National Review’s Charles C. W. Cooke as highly likely to backfire. “The implication of Jonah’s piece is that if the GOP loses yet another election, it will learn precisely the lessons that he thinks it needs to learn,” Cooke wrote. “In the real world, though, this almost never happens … Games such as the one Jonah proposes to play aren’t how you get rid of a Donald Trump. They’re how you get the next one.” Dan McLaughlin, also of National Review, added, “​​The battles that Jonah wants to fight are very much worth fighting. But the place to fight them is in Republican primaries.”
The best way forward depends, in part, on how bad one believes Donald Trump himself to be for America. Is he no worse than any number of other populist demagogues who are capable of winning the White House, or is he sui generis, so that any likely alternative would damage America less?
Probably the latter. [ah... back to America's worst governor.]
For that reason, Trump’s opponents should pursue all potentially viable strategies for keeping him out of the White House. I agree with McLaughlin that a primary fight is worth having. Then, if Trump still wins the GOP nomination, Kristol should support the Democratic nominee and Goldberg and others should encourage a conservative third party, even if that risks inspiring “the next Trump,” because even another right-wing populist is likely to be less bad than Trump-- less depraved, less shameless, less able to rely on fame and riches, less imbued with a bullying charisma that makes his sadistic cruelty seem more acceptable. Republicans need to know that, if they renominate Trump, the right will be bitterly divided, while the faction of the country that wants to elect a Democrat will grow bigger, more energized, and more united.
Of course, Trump’s divisiveness will seem like a compelling reason for the GOP to dump him only if an alternative nominee can better unite the right’s Trumpist and anti-Trumpist factions. Put another way, a viable Trump primary rival isn’t going to be the Republican that Kristol or Goldberg, let alone a longtime independent like me, would most like to elevate. A successful unity candidate can neither repudiate all of Trumpism’s excesses, as I would prefer, nor embrace Trump’s most authoritarian attacks on American democracy, as Trump himself would prefer.
So far, DeSantis has threaded that dispiriting needle more deftly than most other Republican contenders. My colleague David Frum wrote in an April profile that the DeSantis approach is “a form of political judo that works by employing judicious but limited provocation, followed by a deft, just-in-time retreat to the center,” arguing that “the Florida governor has figured out that Republicans love a culture-war brawl, but that overdoing it can alienate a general-election electorate.” I strongly disagree with DeSantis on some issues—such as capital punishment and the drug war—and have all the policy objections you’d expect from a classical liberal. Yet I would be relieved to grant him four years in the White House if, in return, I could be assured that no Trump would ever again be president.
DeSantis himself has tried to tamp down speculation about a 2024 run. Perhaps he truly doesn’t plan to run, or maybe he wants to postpone the moment when Trump attacks him as a rival.
Trump said in early October that, if he faced DeSantis, he would beat him, but that he expects most people, including DeSantis, to drop out of the GOP primary if he runs. Trump may be right, because he leads all candidates in the polls. But Trump is not invincible. He lost the popular vote twice, lost the Electoral College to Biden, and helped the Democratic Party win majorities in the Senate and the House. He is guaranteed the GOP nomination only if his is the only GOP faction that congeals behind a single candidate. And for anti-Trump conservatives, anything that denies Trump that prize is the least bad option. So it isn’t too early to start the “if not DeSantis, then who?” conversations to avoid repeating their 2016 mistake of failing to unite around anyone. Unless anti-Trump conservatives can think of someone more likely to beat Trump, they should be working on how to beg, cajole, or entice the Florida governor to contest the 2024 nomination.

Enjoy this: Roger Stone announced that if DeSantis doesn't do more overtly Trump crap to further the Big Lie, he will run against him as a Libertarian and draw off enough votes to throw next year's gubernatorial election to a Democrat, presumably fake Democrat, Charlie Crist.

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