A boring request before the takes fly
“But if you run for president, you have to start talking about your views on national policy issues.” True, but the fact that the GOP didn’t even bother to update their party platform in 2020 suggests they’re not entirely on board with this idea.
"He guessed that most economists were wrong, that the 2016 economy was not at full employment, and that it would be fine to raise domestic spending and raise military spending and cut taxes. And he was right."
Matt has consistently given Trump way too much credit on this point. Trump doesn't even know what full employment is. His thought process was at most something like: "people like tax cuts and spending, let's do both and pretend it'll be deficit neutral anyway". Bonus points if he actually believed it would be deficit neutral.
I don't know what Ron DeSantis would do as President, and neither does anyone else. I do know he has done a very good job as Governor in Florida. I suspect those who criticize him (from left and right) by pointing out that he lacks charisma and an outsized personality are really just hoping for another Trump run. I think his generally boring public persona is a positive.
Being President isn't just like being Governor, but a Governor is the closest thing our system has to a similar job. If he runs, I hope people will look to actual results and not the dishonest version of Florida that was described during the COVID-era.
From a political saviness perspective I also appreciated HOW DeSantis raised teacher rates. He raised salaries of junior teachers more than those with longer tenure. This made the teacher unions very angry but it would have been too petty for them to make a big stink out of it.
I think the reason people don't focus on asking DeSantis questions like this is that it doesn't really matter. Everyone knows that he'll do and support whatever the prevailing winds are in the Republican Party at the time, calibrated by general public opinion polls. Unlike Trump, DeSantis isn't a charismatic or large enough figure to set the agenda in the Republican Party, just to put his finger in the wind and follow it, Rubio style. So it's not very informative to ask him really specific policy questions like this.
Ron DeSantis positions do not matter. Voters are not making decisions based on policy, especially during the primaries. Ron DeSantis needs to run, like Trump did, on vibes. Trump's vibes were negative and revanchist and suited a certain malaise that Hillary Clinton seemed to inspire in anyone who's not a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat.
DeSantis' vibes will be different and, I think, he can run a more positive message of, more or less, freedom. He should create (to some extent fabricate or exaggerate) something called "The Florida Miracle" and hammer it again and again to make sure everyone knows that Desantis is responsible for the Florida having the best time ever. He should run on a record of seemingly unprecedented success. I think I've posted something like this before but the push is:
- What MY said about school pay, the quite high NAEP scores for 4th grade, and the effort to empower parents and disempower educational bureaucrats and ideologues
- Breaking the back of higher ed and the woke professors by empowering state bureaucrats to muzzle, penalize, and fire people with incorrect opinions. Put Ben Sasse out there as a surrogate to highlight all the amazing stuff the U of F does and how woke higher ed threatens technological/economic progress
- Trott out some of those hand-crafted numbers about how Florida is one of the best states to do business, point to high employment rates, low taxes, etc
- Woke capitalism is a dead end, and DeSantis is the harbinger of that end. Business should be business (see above) and the state shouldn't be subsidizing companies through tax breaks when they don't support the people of Florida
- Massive population growth proves how amazing Florida is and shows the success of its policies
- Show that RDS is a bipartisan figure and will work with Democrats when the issues are right. Show lots of pictures with Biden and highlight hurricane relief efforts and how you led the (by 2024) amazing recovery of southwest Florida from Ian
You get the point. None of these are "true" so much as they are the kind of "facts" that most people will just believe at first glance. No amound of Vox explainers about how bad Florida's schools are or how its lopsided demographics are a huge drag on the economy etc etc will change anything. Doesn't matter. Nobody important will read it, certainly not primary voters.
Run on the good vibes generated by the Florida Miracle.
Could it be that DeSantis is just a pragmatic politician with a fair amount of flexibility on policy positions? (Some might say machiavellian.) Reading through this history of his political career, it seems like he is just following the Republican party’s hectic evolution without any noteworthy dissent.
Like many Republicans, including Trump, DeSantis likely favors tax cuts for the rich. And like Trump, he may evade explicitly stating that policy position should he run for president. Even in debates with the Democratic candidate, DeSantis could deflect when pressed on that specific issue.
Trump himself didn’t seem to pay much of a price for his tax cuts for the rich in the 2020 presidential election. It could be because Trump was defined by numerous other issues of higher salience. DeSantis could similarly avoid making this an issue in the 2024 election by leaning into non-fiscal issues, like immigration and culture war stuff.
