‘I will be able to destroy leftism… and leave woke ideology in the dustbin of history.’ — Ron DeSantis.

To some, he is a fascist; the embodiment of white conservative supremacy. Yet for many, he is the answer America needs to fight the demons of the left, stand up to big corporations, and bring back that bygone notion of American supremacy. 

Ron DeSantis, serving as Florida’s 46th governor since 2019, announced his candidacy for the 2024 election in May. The possibility of his victory strikes fear into the hearts of many liberal Americans. But how justified is this fear and does DeSantis have a real chance at the presidency?

DeSantis’ Brand of  Social Conservatism

At 44, Ron DeSantis is posing as the youthful and less chaotic alternative to Donald Trump. More than three decades younger than Trump and Biden, he certainly has the upper hand in this category. However, his youth hardly makes him a champion of the liberal cause. Rather the opposite, in fact.

DeSantis’ anti-immigration stance is a good place to start. In the lead-up to his re-election as governor, DeSantis has repeatedly funded the transportation of migrants from Texas to Sacramento in order to draw attention to the mass influx of Latin American immigrants. There is no doubt that a DeSantis administration would see strict enforcement of anti-immigration laws and strong discouragement of immigrants, particularly from the South.

Within his own state, he signed a law banning abortion at six weeks — long before most women realise they are pregnant. This angered many women throughout the country. ln response, California Governor, Gavin Newsom authorised $20 million to enable those who wish to get an abortion to be able to travel to his state. Since the Supreme Court’s historic overturn of Roe vs Wade, DeSantis has argued that his decision is both constitutionally sound and protects freedom.

Most pertinent is DeSantis’ attitude to the LGBTQ+ community, transforming him from socially conservative to potentially harmful. Previously, he accused the Trump administration of succumbing to ‘left ideology.’ An affiliated Twitter account posted a critical clip of Trump pledging protection to the gay community following a shooting at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando. The video’s appearance implies that DeSantis does not wholly back Trump’s no-tolerance stance on LGBTQ-focused shootings. Even if that’s going too far, the signing of four bills restricting LGBTQ rights because ‘we’re protecting kids,’ is a good indication of the direction DeSantis will be heading, should he be elected. For a man relying on his commitment to the value of ‘freedom,’ the Florida governor treads a fine line.

Confusion and Backtracking

The Republican Party faces several dilemmas and it’s not clear whether DeSantis has the answers. His response to the electoral fraud claim of the 2020 election has been confused at best. From stating that his party has developed a ‘culture of losing’ to simultaneously promising to strictly regulate electoral procedures, his response has shed little clarity. Did Trump lose the election or were the votes counted incorrectly? Governor DeSantis seems to have no coherent answer.

Trump’s Republican appeal is that he can achieve what the Democrats can only dream of. The former president’s rehabilitation-focused justice reform law is one such example. However, in a bold statement, DeSantis announced that he would seek to repeal the Act, claiming that Trump was swayed by celebrities and the global media. This has left Republican voters wondering how and why he would seek to abolish a widely supported bill.

Mixed Feelings

With $88 million of electoral funding — almost double that of Trump — DeSantis is indeed a formidable figure. His willingness to challenge global corporations and embrace controversial topics like sex and gender makes him an attractive Republican candidate.

However, he leaves many questions unanswered. Currently lagging behind Biden and Trump in most polls by at least 5 percentage points, DeSantis is yet to prove himself as a genuine threat. Whilst his popularity amongst Florida’s wealthy Republicans remains strong, outside of his home borders he angers Democrats and Republicans alike with each new policy statement. Showing a 34 per cent disapproval rating and only 18 per cent saying they have a ‘very favourable’ opinion of DeSantis, it’s not looking promising. However, there is still time to change voters’ minds.

Ambitious, fiercely conservative and with plenty of stamina, Ron DeSantis has all the potential to convince America that he’s the one. Still, there is much work to do before his ‘war on woke’ becomes a national reality — and that may require tempering some of his more radical statements.

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