The internal battle of the Republican Party to turn the page on the yoke of Donald Trump finally began this Wednesday with the public presentation of the candidacy of Ron DeSantis, current governor of Florida, to the primaries for the 2024 elections. DeSantis arrives in the race for the presidency after having swept his state last year and with a surprising result among Latino and urban layers that the Republicans hope to recover in other parts of the US. His speech is directly inherited from the apocalyptic message with which Trump seduced the most party extremists for seven years and brings a resume as governor in which he has exploited all the culture wars with progressivism. Among the half dozen declared candidates for the primaries, DeSantis is the one who best sums up the Republican aspiration to maintain Trumpism without the electoral ballast that Trump, who has never won the number of votes in an election, has proven to be.
Instead of following the liturgy of giving a speech in his native place surrounded by his followers, DeSantis announced his candidacy on the social network Twitter, through live audio in which he debated with the owner of the platform, Elon Musk. It was a technical disaster. Twitter couldn’t handle the traffic and the novelty turned out to be a lackluster botch. Everyone from Donald Trump to President Joe Biden laughed at the situation on Twitter itself. But the initiative raises a deeper question: what will be from now on the electoral role of this social network, now run despotically by a businessman determined to make it relevant at all costs. The conversation between Musk and DeSantis revealed a worrying alignment of interests.
DeSantis is 44 years old. At the time of his hypothetical inauguration, in January 2025, he would be the youngest president of this century. The contrast is evident with the oldest president in history, Joe Biden (80 years old), but also with Trump, 76 years old and the second oldest president in history. In both primaries and a general election, DeSantis can legitimately claim to himself the image of a new generation’s push that has been stifled by the politicians of the 1990s. That image of the governor’s Caribbean freshness cannot hide, however, an extremist discourse that includes some of the most sinister points popularized by Trump: the criminalization of immigration, the exaggeration of insecurity in cities, the caricature of the Democratic side as a post-communist amalgam that tries to impose a dictatorship of historical revision (“the woke horde”) and, in general, the vision of the United States as a Christian culture in danger of extinction. It’s a double-edged sword that will be hard to sustain in a general election. DeSantis’s anti-progressive obsession has landed him in a high-stakes public confrontation with The Walt Disney Company.
Despite the phenomenal machine promising to back DeSantis and big Republican donors looking for an alternative to Trump to win again, it’s not clear that copying the speech with a younger face is enough to win over people who adore Trump. beyond ideologies. In a few weeks it will be seen if DeSantis has enough momentum for this challenge. The polls are useless for prediction purposes, but they show that Trump maintains intact the support of him in at least a third of the party, enough, the same as in 2016, to prevail easily if there are many candidates that divide the rest of the vote.