It's funny because you mentioned neither of the things that come to mind when I think of DeSantis: (1) his shtick of using government to "own the libs" at whatever cost (think: picking a fight with Disney over their corporate-friendly LGBTQ stance) and (2) the Martha's Vineyard immigration stunt. A lot of this plays well in conservative media, but once DeSantis gets on a national stage, he may end up being "Trump without the charm" as I've heard him described. Probably my own personal bias here talking, but #2 could end up really hurting him... these were mostly Venezuelans, who should be one of the most sympathetic groups of asylum seekers to conservatives! All he'd have to do is say, "This terribly run socialist government destroyed these people's lives to want to come seek refuge in our pro-business country," and they'd be eating it up.
Also, I don't think people realize just how terrible shape the Florida Democratic Party is in right now. They had to recruit Charlie Crist, of all people, to run as their gubernatorial candidate, and they actually thought this was a good idea!
If DeSantis runs for president in 2024, I don’t think his policy positions will be that important. Instead, his fight with Trump in the Republican primary will be the defining feature. And even if DeSantis wins the nomination, he’ll still have to contend with a vengeful Trump; a Trump who could run a third party spoiler campaign or at least instruct his supporters to refrain from voting in the general election.
Unless Trump is in jail, otherwise barred from office, or his heart finally gives out, I don’t see how DeSantis or any other non-Trump candidate could win the general election.
I had never voted Republican in my life and I became a huge DeSantis fan during COVID. Our family suffered so much under our Dem governor’s COVID policies and I loved how DeSantis didn’t give in to the global mob panic about staying closed and instead looked to Europe and other experts and read studies and looked at the data. I was doing that too and coming to the same conclusions as DeSantis. Yet the hapless school boards and town councils in my state were not, and our governor was doing nothing to convince them to open. I voted Repub for first time in my life as a pure backlash to COVID policies in 2021. I went back to Dem in last week’s midterms. But in 2024, if DeSantis is on the ballot, it’s going to be very hard for me to resist voting for him.
Also, I was in Florida in spring of 2021 and there was just as much of a rush to get vaccines as there was in my home state, this idea that RD did anything to prevent vaccines is ridic.
If Matt's suspicion is right, that DeSantis is a Ryan style Republican in a bit of Trump's clothing then I think his fortunes will diminish.
The big threat is the #1 scenario. If he can position himself as a serious, anti-woke/left wing cultural craziness problem solver who (i) has made peace with the big pillars of the welfare state, (ii) respects the results of elections, and (iii) has an America first trade and foreign policy agenda he will be very hard to stop. I wouldn't support the guy but I actually think it would be really good for American politics if that happened.
"Trump himself happened to be president during four years of very low interest rates. He guessed that most economists were wrong, that the 2016 economy was not at full employment, and that it would be fine to raise domestic spending and raise military spending and cut taxes. And he was right."
A quibble, but worth pointing out he didn't think about any of this stuff. As you've noted many times over, by far the number one priority of GOP officeholders is cutting taxes for owners of capital. Trump going along with this agenda was basically their one price for continuing to support him through every scandal and every insane thing he said or did. Other then that, I want to note Trump did not guess economists were wrong. He blabbed a whole lot of things that have come into his head either via watching Fox News all day or stuff he somewhat remembered over the past 50 years and which has congealed into mush in his brain and sort of fell ass backwards into a "policy agenda" that happens to be a winning one in a low interest rate environment.
I think there is one timeline error in here, which is that DeSantis initially began raising teacher pay before the ARP came into effect. The first round of teacher pay increases came in the earlier part of 2020. I will confess that despite my long-standing liberalism I came to think of DeSantis somewhat fondly given that he raised my pay as a second-year teacher from 40,000 to 48,000 per year.
Another area that is worth pondering is DeSantis' decision to strongarm the Florida legislature into approving a reasonably generous medical marijuana licensing regime, as previously under Rick Scott they had been trying to slow-walk the medical marijuana thing until everyone forgot about the ballot initiative. That said, he's certainly no pro-drug libertarian either since he has recently placed new restrictions on it, but his position has always clearly been that people with valid medical prescriptions should be able to easily and conveniently access marijuana which would place him in a more moderate position relative to the party as a whole I think.
I think this is like asking what is the the true position of an election in quantum superposition. It strictly speaking does not exist until measured.
After not expanding Medicaid and winning by a record margin, DeSantis is unlikely to conclude that Medicaid expansion is the path to victory.
MY is way overthinking this. Conservative elites are flocking to DeSantis because they think he can beat Trump in the primary. That's it. There is really no policy projection at this point.