Politics is, metaphorically speaking, undoubtedly a blood sport, and that is especially true when campaign seasons roll around, with the candidates and their surrogates jockeying for position and fine-tuning their “one-upmanship” skills for use on the battlefield.
Even in and sometimes especially during the run-ups to the primaries, contenders from the same political party – people who prior to declaring their respective candidacies were viewed as allies who seemingly got along well – can oftentimes be particularly bruising towards one another, crossing lines that can’t be uncrossed once all the smoke and dust has cleared.
Some would argue that the no-turning-back point has been reached in the fierce competition between former President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, two people who prior to the fall of 2022 spoke well of each other and on the surface at least appeared to hold no grudges.
But then Trump threw his hat into the ring and took aim at DeSantis, seen as his top rival, and several months later, DeSantis made his own candidacy official. From that point on things have intensified, particularly among senior staffers and online influencers who battle it out daily on social media on behalf of their respective bosses.
As the Very Online war of words between the two camps rages on, though, questions have been raised in so many words about “how far is too far?” in terms of that line-crossing, which is reminiscent of some of what we saw in 2016 when things got particularly heated between the Trump and Ted Cruz campaigns.
Those questions have been raised again over the last couple of days in response to Trump’s latest round of jabs on DeSantis, including one where he alleged without evidence that DeSantis was getting ready to drop out and run for Sen. Rick Scott’s seat instead.
Trump made the claim – which his spokespeople denied – on Monday, one day after DeSantis put his presidential campaign on hold to return to his state to help lead it through Hurricane Idalia and in the aftermath of a racially motivated mass shooting in Jacksonville where three black people were murdered at a Dollar General. Not surprisingly, the last thing he has time to do at the moment is to personally address such allegations:
The first three hours of DeSantis’ day compared to Trump’s week. pic.twitter.com/RKBrF2ViZI— Florida Dad (@FloridadadD) August 28, 2023
And on Tuesday, as Idalia was preparing to make landfall and as DeSantis was neck-deep in storm prep and doing things chief executive offers of their states typically do in these situations, Trump went on the attack again, citing alleged polling showing him 60 points ahead and urging “Ron DeSanctimonious” to drop out:
There were three other videos he posted as well on Tuesday with a similar message, and a quick check of Trump’s Truth Social account as of this writing showed no commentary or concerns expressed about what Florida was about to face from the storm:
While DeSantis is busy prepping his state for a massive hurricane, Trump has attacked him in four separate videos tonight— John Hasson (@SonofHas) August 30, 2023
Oh and Trump hasn’t posted about the hurricane at all
Interestingly, Trump’s remarks about DeSantis on Monday and Tuesday in the midst of the impending hurricane came just a few days after Trump Jr. and other prominent supporters slammed DeSantis for allegedly having skewed priorities because he was having fun with his wife and kids at the Field of Dreams in Iowa on the same day instead of focusing on Trump getting booked in Georgia.
As I said at the top, politics is a blood sport, and running for office is most definitely not for the faint of heart. You are expected to take your share of slings and arrows and at times respond accordingly when the situation calls for it. The goal is to win, and sometimes that means throwing caution to the wind and flinging mud in all directions.
But I ask the below questions in all sincerity as someone who like many of the readers of this site remembers the no-holds-barred GOP presidential primaries from 2016 which oftentimes resembled WWE wrestling matches more than mere political rivalries.
At the time, they were viewed by many GOP voters as a necessity considering what was at stake, and considering the failed promises of past GOP presidents had left conservatives feeling abandoned and with no one who would speak on their behalf.
But are they necessary now? Are we at a point now where there are no more lines that shouldn’t be crossed, where there is no subject that should be considered off-limits? Are we past the point of declaring temporary truces with candidates who are not in a position to fight back, as is the case here with DeSantis this week?
I’m genuinely curious as to the thoughts of the RS community on this.