Primaries that affect the world
The Republican party is off to a hot start in its search for its standard bearer for the US presidency in the general elections on Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2024. As of the most recent count, five GOP stalwarts have declared their availability as candidates for the GOP nomination for presidential standard bearer in the forthcoming primaries.
The leader in most recent polls is former president Donald Trump. At 77, the businessman-turned TV celebrity host-politician is making a third run for the presidency. He has repeatedly claimed — and has gained a number of gullible believers in the process — that he won the 2020 elections by a landslide. He claims the election was stolen from him without offering any proof that stood up in court. Instead, he is now the defendant or potential defendant in a host of legal cases including sexual abuse (a jury just found Trump liable for sexual abuse and awarded $5 million in damages to opinion columnist E. Jean Carroll).
Another presidential wannabee is the 46th governor of Florida, the 44-year-old Ron DeSantis.
In fairness, DeSantis appears, when compared to Trump, to have solid academic credentials and well-rounded experience as a son of a middle-class employee (his mother was a nurse) and small entrepreneur (his father used to install Nielsen TV ratings boxes). DeSantis graduated from Yale University and Harvard Law School Juris Doctor, cum laude. Trump’s academic credentials are murky.
After law school, DeSantis joined the US Navy in 2004 and was promoted to lieutenant before serving as legal advisor to the Navy SEAL Team One, the elite land and sea counter-terrorism group assigned difficult and dangerous missions that required courage, skill, and precision.
DeSantis, whose grandparents are of Italian descent, served as Congressman of Florida’s 6th district from 2013 to 2018. In 2018, DeSantis won the governorship of the Sunshine State, beating Democratic candidate Andrew Gillum by 0.4%. In his 2022 re-election, however, DeSantis won by a landslide.
As is widely known, DeSantis’ launch on Twitter of his Republican presidential bid was hounded by technical issues. As expected, Trump jumped on the incident to cast doubt on the ability of the DeSantis camp to organize and lead a serious campaign to challenge Trumps’ well-oiled machinery. But political observers dismissed the 24-minute glitch as precisely that — a glitch — pointing to more compelling issues confronting DeSantis. It is to be noted however that DeSantis, who was with billionaire Twitter and Tesla owner Elon Musk during the launch, raised some $8 million in the first 24 hours of the launch.
The impression that is being created and probably cultivated by DeSantis himself that he is another version of Trump — minus the sexual assault charges; the mishandling of classified documents; the association with, and support for, the Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol riot which could lead to a grand jury indictment; the election case in Georgia supported by a recorded conversation between Trump and the Republican Secretary of State; and other legal issues, including Trump’s business practices.
Being a version of Trump and his so-called conservative views is perhaps, in the mind of DeSantis and his handlers, the best way to chip at what, as this point, seems to be a huge 30-point lead of Trump among Republican faithful, according to RealClearPolitics’ national average polls, as reported by CBC News on May 25. DeSantis’ recent acts as Florida governor clearly reflect his willingness to be a mirror image of Trump who repeatedly proclaims his conservative views to solidify his base, while conveniently and, perhaps deliberately, forgetting to mention the Republican party.
DeSantis’ embracing of the conservative cause is reinforced by the fact that he was one of the co-founders of the conservative Congressional Freedom Caucus. Interestingly, he is in the company of some high-profile Republican conservative extremists who live off hysterical and uncivil social media posts. DeSantis hopes to get the “undecideds” and, in a long shot, some of the “always Trumpers.”
Mark Gollom of CBC News points out the real and most immediate challenges that DeSantis is facing. It appears that DeSantis is getting his baptism of fire in the biggest of the big leagues. Gollom says: “After his (DeSantis) big re-election (as Florida governor) months ago, DeSantis has sputtered along, his poll numbers cratering as he races off against a challenger which has a hard-core base of support that no other candidate can match.”
As things stand, DeSantis, will have to engage Trump in a toe-to-toe battle, insult for insult, lewd story for lewd story, scandal for scandal, black propaganda for black propaganda. DeSantis, who, from all appearances, earned his credentials through hard work and merit and did not inherit any riches or businesses or buildings or political network from a so-called business tycoon-father, will probably have to take the gloves off and engage in bare knuckle politics.
By playing Trump’s game. DeSantis will become the ordinary combative and confrontational Republican like Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Jim Jordan of Ohio. The association with these two congresspeople is not too flattering.
Does DeSantis have a chance of catching up? Gollom quotes Danny Hayes, a political science professor at the George Washington University: “Primaries are volatile things. Candidates rise and fall because voters don’t pay that much attention early in the process. If anybody is writing off DeSantis right now, they’re probably not looking clearly at the situation.”
The Republican primaries will probably not give much chance for mission-driven candidates to offer a vision of governance which affects the rest of the world. Like the 2015 GOP primaries, the forthcoming debates could degenerate into weird discussions like the size of some parts of Trump’s anatomy; Trump accusing Ted Cruz’s father of involvement in the John F. Kennedy assassination and comments on Ted Cruz’s wife. If the debate follows that path, other candidates, especially DeSantis, will have much to lose because he is essentially the better candidate and better person and human being compared to Trump. Unfortunately, he may have to adopt Trump’s tactics in order to be noticed and talked and written about.
Philip Ella Juico’s areas of interest include the protection and promotion of democracy, free markets, sustainable development, social responsibility and sports as a tool for social development. He obtained his doctorate in business at De La Salle University. Dr. Juico served as secretary of Agrarian Reform during the Corazon C. Aquino administration.