Thursday, December 14, 2023

ANNALS OF DeSANTISTAN: The Real Reason Ron DeSantis’s Campaign Is Rotting (Columnist Frank Bruni, The New York Times)

Good opinion column on our former Congressman, joyless juvenile jerk DONALD DION DeSANTIS, by Frank Bruni from The New York Times: 

The Real Reason Ron DeSantis’s Campaign Is Rotting

An illustration depicting Ron DeSantis sitting, with a look of dejection, at the bottom of a cartoonish-looking yellow kids slide.
Credit...Illustration by Ben Wiseman; photograph by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images
An illustration depicting Ron DeSantis sitting, with a look of dejection, at the bottom of a cartoonish-looking yellow kids slide.

Mr. Bruni is a contributing Opinion writer who was on the staff of The Times for more than 25 years.

Over the past two weeks, I’ve been awash in condolences. Friends tell me how deeply sorry for me they feel. They say they can only imagine my pain. They wonder how I’ve gotten through it.

They’re talking about the hours I had to spend with Ron DeSantis.

To be more specific, they’re talking about my coverage first of his televised face-off with Gavin Newsom and then, six days later, his debate with Nikki Haley, Chris Christie and (is there no mercy in this world?) Vivek Ramaswamy, whose singularly manic smugness makes him the political equivalent of one of those carnival rides that just spin you in circles, faster and faster. I’ve endured many presidential candidates who had me reaching for a cocktail. Ramaswamy is the first who has me looking for Dramamine.

But he isn’t the great puzzle of the race for the White House. That honor belongs to DeSantis, who won a second term as Florida governor in 2022 by an indisputably wowie margin of nearly 20 percentage points, had donors lining up for the pleasure of hurling big wads of cash at him, and was supposed to be MAGA magic — Donald Trump’s priorities without Donald Trump’s pathologies.

He performed a nifty trick, all right. Abracadabra: His early promise disappeared.

And while DeSantis’s downward trajectory recalls the sad arcs of Rudy Giuliani in the 2008 presidential race and Scott Walker eight years later, a big part of the explanation is peculiar to him. It’s a deficit of joy.

His joylessness is why it’s so unpleasant to watch him, whether he’s at a lectern or a state fair, dressed up or dressed down, demonizing schoolteachers or migrants or Mickey Mouse.

Oh, sure, there’s the demonizing itself, which positions him contemptuously and censoriously far to the right. But the scornful manner completes the spiteful message. You can get away with an air of meanness if there are gusts of exuberance along with it — if you relish your rants and exult in your evil, as Trump seems or long seemed to. But not if you project the sense that campaigning is some nuisance you’ve deigned to put up with. Not if you’re put out. Not if your every smile comes across as an onerous homework assignment in a class you were forced to take for your major.

“Grinding away methodically” — that’s how Dan Balz, in an articlein The Washington Post last weekend, described both DeSantis’s county-by-county trudge across Iowa and his point-by-point slog through debates. Balz was sizing up Haley’s surge past DeSantis into second place in many polls, and he was kinder than the CNN senior political commentator Ana Navarro, who several days later said that the DeSantis campaign had “that certain stench of political death.”

It’s not moribund yet. As Balz rightly noted, Iowa is famously unpredictable and DeSantis has garnered some important endorsements in the state. He’s also concentrating his resources there in a manner that could well lift him above Haley (though not Trump) in the end.

But even before his campaign’s stench of death, he often bore the expression of someone catching a whiff of something foul. And a sour puss is not the sweetest bait. It’s not the smartest presidential audition.

Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump all had moments when they communicated an outsize delight at drawing near, and then reaching, the pinnacle of American politics. They had their resentments, too, and their degrees of interest in masking those, along with their success in doing so, varied widely. Trump devolved into all resentment all the time. It’s where he dwells — or, rather, rages — now.

But a while back he, like the others, could flash a certain spark. Joe Biden still can — he clearly regards the presidency as a great privilege.

Maybe DeSantis does, too, and perhaps his quest for it really does excite and inspire him. You wouldn’t know it from his debates or from his CNN town hall in Des Moines on Tuesday night, when his diminished chances to win his party’s nomination prompted a salvo of negative comments about Trump that he should have been firing off all along.

Maybe he’s just terrible at glee or at anything glee adjacent. Maybe that won’t matter: We’ve entered a scarier, stranger chapter of American political life — of American life, period — in which a genuine smile may seem discordant and a grudging one in tune with mournful times.

Whatever the case, it’s possible that DeSantis will be back on a debate stage just before the Iowa caucuses. I apparently haven’t suffered enough.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

No, the real reason is himself and Donald J Indicted 90+ times. These Florida Republicans have shaken the far right pom poms for so long and demonized "the evil left" so badly that now their base won't go for anything but the biggest Hitler. So they've created problems for themselves you see? And I won't pity them when they pay the price for their stupidity. They played their cards wrong and I hope they pay the price for their authoritarianism.