The first debate of the 2024 GOP primary is fast approaching with an early August broadcast date, and zingers and one-liners that will become a part of our everyday lexicon have already started flying.
In a primary field that will pit Donald Trump against his suburban-friendly variant Ron DeSantis, one can only imagine the depths of shameless slander that will splatter across your preferred choice of media in the coming months.
Whether that be a name-calling contest with less than favorable descriptions such as “Ron DeSanctimonious” or a full-on jamboree of uncloseted skeletons such as the recent legal troubles DeSantis has implied make Trump unfit for the office of the presidency. We’re off to an exciting start.
Even more interesting about this primary is that Trump and DeSantis are fundamentally identical candidates seeking an anointing from the same ravenous base that stormed the capitol on what has become infamously known as January 6th.
We can’t predict who will win the Republican nomination – that’s about as easy to predict as lottery numbers – and equally as fun.
What we can do is unearth some critical differences between these two soon-to-be rivals. It’ll be fascinating to see which of these differences the Republican base gravitates towards in the coming months.
How They Differ
To start, Ron DeSantis is more of a career politician than Trump. Having been educated at several Ivy Leagues, he mirrors the “elites” that Republicans were galvanized to drain out of the swamp in 2016.
Nevertheless, his “anti-woke” rhetoric and consistent Trumpisms have made him the darling of the Florida GOP and, consequently, the national Republican party.
It gets interesting that DeSantis brings less scandals to the 2024 primary than his counterpart. That is to say, there are no investigations into his past business dealings or hush money payments (or lack thereof) to aging pornstars.
On a more substantive note, in looking at both governing styles, they follow the same core conservative tenets.
Where they differ most starkly is in their COVID-19 response.
Trump relented to international and domestic pressure to institute mask mandates and general public closures and encourage vaccine mandates while DeSantis took another route and made his brand off of being the staunchest opponent of those very mandates.
He fervently kept the state open despite governing a state with the most vulnerable population to the virus. This proved to rocket his appeal among conservatives – particularly Trump’s core base.
How they differ or coalesce on foreign policy is less clear, but if DeSantis’s stance on military aid bundles to Ukraine says anything, we can assume he also follows the same isolationist, America First principles that Trump championed in his 2016 campaign.
Subsequently, based on DeSantis’ more pragmatic brand, it wouldn’t be too far of a stretch to believe that he would lend more credence to traditional institutions such as NATO that Trump had railed against in the past.
Ultimately, the differences don’t lie in their policy or governing styles, as they overlap far too much to make a proper distinction.
Their differences genuinely lie in their individual journeys to this point.
Whether the Republican base is sick enough of the litany of scandals that follow Trump to return to a career politician as the party leader remains to be seen, but it should be noted that DeSantis’ clean-cut approach has shown some appeal in traditional conservative media outlets like Fox wherein Desantis is claiming more time slots that were previously only made for Trump.
At the end of the day, maybe we’re not seeing two different candidates, but perhaps DeSantis is simply a more refined version of Trumpism.