February 14, 2023 | Reading Time: 4 minutes

Forget Jeb! DeSantis

Back on Facebook, Trump = the Republican Party, writes Jason Sattler.

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It seems impossible, but when Donald Trump entered the 2016 primary, Jeb! Bush was leading the GOP. Less than half a year later, Jeb! went on to suffer a defeat so humiliating it’s only been topped in human history by his son, George P!. 

An overwhelming sense of secondhand embarrassment probably bleached your memory of George P! losing a bid for attorney general of Texas by 36 percent – after groveling for an endorsement from the man who had rhetorically castrated his father, an endorsement that Trump gleefully gave to George P!’s opponent.

No one will ever again get pantsed so bad!


Nothing to lose
Anyone getting Jeb! vibes from Ron DeSantis? 

Not because both wither like substitute school teachers covered in spitballs when Trump attacks them (or because they need to instruct crowds to cheer).

A party that would nominate either is the problem, obviously.. It’s like comparing Viktor Orban and Vladimir Putin. They both suck, and Orban wants to be Putin. I’m just sick of people underestimating Trump and overestimating the Republicans.

The right has spent most of Joe Biden’s presidency getting us to buy the inevitability of DeSantis. He’s a juggernaut, they say. He can take down Trump, they say. The Koch network all-but-announced backing Florida’s governor in 2024. Same for the Club for Growth, a rightwing PAC that only sounds like a treatment for thinning hair. 

And Politico says it isn’t just Donny who’s keeping big name Republicans out of the presidential fray, it’s Ronny,

The idea of President DeSantis feels like a foregone conclusion among terminally online, deficiently ashamed Republicans who think normal people want to see Hunter Biden’s dick pics as bad as Tucker Carlson does.

The Times’ Nate Cohn squinted at polls showing Trump leading DeSantis anywhere from 11 to 55 percent (!) and somehow declared that “Mr. Trump is no front-runner.” 

Tortured analysis makes more sense to geeks getting hard at crosstabs, but less sense than believing books make you gay. It’s like seeing Trump’s midterm picks losing to point out his weakness while missing the bigger point: that Trump dragged all those losers through Republican primaries, almost single-handedly.

DeSantis is certainly younger, more engaged and more sadistic than Jeb!. The GOP seems willing to consider some kind of collective action this time to stop Trump. 

But they have something to lose. 

He doesn’t. 

Trump would wreck the party before surrendering.

Old King Donald is fueled by motivations far greater than the black hole of his soul that, in 2016, defenestrated one conservative hero after another.

He’s angrier than ever, especially at the Republicans who dare challenge him. His mounting legal and financial troubles mean there’s nothing he wouldn’t do to regain the one job on earth that could insulate him from any real accountability.

More Hillary than Bill
There are three other reasons Trump is likely flatten DeSantis:

  1. Restored superpowers
    Trump has been like the evil wizard staring at his hands and wondering whence the lightning. Though jacked into the sympathetic nervous system of the GOP base, he personifies all their worst instincts. His fundraising is down, his rallies have shrunk and his message is usually drowned out. His megaphone depended on a business he started. He’ll fix that by exploiting other people’s businesses. Ivanka’s daddy, as he calls himself, is being welcomed back to Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. He’s resisted Elon Musk’s call to tweet, constrained by a legal agreement to use his website first. But he can’t resist for long going back to a personal piggy bank and Fox News rolled into one massive threat to democracy. There’s no better way to reach a core audience with disposable income and nothing better to do than wait to chant “Lock her up!” in the rain.
  1. Only Trump resembles a movement
    Trump has already signaled to fans to savage DeSantis. He has media friends for protection, but no base. Trump had a five-to-one advantage with small donors last summer. The numbers are probably leaning his way more, but that doesn’t change much. Trump is still a singular phenomenon – a candidate with fans. For the same reasons he’s despicable to decent adults, Trump is Elvis to old white people who resent minorities. That said, DeSantis’ stump speech makes Mitt Romney look like Bill Clinton and George W. Bush like Barack Obama. His voice is more Hillary than Bill.
  2. DeSantis was made for Trump to shred
    What kind of hypocrite, who made a habit of walking in on the contestants of the teen beauty pageant he owned, would subtly accuse another candidate of being a pedofile? You know who. Mr. QAnon himself. DeSantis has a record in Congress perfect for slicing and dicing, hypocritically. That includes supporting a massive tax increase on the middle class known as “the Fair Tax.” DeSantis may be backing away from that, but it’s not like Trump needs facts to slander. He knows how to salt lies with enough truth to get press attention. And since Trump has no beliefs, he’s glad to defang anyone, including DeSantis, by just stealing their issues shamelessly.

Take it seriously
It may seem like I’m cheering for Trump, but I’m one of those people who – maybe foolishly – believes DeSantis would be worse than Trump.

Is the guy who disenfranchised more Black voters than anyone alive worse than the guy who ended America’s peaceful transfer-of-power streak? I don’t know. 

A party that would nominate either is the problem, obviously.

It’s like comparing Viktor Orban and Vladimir Putin. They both suck, and Orban wants to be Putin. I’m just sick of people underestimating Trump and overestimating the Republicans. 

Any Republican nominee can win the presidency. And if only 43,809 votes flipped in Arizona, Georgia and Wisconsin in 2020, he’d be president right now – after presiding over the greatest job losses in American history.

Trump is the Republican Party. 

Only by taking his threat seriously can we save democracy.

Jason Sattler, better known as LOLGOP on Twitter, is writer in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He was a columnist and member of the USA TODAY Board of Contributors from 2017-2021.

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