New York Times Op-Ed Kindly Requests Liberals Stop Freaking Out Over All-American Dreamboat Ron DeSantis
Author Damon Linker has a new op-ed for The New York Times called "My Fellow Liberals Are Exaggerating the Dangers of Ron DeSantis." His point is immediately undercut with a swoony Riefenstahl-esque photo of DeSantis below the headline.
Fair use commentary on New York Times photo.The New York Times
This is not how DeSantis looks in the wild. It's like they ran his own campaign material. Contrast this to the Times's coverage of Vice President Kamala Harris. I had to "Where's Waldo?" the sister in the photo for the February 6 article "Kamala Harris Is Trying to Define Her Vice Presidency. Even Her Allies Are Tired of Waiting." The photo manages to make Harris look lost and weak even among her own supporters. Meanwhile, the Times practically deifies DeSantis.
Fair use commentary on New York Times photo. The New York Times
Linker's op-ed annoys me from the jump because he assumes some authority over the fears of his "fellow liberals." Linker's politics are actually less relevant than the obvious fact that he's not one of the groups that DeSantis is hell bent on oppressing. Maybe I'm just too damn "woke," but I probably value the opinions of queer people and racial minorities about how dangerous DeSantis is.
Linker argues that early polling shows DeSantis with a "decent shot of beating former President Donald Trump in the race to win the Republican presidential nomination in 2024." That's a very generous interpretation, and the Times is less flattering about Harris's chances in a Biden-less 2024 primary (even though she outright leads most polls). While I personally don't think DeSantis can beat Trump, who'd burn down the party in spite if it ever came to it, I also agree with many liberals who argue that DeSantis would actually prove more destructive than Trump. He is the more calculating, dare-we-say "smarter" version of Trump we all feared emerging. Linker, however, thinks we're needlessly wetting our beds.
This is wrong. A DeSantis presidency would be bad in many ways, and my fellow liberals should fight with all they have to prevent it. But Mr. DeSantis almost certainly would not be worse than Mr. Trump.
Trump in 2016 ran as some master dealmaker who'd bring back jobs to rural (white) communities. It was all bullshit, but he was not as overt a culture warrior as Ted Cruz or his eventual running mate, Mike Pence. DeSantis has actively governed as a far-right extremist with no pretense of compassion in his "conservatism."
Exaggerating the threat posed by the Florida governor could inadvertently increase Mr. Trump’s prospects in the Republican primaries. And if Mr. DeSantis does get the nomination, progressive overreaction toward him in the primary contest could ultimately undermine the case against him in the general election.
Republicans still whine about how mean Barack Obama was to Mitt Romney. There's actually no compelling evidence that "overreacting" to a candidate will cost you an election. Democrats lost in 2016 because far too many people failed to take Trump seriously until it was too late. A certain New York Times reporter laughed in a Black man's face when he suggested that Trump could win.
Linker concedes that DeSantis has "governed from the hard right, taking aggressive aim at voting rights, pursuing politicized prosecutions, restricting what can be taught in public schools and universities, strong-arming private businesses, using refugees as human props to score political points and engaging in flagrant demagogy about vaccines." But ... Trump pursued a Muslim ban and a cruel family separation policy! He is not making the point he thinks he's making here. Liberals were cautioned in 2016 that "maybe Trump won't be so bad." He obviously was very bad, but DeSantis is already the nightmare scenario.
Based on what we’ve seen of Mr. DeSantis’s performance as governor of Florida, a DeSantis administration would likely display much greater discipline and competence than what the country endured under Mr. Trump.
That's the entire reason liberals fear a DeSantis presidency! "Discipline and competency" aren't reassuring traits if used in pursuit of nefarious ends. Trump's ego-driven stupidity likely helped "save" the Affordable Care Act, DACA, and democracy itself from his jacklegged coup.
Linker insists that Trump is worse than DeSantis because he's "flagrantly corrupt. He lies constantly. He’s impulsive and capricious. And he displays a lust for power combined with complete indifference to democratic laws and norms that constrain presidential power." However, this all describes DeSantis equally well. Linker doesn't even mention Andrew Warren, the democratically elected prosecutor whom DeSantis fired in defiance of Florida's Constitution.
Linker claims Trump is "temperamentally unfit to be president" (true!) but fails to demonstrate that DeSantis is any less dangerous. Linker leaps to conclusions and asserts his own biases as fact, but he offers no documented instances where DeSantis stayed his hand. I've pushed back on liberals who claim that Liz Cheney and Mitt Romney, for instance, are fundamentally no better than Trump/MAGA even though there are some instances where they said "no" to outright fascism. That's not DeSantis.
It’s crucially important that liberals make what should be a cogent case against Mr. DeSantis without resorting to exaggeration that will undermine their own credibility, particularly with persuadable voters.
The marginalized groups suffocating under DeSantis's boot are a "cogent case" against DeSantis. We're not "resorting to exaggeration" when we point out how DeSantis has tormented innocent people for no reason but his own aggrandizement. We can't appeal to so-called "persuadable voters" by normalizing DeSantis.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. Once, he wrote a novel called “Mahogany Slade,” which you should read or at least buy. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."