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The Performative Politics Of Anti-Woke Warriors Meatball Ron And The Mafia Princess

The Most Divisive Presidential Campaign Since Andrew Jackson

Mark Liebovich caught up with the real in the flesh— as he put it [ugghhh] Ron DeSantis [and the Mafia Princess] in Rochester, New Hampshire… in time to pen a column, Ron DeSantis’ Joyless Ride. I think we can all agree that Meatball Ron has earned and deserves so much less than mere joylessness. Imagine an American Legion hall in an eastern New Hampshire town that Trump won both times, albeit narrowly— 49.7% to 48.3%— in 2020. Pre-QAnon conspiracy theorist Lyndon LaRouche was born there.

Meatball and the Mafia Princess “had just finished a midday campaign event,” wrote Liebovich, “and the governor was now working a quick rope line— emphasis on quick and double emphasis on working. The fast-talking first lady is much better suited to this than her halting husband. He smiled for the camera like the dentist had just asked him to bite down on a blob of putty; like he was trying to make a mold, or to fit one. It was more of a cringe than a grin.”

Retail politicking was never DeSantis’s gift. Not that it mattered much before, in the media-dominated expanse of Florida politics, where DeSantis has proved himself an elite culture warrior and troller of libs. DeSantis was reelected by 19 points last November. He calls himself the governor of the state “where woke goes to die,” which he believes will be a model for his presidency of the whole country, a red utopia in his own image.
What does the on-paper promise of DeSantis look like in practice? DeSantis has performed a number of these in-person chores in recent days, after announcing his presidential campaign on May 24 in a glitchy Twitter Spaces appearance with Elon Musk.
The DeSanti
As I watched him complete his rounds in New Hampshire on Thursday— visits to a VFW hall, an Elks Club, and a community college, in addition to the American Legion post— the essential duality of his campaign was laid bare: DeSantis is the ultimate performative politician when it comes to demonstrating outrage and “kneecapping” various woke abuses— but not so much when it comes to the actual in-person performance of politics.
The campaign billed his appearance in Rochester as a “fireside chat.” (The outside temperature was 90 degrees, and there was no actual fire.) The governor and first lady also held fireside chats this week at a welding shop in Salix, Iowa, and at an event space in Lexington, South Carolina. The term conjures the great American tradition started by President Franklin D. Roosevelt during the Great Depression. Those were scary times— grim visages of malnourished kids and food riots and businessmen selling pencils on the street. FDR’s cozy evenings around the radio hearth were meant to project comfort and avuncular authority.
Sitting on gray armchairs onstage in Rochester— Casey cross-legged and Ron man-spread— the DeSanti reassured their audience that the Florida governor was the candidate best equipped to protect Americans from contemporary threats no less serious than stock-market crashes and bank closures. He was focused on a distinct set of modern menaces: “woke indoctrination” and “woke militaries” and “woke mind viruses” and “woke mobs” that endanger every institution of American life. He used woke more than a dozen times at each event (I counted).
Also, DeSantis said he’s a big supporter of “the death penalty for pedophiles” (applause); reminded every audience that he’d sent dozens of migrants to “beautiful Martha’s Vineyard” (bigger applause); and promised to end “this Faucian dystopia” around COVID once and for all (biggest applause).
Also, George Soros (boo).

Meatball Ron, whose advisors have whispered to his big donors— and basically all his loot comes from big donors— that once the primary is over, he’ll move to the mainstream, is the most overtly divisive candidate anyone can recall— more so than Nixon, more so that George Wallace, even more than Trump! He’s taking the opposite approach to candidates who preached unity, like Abe Lincoln, FDR, Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama and has taken an approach more in line with the campaigns run by Andrew Jackson, John Adams (vs Thomas Jefferson) and William McKinley. DeSantis is tearing at the already frayed fabric of American society to put himself ahead in what’s turning out to be a vicious Republican primary.

