How Ron DeSantis played 'culture war demagogue' even after Hurricane Ian: conservative

How Ron DeSantis played 'culture war demagogue' even after Hurricane Ian: conservative

When President Joe Biden visited Florida on Wednesday, October 5, he met with Gov. Ron DeSantis and other Florida Republicans, including Sen. Rick Scott and Sen. Marco Rubio. DeSantis, who seldom misses an opportunity to demonize Biden, thanked the president for his quick response to the disaster.

“Mr. President, welcome to Florida,” DeSantis told Biden. “We appreciate working together across various levels of government.”

The far-right Florida governor and likely 2024 presidential candidate was polite to Biden, but in an October 7 opinion column for the Daily Beast, Never Trump conservative Matt Lewis points out that at the same time, he wasn’t “exactly warm.”

READ MORE: Ron DeSantis claims the media had a 'political agenda' behind Hurricane Ian

This was by design, according to Lewis. Even after a major disaster like Hurricane Ian, Lewis laments, DeSantis wouldn’t miss a chance to play “culture war demagogue.”

“To his credit, Joe Biden said DeSantis had ‘done a good job’ and that his response was ‘pretty remarkable,’” Lewis observes. “Both men said all the right words, and their unity was refreshing, especially after four years of (former President Donald) Trump. Still, DeSantis’ body language toward Biden wasn’t exactly warm. I would categorize it with William and Harry walking behind Queen Elizabeth’s coffin. Respectful, but perfunctory.”

Lewis continues, “In this regard, he did not make the same political mistake that then-New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie made when he continually heaped praise on Barack Obama’s handling of Hurricane Sandy, just days before the 2012 presidential election. A lot of Republican voters never forgave Christie for enthusiastically cooperating with a Democratic president who was up for reelection, even if it was over natural disaster relief for his devastated state. This is blood-sport politics, after all.”

DeSantis, Lewis writes, wasn’t about to be “caught lavishing too much praise on Biden” or be seen “looking weak by hugging him.”

READ MORE: How Ron DeSantis and Greg Abbott channel segregationists with their anti-immigration stunts

“DeSantis couldn’t exactly stand in front of the cameras and thank Joe Biden for his work one minute and then bash him the next,” Lewis explains. “That would look cowardly. So, what was the alternative? Hurricane Ron blew in. To maintain the proper balance of competence and culture-war demagogue, DeSantis would have to engage a different target: the media. And he hammered that target before he even appeared on stage with Biden.”

By bashing the “national regime media” after Hurricane Ian, Lewis argues, DeSantis was “merely responding to perverse incentives deeply embedded in the GOP’s political culture.”

“In Florida,” Lewis writes, “DeSantis…. gets to demonstrate to normies like me that he’s competent and sane, but simultaneously signals to MAGA that he’s a fighter who hates their enemies. I don’t know how much of this is for show, but I suspect a lot. Performative a**holery is the only way a non-crazy Republican can make it to the top in today’s GOP. Any example of competent governance must be balanced by some contrasting evidence of meanness or craziness. So, it’s one for them, and one for me.”

READ MORE: Why Ron DeSantis’ latest 'political stunt' is a form of 'kidnapping': libertarian

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