by Matthew Boose
Since the “red wave” fizzled out, a consensus has quickly emerged in the media that Donald Trump is no longer a viable political force. The newly anointed prince of the Right, according to the tastemakers, is Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, Trump’s more palatable, less chaotic protégé. But DeSantis and Trump offer two very different things. DeSantis is a conventional politician with Trump-like qualities, who can, at least according to his fan base, build a popular majority that is beyond Trump’s reach. Trump is a radical outsider to a rigged, illegitimate political system with which he has been at war for seven years, and which his supporters see as an existential threat to their way of life.
Those inclined to dismiss Trump for a smooth imitation are taking a facile view of the political terrain. “Anyone,” Trump said in his 2024 campaign announcement at Mar-a-Lago last Tuesday night, “who truly seeks to take on this rigged and corrupt system will be faced with a storm of fire that only a few could understand.”
Of course, Trump was speaking about himself, as well as his allies who have been censored, imprisoned, bankrupted, and defamed since he entered the arena. There is now a very real chance that Trump will become a political prisoner at the hands of his past, and future, electoral rival.
Thanks to Trump, we now know how Our Democracy™ really functions. The Right isn’t going to win by being less “extreme,” ignoring election integrity (if anything, this would embolden cheating), or by trying to coax elusive “independents” in elusive “free and fair” elections. America does not have free and fair elections. The “Blame Trump” narrative overlooks this harsh reality in a lame attempt to sell Trump short. Trump did not “lose” the 2020 election, no matter how many times Biden or the state-run media say it: it was stolen, if not through outright ballot fraud, then through media censorship and election regulation shenanigans that tipped the scales in his opponent’s favor.
How would DeSantis respond to having an election blatantly stolen from him in 2024? Would he fight, or meekly congratulate Joe Biden and shuffle back home to Florida? And if DeSantis were somehow to win, would he, like Trump, be able to withstand the backlash from the media and the administrative state? DeSantis’ accomplishments should not be discounted, but he has yet to show the capability or inclination to push the envelope as Trump has done. This is not surprising: DeSantis got his start within the Republican Party, and owes his current position in no small part to Trump’s favor.
Some deference is owed to Trump, who has energized the Right as no man in generations has done. Only time will tell if Trump is as diminished as his detractors appear to think he is, but it is tempting to think that 2016 is repeating itself.
The media meltdown over Trump’s announcement was instantaneous: “Donald Trump, who tried to overthrow the results of the 2020 presidential election and inspired a deadly riot at the Capitol in a desperate attempt to keep himself in power, has filed to run for president again in 2024,” ran a representative headline from NPR. Bill Kristol admitted he was “alarmed.” Meanwhile, there are signs DeSantis is being co-opted by the Republican establishment to coopt and destroy the MAGA movement. Whether or not DeSantis is a willing participant, it’s sure going to look like it when Trump is campaigning against the Florida governor, CNN, and Fox News all at once.
Prediction: “DeSanctimonious” will stick.
Seven years after his historic escalator ride at Trump Tower, Trump remains the only man who the establishment truly fears, the only one with the capability of crashing this rigged system called Our Democracy™. The talking heads know this truth deep down in their bones: Four years in Washington failed to make Trump into a boring politician.
Let’s face it: the man is an enigma. He is unpredictable, possesses extraordinary willpower, and, like all great men, brims with a sense of fate: In his campaign announcement, he spoke of his time in exile as “The Pause.” What the authoritarians dread most of all is Trump’s unique power to rouse the American spirit, even under the gloomiest of conditions. As Trump put it to his supporters last week: “This is not just a campaign. This is a quest to save our country.”
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Matthew Boose is a Mt. Vernon fellow of the Center for American Greatness and a staff writer and weekly columnist at the Conservative Institute. His writing has also appeared in the Daily Caller. Follow him on Twitter @matt_boose.
Photo “Donald Trump” by Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 2.0. Background Photo “U.S. Capitol” by GPA Photo Archive.