His slick Mafia princess talks at each stop “about the couple’s three young children, often in the vein of how adorably naughty they are— how they write on the walls of the governor’s mansion with permanent markers and leave crayon stains on the carpets. Ron spoke in personal terms less often, but when he did, it was usually to prove that he understands the need to protect kids from being preyed upon by the various and ruthless forces of wokeness. One recurring example on Thursday involved how outrageous it is that in certain swim competitions, a girl might wind up being defeated by a transgender opponent. ‘I’m particularly worried about this as the father of two daughters,’ DeSantis told the Rochester crowd. This played well in the room full of committed Republicans and likely primary voters, as it does on Fox. Clearly this is a fraught and divisive issue, but one that’s been given outsized attention in recent years, especially in relation to the portion of the population it directly affects. By comparison, DeSantis never mentioned gun violence, the leading cause of death for children in this country, including many in his state (the site of the horrific Parkland massacre of 2018, the year before he became governor). DeSantis readily opts for the culture-war terrain, ignoring the rest, pretty much everywhere he goes.”

His whole act can feel like a clunky contrivance— a forced persona railing against phony or hyped-up outrages. He can be irascible. Steve Peoples, a reporter for the Associated Press, approached DeSantis after a speech at a VFW hall in Laconia and asked the governor why he hadn’t taken any questions from the audience. “Are you blind?” DeSantis snapped at Peoples. “Are you blind? Okay, so, people are coming up to me, talking to me [about] whatever they want to talk to me about.”
No one in the room cared about this little outburst besides the reporters (who sent a clip of it bouncing across social media within minutes). And if the voters did care, it would probably reflect well on DeSantis in their eyes, demonstrating his willingness to get in the media’s face.
Journalists who managed to get near DeSantis this week unfailingly asked him about Donald Trump, the leading GOP candidate. In Rochester, NBC’s Gabe Gutierrez wondered about the former president’s claim that he would eliminate the federal government’s “administrative state” within six months of a second term. “Why didn’t you do it when you had four years?” DeSantis shot back.
In general, though, DeSantis didn’t mention Trump without being prompted— at least not explicitly. He drew clear, if barely veiled, contrasts. “I will end the culture of losing in the Republican Party,” he vowed Thursday night in Manchester. Unsaid, obviously, is that the GOP has underperformed in the past three national elections— and no one is more to blame than Trump and the various MAGA disciples he dragged into those campaigns.
“Politics is not about building a brand,” DeSantis went on to say. What matters is competence and conviction, not charisma. “My husband will never back down!” Casey added in support. In other words: He is effective and he will follow through and actually do real things, unlike you-know-who.
“Politics is not about entertainment,” DeSantis said in all of his New Hampshire speeches, usually at the end. He might be trying to prove as much.

Over the weekend, Shane Goldmacher reported that Meatball campaign— desperately attempting to portray itself as more populist than elitist— “made a splash when he announced that he had raised a record $8.2 million in his first 24 hours as a presidential candidate. New figures disclosed by the campaign reveal that he relied heavily on larger contributors to set that record. The DeSantis campaign said it had around 40,000 donors in May as ‘we raised over’ $8.2 million, according to text messages and emails to supporters asking for more donations. That works out to an average of more than $200 per donor— a figure far higher than is typical for a campaign heavily funded by grass-roots support. By comparison, Senator Bernie Sanders, who was a Democratic online fund-raising powerhouse, raised $5.9 million in his first 24 hours in 2019— but from 223,000 donors, for an average donation of around $26… Tim Tagaris, a Democratic digital strategist who oversaw the Sanders fund-raising operation in 2020, called the number of DeSantis donors surprisingly small. Tagaris said that 40,000 ‘donations in a week for a leading presidential campaign is either a sign that they didn’t prepare well enough heading into the launch or there isn’t the kind of grass-roots support from regular people they had probably hoped for.’ He added, ‘That’s a donor number you expect from top-tier Senate campaigns, not a leading presidential.’… The DeSantis team made no secret that it was soliciting big money to coincide with his kickoff. The campaign had gathered major donors at the Four Seasons in Miami for an event they called Ron-O-Rama. Officials in the DeSantis administration were also soliciting donations from Florida lobbyists, which gave some the impression that the governor’s office was tracking their donations at a time when the state budget— and DeSantis’ veto pen— hung in the balance.”

"Full Armor of God" by Nancy Ohanian

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