Along with being a political junkie (and someone who frequently writes and tweets about politics) comes the daily frustrations from things like seeing Republicans routinely taken out of context by The Usual Suspects, falsely accused of racism and all the other predictable isms, and just in general being treated like less than worthy and garbage by both the mainstream press and their critics on the left.
What’s even more frustrating to me than that, however, is when conservatives and Republicans start eating their own based in large part on bad-faith arguments, effectively becoming their own worst enemies in the process – not to mention all the ammunition it gives to Democrats to use against them later, and during crucial election cycles to boot.
With an intense sense of frustration, I’ve watched the escalating online war between the DeSantis 2024 presidential campaign and Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.) and his defenders over Donalds’ criticism of the “slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit” line from Florida’s new 2023 State Academics Standards manual.
It was the one line in the 216 page manual that the Biden-Harris administration, Kamala Harris in particular, pounced and seized on, despite the fact that not only were those standards agreed upon by a well-respected African-American workgroup but a very similar line was also included in the AP African American Studies course framework, which is considered the gold standard in education circles.
Because Donalds has endorsed former President Donald Trump’s 2024 presidential campaign and makes no secret of it in interviews and on Twitter, his criticism of the line was viewed by the DeSantis campaign as a proxy attack from Trump. And so after months of Trump and his Very Online (and offline) allies throwing everything but the kitchen sink at DeSantis – including Trump not so subtly once insinuating without a shred of evidence that DeSantis was a groomer and pedophile, they fired back, accusing Rep. Donalds of siding with Kamala Harris.
Immediately there was more pouncing and seizing, with conservatives of all colors and backgrounds leaning into the identity politics angle, tearing into DeSantis and his team for allegedly not respecting the views of black voices in the party, something my RedState colleague Jeff Charles documented here.
Reasonable people can disagree with the line, but what has ballooned out of the original “reporting” on it from the MSM has not been reasonable at all and has been a festival of fail on multiple fronts, starting with Harris jumping on a plane to Florida to demagogue the state’s voters over Florida’s education standards all the way up to the backlash that has come from many of Donalds’ defenders.
This brings me to my next point – you take a closer look at many of the people going to bat on his behalf and you see that most of them did not support DeSantis to begin with. They are Trump diehards and whether the ship swims or sinks with him next year they will be there with him until the bitter end. Those are just the facts and I am merely the messenger.
That’s fine, people have the right to support who they want to. But in my view none of them should be coming at anyone with supposedly “principled” arguments about why DeSantis and his team have supposedly screwed up and “disrespected minority voices” in how they handled the fallout from the deliberate misreporting on the Florida education standards when diehard Trump surrogates/advisors (some, not all) have either looked the other way or joined in as Trump, Inc. has thrown just about every conservative standard and principle out the window in trying to derail one of the most promising voices to come along in conservative/Republican politics in a long time — all in the name of “winning.”
That being said, Ron DeSantis is not a victim here. DeSantis entered the race knowing full well what was to come from Donald Trump because a) everyone remembers the brutality of the 2016 GOP presidential primary season and b) Trump provided him a roughly six-month preview of how it was going to go before DeSantis formally declared his candidacy in May.
When you decide to willingly make your entry into the arena knowing the stakes involved, and knowing much about the intricacies, tactics, and moods of your opponents, you can’t fall back on the victim card when predictable (yet maddening) situations like this one play out (to my knowledge, DeSantis hasn’t done that – just stating it for the record).
Further, there are things the DeSantis campaign needs to do in order to get back into the game. First off is to deemphasize the social media wars. Fight back against the smears, yes, but be smart about it, and don’t carry it offline and blow it up because most people don’t give a rat’s patootie about “owning the libs/cons.”
The second thing is to focus primarily on the early states that he would need to win, and get back to doing what elevated his name on a national stage to begin, namely advancing a bold conservative agenda and telling his media/left-wing critics to pound sound.
Thirdly, do better at thinking on your feet. DeSantis floating the idea of giving RFK Jr. a spot in his administration “siccing” him on the FDA or CDC was just not smart. It just wasn’t. Obviously, I like the guy, but that was not his finest hour. While I think most conservatives agree that he shouldn’t be silenced, I’m also fairly certain that they would also agree that RFK Jr. does not belong anywhere near a Republican presidential administration. Period.
In summary, it’s annoying as hell that Republicans are falling into the same traps they did in 2016, having personality arguments and flinging mud at each other instead of making the campaign about the issues. I know politics is not for the timid, but all of this is self-destructive for the party in my opinion in the long run.
I mean Joe Biden is about as bad as it gets, and Woke is still on the march despite the best efforts of conservative activists and politicos across this country to counter it, and instead of focusing on that here we are – again – playing the who can own who better game, which as I noted above the average American could not care less about.
What do they care about? The kitchen table issues that matter, and getting this country back on a normal, more sane footing. If DeSantis can’t gain the upper hand on that front based on his successful track record in Florida, I’m not sure his campaign survives.
Remember, too, that Trump also has not only the power of the incumbency even though he’s not the incumbent but he’s also got the benefit of the indictments against him (as strange as that sounds), which pretty much everyone on the right agrees are politically motivated. That creates a “rally around” effect, something from which he has also benefited.
Those are things DeSantis can’t change, and yet there are things that he can. Best focus on what he can in moving forward and try ignoring all the background noise ahead of the scheduled debates, where he and all the other candidates will have a chance to make their respective cases before Republican voters – and others they would need in order to defeat Joe Biden – and hopefully without the tiresome, self-defeating antics for which Republican primaries are increasingly becoming known.