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A Letter to the DeSantis Fan-Boys From a Real Never Trumper

Level-setting on the New Precious.
November 29, 2022
A Letter to the DeSantis Fan-Boys From a Real Never Trumper
(Photo by Giorgio VIERA / AFP) (Photo by GIORGIO VIERA/AFP via Getty Images)

In 2024, the chosen one will be Gov. Ron DeSantis. It has thus been decreed by the old-guard members of Conservative Inc. Or at least the ones calculating enough to have survived the MAGA takeover.

Rupert has dubbed him DeFuture. Republican hedge fund donors have taken their Trump tax cut and run. National Review is indistinguishable from a DeSantis Fanzine, lavishly extolling his virtues and wagging their finger at anyone who dares challenge their precious. Ben Shapiro’s Daily Wire is not any less effusive and is already cashing in on the new bell cow.

To be honest, I understand this calculation. DeSantis is the golden ticket. He’s the one weird trick that will make all their Trump Troubles go away without their having to suffer any additional political pain or consequences from having made a deal with the devil. DeSantis 2024 will let them be members in good standing on the team again. He will eradicate any nagging doubts about whether they were empowering a man who might bring the constitutional republic they claim to love to its knees.

For most of them, the desire for this trick to succeed is a refreshing change from the last 7 years, because it’s completely authentic. It’s in their bones. The sight and sound of a cherubic, nasal-voiced Ivy Leaguer giving local journalist “elites” the what-for gives them a Matthewsian thrill up the leg. For them, the highlight of 2022 was seeing the triggered libs complain about how Ron had tricked desperate Andres into getting on a plane to Massachusetts as part of an Andover-style prep school prank at the expense of the haughty Martha’s Vineyard librarian who canceled Alan Dershowitz.

That is their shit. Reagan’s revolutionaries had the air traffic controllers, Ron controls his human trafficking by air.

And, hey, who am I to deny them their fun. Might not be my cup o’ joe. Give me a shot of Larry or Liz instead. But we can agree to disagree. Fan-girling for a politician is every content-creating American’s birthright.

The issue for me arises when the DeSantis propagandists turn their fire and start issuing Principled Never Trump purity tests on the OGs. Making demands of those of us who did not spend the last seven years trying to titrate precisely how much lib-owning we needed to do to balance out a few precisely worded tip-toes away from Mr. Trump.

What these folks are trying to do is set up shit-tests in which True Never Trumpers must accede to the DeSantis Dominion—or else they are tarred as being just as hack-ish and disingenuous and grift-y as the anti-antis have been.

Over at the Dispatch, the man formerly known as Allahpundit addressed the psychology of this tete-a-tete quite deftly, explaining the disdain that those of us who have been stalwart on the Trump matter feel for the cowards who danced around it and their loathing of us for our purity tests.

But I wanted to be a bit more forward looking and prescriptive. Offer the “Ron johns” (their stan name is still a work in progress) a guide to how I will treat his campaign against Trump should he pursue one. This way, if they have any doubt about whether I am adhering to Muh Never Trump Principles, they can check back in on it from time to time.

Here goes.

Dear Residents of DeSantistan,

It’s nice to hear from you. I notice you have had some harsh words for Mr. Trump of late. You might even think he’s a Bad Orange Man? Concur! So lucky for you to have been awoken from your torpor on this matter at the most convenient time imaginable.

Before we get to the meat of my correspondence, I do have to mention that we missed having you on board these past few annums: During the 2016 general election, Impeachment One, the 2020 Republican primary, the 2020 general election, the alarming interregnum, the 2021 Georgia run-off, Impeachment Two, opposing the Trump election deniers in the 2022 midterms, and the recent FBI raid on the former president’s home.

Better late than never.

It’s especially nice to hear that your candidate plans to challenge and defeat Mr. Trump once and for-all. Though you might forgive a bit of tepidness in our anticipation for this event given that he hasn’t actually done anything yet and we’ve been disappointed by your ilk so many times before (see above).

You also might forgive those of us who have spent seven years fighting Trump if we are not super thrilled to jump on board with someone described by Rich Lowry as being not just from the “Trump Wing” of the party but the “Trump fuselage, wing and landing gear.” (This was intended, I believe, as a compliment).

Bearing all that in mind, I want to put forth what I, as a charter Never Trumper, will do and not do in order to provide the aid and comfort you are demanding for your chosen candidate’s campaign against the former president.

We’ll start with the will nots (natch).

