Statesmanship Over Pageantry: Ron DeSantis, Now More Than Ever

Ron DeSantis speaking
Governor Ron DeSantis speaking with attendees at a "Unite & Win Rally" at Arizona Financial Theatre in Phoenix, Arizona on August 14, 2022. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

May 25, 2023

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis entered a presidential race once thought to be a battle between two men. On one end, former President Donald Trump brings with him favorable policy goals, but often stabs himself in the foot with polarizing rhetoric that most of the nation cannot stand. On the other side is the incumbent, President Joe Biden, whose wife ought to be charged with elder abuse for pushing such a feckless old man—whose basic cognition is severely lacking—into the most stressful job in the Western world. 

Trump is to be given credit where credit is due. In 2020, I lent my first vote in a presidential election to him, and did so without hesitation. But he isn’t entitled to it again. In speaking strictly as a matter of policy, the Trump agenda is just as desirable, if not even more so now than it was in 2020 or 2016. He alone can be credited with giving contemporary American conservatism a competitive edge in the face of the left’s march within the institutions, as well as conventional Republican Party orthodoxy, which held that conservatives ought to fade into libertarian stagnation in the name of the platitude termed “limited government.”

But the fatal differences between candidate Trump and President Trump have been made all too plain, and conservatives would be foolish to entertain such an experiment again. No doubt the Trump presidency could have been much more effective had the then-chief executive better understood time and place. While it is certainly true that Trump had to deal with a horrifically partisan media establishment that was determined to portray him in the worst light possible, he didn’t do himself any favors. His terming of the coronavirus as the “China virus,” his awkward Bible-flaunting in front of St. John’s Church in Washington, D.C. in the midst of the George Floyd riots, or his milquetoast attempt to urge calm during the Jan. 6 Capitol riots are all examples of a president bereft of any real understanding of time and place. 

DeSantis, however, offers a promising alternative to the Trump versus Biden fiasco, and the Republican Party would be foolish not to take him up on it. For one, his record as the governor of Florida is exemplary of what conservative leadership ought to look like. In addition to turning his state into an economic powerhouse, Florida has consistently held the top spot for net migration. Such a designation is most certainly the result of the governor’s adamant refusal to subject Floridians to what was at the time seemingly never-ending lockdown cycles during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Particularly effective is DeSantis on cultural issues. Unlike many Republicans, he bravely deviated from long standing Republican orthodoxy, using government as an instrument to thwart the radical social experimentation of progressives. In response to Disney’s widespread endorsement of the LGBTQ agenda, DeSantis made sure that the company would no longer enjoy previously held privileges that other corporations didn’t have access to. 

Many have claimed that DeSantis’ efforts are an attack on free speech due to his use of government power to retaliate against Disney’s insistence on disseminating LGBTQ propaganda to children. In other words, DeSantis represents a threat to the modern liberal conception of free speech, surely, which many conservatives over the years have also become accustomed to, no doubt a testament to how far conservatives have fallen over the last five decades.

DeSantis, unlike both liberals and their awkward libertarian counterparts, understands social reality—that man is not an island, and that blatant obscenity (such as pornographic depictions under the guise of “sexual education” in elementary schools) is not protected under the First Amendment. The notion that one can simply not watch Disney shows if they dislike their endorsement of a left-wing ideological initiative isn’t possible when such an initiative has infested the entire popular culture. DeSantis is to the “Live and let live” fantasy what a properly strong cup of coffee is to morning grogginess. 

For all the libertarian conservative boasting about the “original understanding” of the Constitution, it is unlikely that the founders would have been content with a nearly limitless, or “absolutist” conception of freedom of speech. Many conservatives have failed where DeSantis has evidently succeeded. It has become all too obvious that where conservatism stagnates in libertarian hesitation, liberalism is revitalized in its never-ending quest to liberate man from all constraints.

Above all, though, DeSantis has a particular quality that the other candidates clearly lack: He is boring, but in a good way. In listening to DeSantis’ presidential campaign announcement on Twitter Spaces, I often found myself dozing off amid the nitty-gritty conversations about DeSantis’ policy agenda. 

DeSantis is not nearly as charismatic as Trump is, and his tendency to elaborate on what he actually wants to do for the country is unique in an era of broad declarations, empty platitudes, and raucous rally applauses. This does naturally raise some doubts as to whether he can actually beat Trump in the primary and win a general election, but his willingness to entertain specific questions about policy without merely referring supporters to his campaign website is no doubt a refreshing and inviting prospect. 

Additionally, those in the MAGA camp—choosing to back Trump indiscriminately—who are attacking DeSantis due to the technical difficulties in his Twitter Space is a testament to how fundamentally weak and empty their criticisms truly are. DeSantis’ willingness to present a clear, straightforward vision for the country is unmatched compared to Trump’s near-constant proclivity for rambling off course. 

The ideological lines for the Republican primary, clearly, have already been drawn. If you favor never-ending social media shitposting and the LARPing of traditionalism on Twitter, then Trump is probably your man. If you, however, favor thoughtful, well-articulated conversations about policy, and how to further the conservative movement institutionally, then I’d be happy to refer you to the DeSantis campaign.

DeSantis represents a boringness that our civic culture desperately needs. His willingness to get straight to the point and pursue policy initiatives for the good of his constituents is an indication of not only his aptitude for politics, but of his statesmanship, a quality all too rare in modern American politics. He dismisses most of the political arena’s pomp and pageantry as unnecessary because it is. He may be, dare I say, just the thing modern conservatism needs. 


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