DeSantis vs. Post-Modern Republicanism
The truth is heresy when in conflict with "my truth" and feelings
A hallmark of post-modernity is everyone has their own truth now. “My truth” is espoused by people who say “I feel” instead of “I think.” They do not care what is true, but want their truth reflected by others. Those who come closest, build trust. Post-modernity precludes grace because post-modernity is built on emotions.
Thus we arrive at Campaign 2024. A poll of Republican voters by CNN found that a majority of voters want a candidate who agrees with them more than they want a candidate who can beat Joe Biden. To beat Biden, a candidate has to build a large coalition. To agree with a voter, a candidate can alienate others and risk losing a general election. Within the GOP, in the post-Trump era, voters are battling for the future of the party at the expense of winning.
Some want a return to the pre-Trump era of the Republican Party. Others want to go in a more populist direction. Still others only want Donald Trump. The party’s voters have put their candidates in a difficult position. The goal should be to win a general election, not just a primary. Now, the candidates are forced to stake out positions that alienate them from portions of the public in order to affirm the views of others in the party and, in so doing, cost them the general election.
Ron DeSantis finds himself in that position at the moment. Most other candidates will get there. DeSantis, when previously asked about Ukraine, said he did not want to give the Ukrainians a blank check. Part of the party is all in on Ukraine. The Trump wing of the party wants nothing to do with the country. DeSantis’s approach is to embrace the status quo, without alienating the isolationists. In a written statement to Fox News’s Tucker Carlson, DeSantis said the following.
“While the U.S. has many vital national interests – securing our borders, addressing the crisis of readiness within our military, achieving energy security and independence, and checking the economic, cultural, and military power of the Chinese Communist Party – becoming further entangled in a territorial dispute between Ukraine and Russia is not one of them. The Biden administration’s virtual ‘blank check’ funding of this conflict for 'as long as it takes,’ without any defined objectives or accountability, distracts from our country’s most pressing challenges.
“Without question, peace should be the objective. The U.S. should not provide assistance that could require the deployment of American troops or enable Ukraine to engage in offensive operations beyond its borders. F-16s and long-range missiles should therefore be off the table. These moves would risk explicitly drawing the United States into the conflict and drawing us closer to a hot war between the world’s two largest nuclear powers. That risk is unacceptable.
“A policy of ‘regime change’ in Russia (no doubt popular among the DC foreign policy interventionists) would greatly increase the stakes of the conflict, making the use of nuclear weapons more likely. Such a policy would neither stop the death and destruction of the war, nor produce a pro-American, Madisonian constitutionalist in the Kremlin. History indicates that Putin’s successor, in this hypothetical, would likely be even more ruthless. The costs to achieve such a dubious outcome could become astronomical.”
Nowhere in the statement did DeSantis say he wanted to stop helping Ukraine. He explicitly said he opposes American troops on the ground, F-16s, and “long-range missiles” that could allow Ukraine to “engage in offensive operations beyond its borders.” That is Joe Biden’s current position. That is the present status quo, though there are rumblings Biden may give way on jets and missiles.
But DeSantis had the audacity to call what is happening in Ukraine a “territorial dispute,” which is technically true, and claim it is not a “vital national interest” to the United States, with which I disagree. In an extended part of the statement, he makes clear he opposes an alliance between Russia and China and does not want to fund Ukraine at the expense of other policies, which can easily be avoided by funding those other policies.
“The Biden administration’s policies have driven Russia into a de facto alliance with China. Because China has not and will not abide by the embargo, Russia has increased its foreign revenues while China benefits from cheaper fuel. Coupled with his intentional depletion of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and support for the Left’s Green New Deal, Biden has further empowered Russia’s energy-dominated economy and Putin’s war machine at Americans’ expense.
Our citizens are also entitled to know how the billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars are being utilized in Ukraine.
We cannot prioritize intervention in an escalating foreign war over the defense of our own homeland, especially as tens of thousands of Americans are dying every year from narcotics smuggled across our open border and our weapons arsenals critical for our own security are rapidly being depleted."
DeSantis, in other words, did not say he wanted to stop funding the Ukrainians. But because he did not embrace the language of existential crisis, even while not opposing funding, he has not articulated pro-Ukraine advocates’ truth, so he must be condemned. In fact, in 2015, DeSantis supported arming the Ukrainians and has been very vocal, too, that Russia must be taken seriously as an adversary. Nothing he is saying now contradicts his past statements, including his reference to “Putin’s war machine.” He’s just not using the existential word choices of the most hawkish Republicans.
It is not just the “stolen election” Republicans who would rather be right than win. Nuance is not allowed where people’s personal truths and emotions are dominant in the discourse.
Likewise, the people in the GOP most ready to return to a pre-Trump era have little tolerance for someone who might get them headed in that direction if that person sounds like Trump. It’s all or nothing for Always Trump and Never Trump.
On the upside for DeSantis, after having both Paul Ryan and Jeb Bush suggest DeSantis could be the future of the GOP, having MSNBC, the Bulwark, the Lincoln Project, Bill Kristol, and others assailing DeSantis over the past twenty-four hours probably helps DeSantis in a GOP primary. After all, in post-modernism, it’s not a person’s friends who define a person’s virtues but his enemies.
To say that DeSantis aligns with Joey Malarkey's position on Ukraine is specious. DeSantis is strongly stating a principle and direction. Joey is essentially saying that Ukraine sorta deserves F-16s and might very well get them. DeSantis looks like a leader. Trump too, as has often been the case, essentially has the correct approach as well, although, as is ALWAYS the case, he states it as a sign of the greatness only he possesses: The Policy of ME. Republicans commit political suicide if they choose childish Don, who more than half of America views as a blowhard, over DeSantis.
"THE Truth" includes such axioms as "XX & XY chromosomes determine gender;" not YOUR truth that "It's my choice." "Abortion terminates a discreet life;" not YOUR truth that "It's not a baby until it leaves the womb." "Spending more than you have is not wise;" not YOUR truth that says "Spend what you want and worry about the debt later." In other words, THE truth does appear objectively to align with what might be labeled "conservative" positions. SO (i think) it would be wise for Republicans to skew toward conservative candidates whose positions are closer to self-evident truths. Any other choice will perpetuate the situational ethics that threaten to destroy our republic. Whether Desantis will survive the primary or drift left if he wins remains to be seen. At the moment he appears to be a worthy candidate who could also win.