  • I will not be a human shield for Ron to protect him from all the hard (and not so hard) questions about Donald Trump. For example, you might feel like it is not strategic for him to state clearly that it’s bad for the man he supported for president twice to have had dinner with one of the nation’s leading white supremacists. I, for one, am not certain that this convenient silence is good strategy. Maybe it’s true he might need the votes of anti-semites, maybe it’s not. But I am sure that it’s not too much to ask a prospective president what they think about it.
  • I will not give him a pass when he refuses to provide an answer, any answer, about whether or not he thinks Donald Trump’s coup attempt was a good thing or a bad thing. Given that his only comments to date were supportive of the coup, it feels like his updated views on the matter are something we should hear about before we give him the keys to the kingdom.
  • I will not practice strategic silence while he exhibits every single behavior of enablement and collaboration with the crazy that got us to Donald Trump in the first place. Here is a good book about the dangers of this approach that I would recommend you check out if you disagree on this point.
  • I will not pretend that he isn’t anti-vaxcurious, didn’t hire an anti-vax surgeon general, and didn’t oversee a spike in COVID deaths after a life-saving vaccine was available. I am sorry that these facts make you uncomfortable. But perhaps your support of DeSantis would be even more convincing to us if you granted them and said that you still preferred him to Trump?
  • I will not pretend that his decision to sign and champion a bill that would bar teachers from giving students a word problem that describes my nuclear family is needed to counterbalance the “woke” school system; or a no big deal effort to desexualize schools; or actually an anti-grooming bill; or whatever the latest spin is.
  • I will not shine his turds when he enacts despicably cruel public policy stunts that serve zero purpose for his constituents, such as tricking Venezuelan asylees into getting on planes from Texas to Massachusetts just so he can earn plaudits from Fox & Friends and the speakers at Kari Lake rallies.
  • I will not demand that popular and viable Republican governors who have classically conservative principles and acted with a modicum of integrity during the Trump era should stand aside because their presence might hypothetically hurt the candidacy of someone who showed no such courage or fortitude.
  • And, finally, being Never Trump does not require I participate in your efforts to prop up a man who cut the single most obsequious ad in service to our nation’s worst president. If you haven’t watched that ad in a while, please take a moment to do so now.
Ron DeSantis has released an ad indoctrinating his children into Trumpism

Yikes. Speaking of grooming, I wouldn’t let the person in that video coach my kid, for fear she might be groomed into this creepy cult.

That type of ostentatious service to the irredeemable monster who wanted to turn this great country into an autocracy shows a lack of judgment so extreme that for me—and I suspect many other Never Trumpers—it is forever disqualifying.

But even in spite of alllllll that. Despite his use of state-power to go after people and companies whose politics he doesn’t like. Despite his targeting of families like mine with needlessly spiteful anti-gay legislation. Despite his status as Mr. Trump’s number one ball fluffer. Here are the things I will do when commenting on Ron DeSantis’ primary campaign against a man I still believe is an existential threat to the country:.

Number one: If a hypothetical primary campaign between Trump and DeSantis remains competitive 15 days before the California primary and Ron/Don are the only viable options, I will suck it up, re-register as a Republican, and vote for your man in my states’ nominating contest. I will cast this vote despite his myriad transgressions against decency and Never Trump orthodoxy outlined above (and cut for space). I will write about this vote publicly to explain why it is important to support Trump’s opponents, however imperfect they may be. I will do this before the election, not weeks after the fact when it makes no difference. (Caveats: (1) If there is a competitive Democratic primary in which I have a strong preference, that may change the calculus. (2) If Ron runs a campaign where he pledges to Muslim Ban even harder than Trump did, or some noxious equivalent.)

Not only will I do that, but . . .

Number two: I am willing to go a step further and offer you another olive branch. If your candidate ever shows even the vague outline of a pair of balls and stands up to the man you now agree is a grave threat, I will compliment him for it.

That is right. I will praise Ron DeSantis!

For example, maybe this week DeSantis might consider following in a few of his prospective competitors’ footsteps and saying something to the effect of: “You know, I don’t appreciate that Donald had dinner with two anti-semites, one of whom is the most despicable nazi scum in our entire nation, and if I was president, racist douche canoes such as that would get no hearing from my White House.”

Should DeSantis try something like that on for size, I will provide the heartiest of atta boys. (And if DeSantis doesn’t say something like that, then maybe you should ask yourselves who and what DeSantis thinks his base is?)

I’m not holding my breath, but hey, who doesn’t love being pleasantly surprised?

So that’s it, that’s the best you’re gonna get from a Never Trumper. If I were you, I would take that deal and run!

But if these terms aren’t amenable because you’d rather have us as foils to curry favor with your MAGA pals—well that’s fine, too. I understand that you have to preserve your viability in case the DeSantis thing doesn’t work out. So in the meantime, good luck with the fanzine, hope Ron makes the maneuvering easy for ya out there on the trail.


Tim Miller

Tim Miller is The Bulwark’s writer-at-large and the author of the best-selling book Why We Did It: A Travelogue from the Republican Road to Hell. He was previously political director for Republican Voters Against Trump and communications director for Jeb Bush 2016.