Advice to DeSantis: Be a Righteous Bully

Advice to DeSantis: Be a Righteous Bully

September 27, 2023

By Jackson Bakich

“I’m curious as to how President Trump would answer this question, but he wasn’t man enough to show up, yet again."

That’s how I would first respond to every question in Wednesday’s debate if I were Governor Ron DeSantis (R-FL). Every. Single. One.

Why did Americans respond so well to Gov. DeSantis during COVID? Yes, his policy was enticing, especially to those in blue states. But the populist movement brought forward by Trump in 2016 capitalized on anger: The People were angry at smaller paychecks, Second Amendment threats, and most importantly, the media.

Americans responded well to DeSantis during COVID because he stood up to the media and bullied it back, just like Trump did (and for the most part, still does).

Everyone knows DeSantis’ policy record. For conservatives around the country and a fair number of independents and non-party affiliates, his record is strong. You don’t win Florida by 20 points accidentally.

Yes, you can point to a weak Democratic candidate, but in the polarized country we find ourselves in, the “vote blue no matter who” and the “vote red ‘til I’m dead” phenomena are still very much prevalent. DeSantis’ win in Florida was nothing short of impressive.

I’m a 21-year-old kid. I couldn’t vote in the 2016 election. Maybe take this advice with a grain of salt. I wouldn’t blame you.

But from what I’ve seen, The People responded to candidates who shared their vitriol with the rest of the electorate. Not just policy and legislation – but with public disdain for the current system. Yes, actions speak louder than words, but in elections, the pen is certainly mightier than the sword. What a paradox that is.

As the poll numbers demonstrate, The People are not responding to DeSantis’ platform in this election, which has been “Look at what Florida has done! Look at my record! It speaks for itself.”

That approach might firmly secure his 15-20% base. But if DeSantis wants to chip away at the Great Wall of Trump, he must make this election a sport. If you're attempting to satiate the hunger of a populist movement, policy résumés simply do not cut it. Strong policy records are now the expectation, not the exception.

To Americans, Trump solidified himself as a manly President (despite his billion-dollar playboy status and interesting haircut). How did a billion-dollar playboy New Yorker win the hearts of The Common Man? It wasn’t his money, it wasn’t his status, it wasn’t his power (although, it didn't hurt him either, surprisingly).

It was his ability to come across as a street fighter.

For example, the photo ops of President Trump sitting in Winston Churchill’s chair, walking ahead of world leaders at boring summits, stepping across the DMZ into North Korea, making fun of protestors at his rallies, telling Hillary Clinton she’d “be in jail,” telling Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) he had small hands, calling Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) “Pocahontas,” making fun of Jeb Bush’s “low energy” and dismal poll numbers, the list goes on and on.

DeSantis doesn’t have to do that, exactly. He doesn’t have to make fun of people’s appearances; he doesn’t have to give them names.

What he does have to do if he wants any chance in this election, is to call out President Trump’s manliness.

Point out that for decades he sat in an ivory tower and only came down to “save us,” while simultaneously hammering the fact that he’s too scared to leave the safety of Mar-a-Lago to debate other Republicans. Tell the world that he is not man enough to support a 6-week abortion ban. Showcase that since he has left office, he has neglected some of the conservative principles that guided him during his presidency.

Make it personal. Be a righteous bully.

Jesus turned over the tables in the temple. It is about time that Governor DeSantis does the same.

Jackson Bakich is one of The Floridian's Tallahassee-based reporters

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