You might have noticed a media narrative taking shape the last few days about how Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ presidential campaign has “stalled.” A Politico Playbook item over the weekend described it as a “failure to launch,” noting that polling for DeSantis peaked in January at 40.5 percent and has since settled in the low 20s amid a barrage of attacks from former President Donald Trump.
Playbook also cited other news outlets recently casting doubt on the DeSantis operation, from fundraising struggles to lack of endorsements to difficulties distinguishing himself from Trump on policy. DeSantis super PAC official Steve Cortes added fuel to the narrative fire in an interview Sunday night, bemoaning the polls and admitting, “clearly Donald Trump is the runaway frontrunner.”
One could of course object that it’s only July, that polls don’t mean much this far out from the primaries, and that corporate media want nothing more than to push a DeSantis-is-stalled narrative whether it’s true or not, because they hate and fear him just as they hate and fear Trump.
But maybe there’s something else going on here. If enthusiasm for DeSantis seems lacking, maybe it has little or nothing to do with DeSantis or his campaign. Perhaps what we’re seeing is less about him and still less about 2024 or the upcoming GOP primary scrum, and more about what happened in 2020. Put bluntly, maybe what we’re seeing now is an early sign that what Democrats, Big Tech, and corporate media did in 2020 was inject poison into our political system, and the 2024 election cycle is going to show us just how deadly that poison is.
Recall that 2020 was unlike any election in American history. One need not declare that it was “stolen” to admit that it was obviously rigged. After all, the people and institutions that rigged it have freely admitted what they did. They suppressed the Hunter Biden laptop story, censored what Americans could say on social media, introduced unprecedented changes to our voting system under the pretext of pandemic precautions, and poured hundreds of millions of dollars into putatively nonpartisan local election offices through Mark Zuckerberg-connected nonprofits for the sole purpose of turning out Democrat voters in swing states.
Nothing like that has ever happened in American history. And it was all done for the singular purpose of ensuring that Trump would not serve a second term. What’s more, all of that came after four years of the permanent regime in Washington discarding every political norm, bending every rule, and breaking more than a few laws in a failed effort to oust Trump from office during his first term.
Now, maybe you think that’s all nonsense, or just water under the bridge. What’s done is done, we can’t go back, and even if the 2020 election wasn’t on the level we all just need to move on and go about the 2024 primary season like it’s business as usual. There’ll be debates and a deluge of political ads and campaign shenanigans. There’ll be a chaotic, rambunctious primary full of zingers and debate moderator tomfoolery, and at the end of it Republicans will have their nominee and we can all get on with the general election.
Sorry, but that’s not going to happen. It won’t happen because Trump supporters are understandably not willing to forget 2020 and just trundle along through 2024 like none of it happened. Plenty of them will always believe, not without reason, that 2020 was stolen outright. Many millions more believe, with even more reason, that it was rigged unfairly against Trump and that the same forces are at work now to rig it against whomever the GOP nominee turns out to be.
Does that mean Trump is somehow entitled to the nomination, or even to another term in the White House? Not necessarily. To the extent that 2020 was stolen, it wasn’t strictly speaking stolen from Trump but from the American people, the voters who cast their ballots for Trump in good faith, trusting that our elections were free and fair.
Now that their faith has proved misplaced, do you think they’re going to line up for a GOP primary and consider each candidate on his or her merits, giving them all a fair hearing? Of course not. As far as they’re concerned, they were robbed of their votes in the last election by a corrupt cabal of powerful elites who are still in control.
Indeed, we know more today about the astounding level of corruption and election-rigging in 2020 than we did at the time. None of the problems have been fixed, and no reparations have been made. You can’t expect these voters to simply move on and act like 2024 is going to be a free and fair election, and accept whatever result the machine coughs up.
To win over GOP primary voters who supported Trump in the past two cycles, these candidates have to speak to the injustice that was done in 2020, they have to admit what happened, name who did it, and affirm that we cannot have a self-governing republic if that’s how our elections are going to be.
And therein lies the problem for a candidate like DeSantis — to say nothing of such winsome and meritorious gunners like Vivek Ramaswamy or Tim Scott. How can you decry what they did to Trump in one breath and in the next proclaim that you’re the best person to redress those grievances? That Trump should stand aside and let you, Nikki Haley, restore faith in American elections and put Democrats in their place.
Maybe it can be done, maybe they can come up with a rationale for their candidacies that will appeal to Trump supporters. It certainly would be a neat trick.
But if you’re trying to explain why an otherwise popular figure like DeSantis isn’t gaining traction among GOP primary voters, the answer has less to do with Trump and more to do with what Democrats did in 2020. No one should expect Trump voters to forgive and forget. Democrats and their accomplices might have thought they were getting rid of Trump once and for all, and maybe they will get rid of him in the end. But right now, it looks like they sowed the wind.