DeSantis' campaign strategy and MAGA: a complex relationship. Discover the details inside.
A line from the classic 1985 song "La Di Da Di" by Doug E. Fresh and Slick Rick, delivered with audacious swagger about 2 minutes in, goes:
Mirror mirror on the wall
Who is the top choice of them all
There was a rumble tumble, five minutes it lasted
The mirror said
You are, you conceited bastard!
It's hard to say if Ron DeSantis is surrounded by yes-men and yes-women, much like the mirror Slick Rick refers to in his classic song. DeSantis needs someone to 'rumble and tumble' with and tell him that he's picked the wrong strategy. You conceited bastard.
As Rob takes a beating online, one is reminded of Winston Churchill's words: "Politics is more dangerous than war, for in war you are only killed once." Florida's Governor, Ron DeSantis, finds himself in the midst of a perilous battlefield. His presidential campaign launch, a mere 42 days ago on a technically flawed but strategically aligned Twitter Spaces with Elon Musk, seems like a distant memory. Despite the anticipation surrounding his official candidacy, his campaign has been under relentless attack from online critics.
The online meme creators are relentless, akin to tigers or rabid dogs, relentlessly pursuing their prey. It's unbelievable to watch them toy with DeSantis, their target.
Meme creators such as @Lauren3veMemes, @C3PMeme, @ramble_rants, @MagaMemeWizard, @WillOckhamMemes, and @badcarma69 are artists in their own right. They wield humor like a weapon, crafting viral content that highlights the absurdities of politics and nowadays the man whom they would refer to as Rob the Meatball DeSanctimonious.
The power of an online presence is undeniable, as demonstrated in part by the meme-driven 2016 election of Trump. Serving as free advertising, they shape the political zeitgeist in a way that traditional opinion editorials in outlets like The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal cannot match. This group of meme creators has effectively stymied any online momentum DeSantis might have anticipated. DeSantis' choice to launch his campaign online underscores his understanding of the digital political sphere's significance. Despite the commendable efforts of the DeSantis War Room, the governor has an uphill battle.
DeSantis finds himself in his current predicament due to self-inflicted wounds. His positioning as both anti-Trump and anti-MAGA has left many puzzled. It's as if he's navigating a complex political landscape with a map drawn by campaign managers who are out of touch with the current political climate. The rise of Trump since 2015 has reshaped the political landscape, and it seems DeSantis' advisors have inexcusably failed to grasp this. They understand the need to challenge Trump, but they fail bigly to recognize the importance of people who want to Make America Great Again.
Winning over MAGA is the only path forward for political success in the GOP. This group, despite their association with Trump, are not monolithic. They have their own concerns and issues that a savvy politician could tap into. For instance, Trump was booed at a rally in Alabama after telling his supporters to get vaccinated, and again when he revealed he had received a booster shot. He was also booed when he brought Senator Lindsay Graham on stage at a rally. These instances highlight the independent thinking within the MAGA movement and the opportunity for politicians to recognize and address these concerns, while respectfully challenging Trump and embracing the greatest populist movement in America’s history.
While DeSantis has refrained from openly criticizing Trump supporters, his lack of engagement with them is conspicuous. This indifference suggests a disregard for the only part of the Republican voter base that matters, leading to the question: who is DeSantis trying to win over?
A recent rally held by Donald Trump in Pickens, South Carolina, reportedly attracted over 50,000 attendees. The event was a show of force, with people flocking from surrounding counties and other states to catch a glimpse of Trump. The rally's impact was so significant that it shut down businesses and strained municipal resources in the small city. It's reasonable to assume that none of these individuals are likely to cast their vote for DeSantis. With the GOP's energy now firmly anchored in the MAGA movement, one wonders where DeSantis fits into this political equation.
If DeSantis is aiming to appeal to voters who wouldn't typically attend a MAGA rally, he finds himself vying for the same demographic as empty suits and high heels like Tim Scott, Nikki Haley, and Mike Pence. This scenario leaves Trump cruising solo in the MAGA lane, while DeSantis grapples with the specters of a bygone political era.
Furthermore, it's worth considering that DeSantis' 2018 gubernatorial triumph over Andrew Gillum might not have been achievable without MAGA. DeSantis almost lost to Gillum, who was embroiled in a drug scandal. Gillum, a former star Democratic candidate for Florida governor, was found in a South Beach hotel room, too inebriated to talk while police responded to a call about a suspected drug overdose.
Even if DeSantis doesn't personally attribute his gubernatorial victory to Trump's endorsement, a politically astute individual would typically acknowledge the influence perceived to come from MAGA. Alternatively, he could have offered a clear explanation as to why he believes Trump's endorsement wasn't a decisive factor. DeSantis, however, has done neither.
DeSantis' campaign strategy appears to rely heavily on financial muscle. A cursory internet search reveals substantial financial backing for DeSantis. OpenSecrets reports that DeSantis' campaign received significant contributions from various sectors, including real estate, securities and investment, and health professionals. CBS News disclosed that DeSantis' campaign received a hefty $500,000 from a super PAC, a move that campaign finance experts have dubbed "unprecedented". This isn't grassroots funding; it's big money playing a pivotal role in his campaign.
Yet, even a trillion-dollar political war chest, brimming with the typical expenditures of a well-funded campaign such as staff salaries, advertisements, and event organization, would not be sufficient to sway Donald Trump's ardent supporters, who share a deep and profound connection with the former president.
Now, let's envision a different scenario. What if DeSantis had chosen to welcome MAGA gear at his rallies, thereby signaling a humble approach rather than a dismissive or conceited one? What if he had decided to engage those wearing Trump gear in a respectful dialogue about the future of MAGA? This strategy could have positioned DeSantis as a leader who respects the movement, is committed to the principles of America First - a message that Nick Fuentes astutely noted DeSantis has been avoiding. DeSantis could underscore his commitment to the mantra of God, Family, and Country, while signaling his readiness to guide it in a new direction.
Such a strategy could have portrayed DeSantis as a leader unafraid of differing viewpoints, a leader ready to build on the populist momentum that Trump initiated. This approach could have resonated with many people who are seeking a leader who can carry forward the populist mantle but with a fresh perspective. Many people wanted Kari Lake to take over the MAGA crown, but the timing didn’t work with her gubernatorial election in Arizona being stolen from her and the state of Arizona needing her leadership. DeSantis should have filled that void.
Is it too late for DeSantis to change his strategy? Not necessarily. Politicians often pivot and adjust their approach based on changing circumstances and public sentiment. DeSantis could still choose to engage directly with MAGA, to show respect for its influence, and make an effort to win them over instead of appearing as an aloof and conceited bastard.