The Ron DeSantis campaign for president began with a whimper, or rather, a glitch. A Twitter Spaces announcement with Elon Musk failed repeatedly to function for the first 20 minutes, and those heading to DeSantis’ own website were met with something that looked like a high school project done over lunch.
The botched rollout neatly encapsulated everything that DeSantis is: an ideologue whose commitment to sing and dance for the Republican base comes at the cost of actual managerial capability, and who at the end of the day isn’t even particularly good at the song and dance.
It’s almost certain that he chose to launch his campaign on Twitter to delight alt-righters and annoy liberals who have been dismayed at Musk’s total embrace of infantile right-wing demagoguery, with the security that he’d be lobbed softballs by a friendly billionaire would be relatively nonthreatening. It didn’t work, and only betrayed the pitfalls of basing an entire political persona on owning the libs.
Donald Trump does the same thing, of course, but had the bombast to charm his snakes and keep them from perceiving just how much of his governing strategy hinged on enriching himself and his family and desperately propping up his yawning ego. DeSantis has nothing, he’s a facsimile of Trump’s already degraded reflection of everything that’s wrong with our contemporary politics.
That he’s a nauseating fun-house image of debased civic life doesn’t mean that DeSantis should be dismissed offhand, because the presidential run he’s been mounting in Florida for the last four years — colloquially known as his governorship — has done much to create a new template for homegrown authoritarianism.
His zeal to take over the education system, punish unfriendly businesses like Disney with state power and single out already-marginalized groups — particularly LGBTQ people — may be shocking here, but is recognizable to anyone who’s studied or lived through Latin American-style strongmen. Generalissimo DeSantis doesn’t probably doesn’t have what it takes to win this election, but he is far from done being dangerous.