'Faintest praise ever': Conservative rates Ron DeSantis slightly less ‘authoritarian’ than Donald Trump
Whenever Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is interviewed by right-wing media outlets and is asked about possibly running for president in 2024, he dodges the question. The far-right MAGA Republican, who is seeking reelection in the 2022 midterms, obviously doesn’t want to risk offending devotees of former President Donald Trump at this point. But some polls have shown that more and more Republican primary voters would prefer DeSantis over Trump in 2024’s GOP presidential primary.
Never Trump conservative Tim Miller, in an article published by The Bulwark on July 15, grapples with the question: Is DeSantis as “authoritarian” as Trump? And he isn’t convinced that DeSantis is much better than the former president.
“There’s a weird proxy debate happening right now in the pundit class regarding the hypothetical Trump vs. DeSantis death match, a contest that is looking more and more likely following the former guy’s reveal about his intentions during an interview with Olivia Nuzzi, published (on July 14),” Miller explains. “The question at hand is whether Ron DeSantis would be less dangerous, less anti-democratic, and/or less authoritarian than Trump.”
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The Never Trumper continues, “On one side of this debate, you have the Trump-skeptical conservatives, ranging from good-faith Never Trumpers trying to navigate this question, to not-so-good-faith Trump apologists who have spent seven years kicking and subtweeting — but who always seem to find their way back into Trump’s ample embrace. They argue that Trump is clearly more dangerous than DeSantis; some demonstrate disdain over the notion that this is even a question. In the case of the anti-anti-Trumpers, it turns out that some of them are finally willing to admit that Trump was dangerous — but only as a way to own the libs by plumping for DeSantis.”
One of the Never Trumpers who has speculated that DeSantis may pose even more of an authoritarian threat than Trump is Washington Post columnist Max Boot. In his July 6 column, Boot wrote, “Just because DeSantis is smarter than Trump doesn’t mean that he is any less dangerous. In fact, he might be an even bigger threat for that very reason.”
Miller is no fan of either Trump or DeSantis. He has been a scathing critic of the MAGA movement in general, and his new book, “Why We Did It: A Travelogue from the Republican Road to Hell,” the former GOP strategist offers some reasons why he became so disillusioned with the Republican Party. But Miller writes that if he absolutely had to choose between Trump and DeSantis, he would pick DeSantis as the lesser threat.
“Gun to my head, I’d side with the people saying DeSantis would be less of an existential threat,” Miller argues. “To be clear — saying someone is less of an existential threat to democracy than Donald Trump might be the faintest praise ever uttered in American politics. It doesn’t carry with it any rejection of the many legitimate concerns that we small-l liberals have about a potential DeSantis Administration. It merely acknowledges that Trump’s psychopathy is so extreme as to put him in a category all of his own. And as such, anything that keeps him from darkening the halls of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue again is almost certainly an improvement.”
READ MORE: Ron DeSantis hasn’t asked for Trump’s endorsement — and doesn’t plan to: report
Nonetheless, Miller is vehemently critical of DeSantis’ response to the 2020 presidential election results, pointing out that he encouraged Republicans to donate to the Stop the Steal legal fund and that he has been happy to “court right-wing media members who have perpetuated the Big Lie narrative.”
Miller writes, “The argument that DeSantis presents less of a threat to democracy rests on a very thin reed…. If we’re going to trust that DeSantis is better than Trump, couldn’t we at least get him to blink twice to signal that he’s against coups? Is that too much to ask?”
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