There is a brutal civil war that has broken out in the Republican Party, much like what happened in the Democratic Party, after the contentious 1960 Democratic Party Primary occurred, in which the more powerful, older senate majority leader, Lyndon Baines Johnson (LBJ) was upstaged by the young senator from Massachusetts, John F. Kennedy (JFK).
Ultimately, JFK tapped LBJ to become his vice-president, but the bitterness and resentment from the 1960 primary remained throughout the Kennedy Administration.
After JFK’s tragic murder, with the LBJ wing of the Democratic Party ascendant, there was a clear distinction between those White House staffers who were JFK’s people and those who belonged to LBJ’s crew. These two factions duked it out behind the scenes for years after JFK’s assassination.
Similarly, the brutal 1980 Republican Presidential Primary fight that erupted between the patrician George H.W. Bush and the upstart Ronald Reagan lasted many years beyond the contentious 1980 primary.
Although Reagan and Bush ultimately got along, as president and vice-president, respectively, the tension of dashed ambitions and suspicions of rising political desires remained between the two.
Specifically, their staffs, like those of JFK and LBJ, were perennially taut.
Once the Reagan Administration ended after eight successful years, naturally, his chosen successor was George H.W. Bush, who decisively defeated the Democratic Party’s 1988 presidential nominee, Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis, many of the Reagan White House staffers assumed they’d be kept on.
After all, Bush was Reagan’s right-hand man for eight years and a fellow conservative Republican.
Sadly for them, during the transition from Reagan to Bush, the forty-first president deployed Brent Scowcroft to purge the ranks of most Reagan era staffers. One staffer who was purged by Bush said that it felt like a transition from an outgoing Republican administration to an incoming Democratic Party one. It was downright hostile.
A GOP Civil War without End?
Internecine political fights are a normal occurrence in American politics, regardless of political party or era. Today, such a civil war exists between those marching beneath Mar-a-Lago’s flag and those who stand under the banner of what most Floridians refer to as “The People’s House” (the governor’s mansion in Tallahassee).
Former President Donald J. Trump has taken it upon himself to again campaign for the White House, after having lost—by hook or by crook, depending on who you ask—the 2020 Presidential Election. He will not abide any challenge from his Right. Even by his former “MAGA” protégé, Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis.
The hatred is visceral.
I know many of the people in MAGA-world. I understand where they’re coming from when they say they’re “ride-or-die for Trump”. But the DeSantis camp is also coming from an honest place: we are tired of watching critical victories slip by us because former President Trump was either too distracted or too naïve about how politics really work to effectively implement the revolutionary “MAGA” agenda.
And Trump, whose ego is boundless, refuses to answer even basic questions about his mixed record as president—even from friendly news outlets (he just went off the deep end about Megyn Kelly, who has made it clear that she’s on Team MAGA in 2024, because she dared to ask the forty-fifth president if “a man can become a woman?”).
DeSantis is a Better Executive Than Trump
DeSantis, meanwhile, not only has a solid record as a social conservative but enjoys an even greater list of accomplishments as the chief executive of the Sunshine State. If one were to match the records of Trump and DeSantis, the Florida governor’s successes were far greater than those of the forty-fifth president’s accomplishments on the major issues of our time.
From protecting our kids from Cultural Marxist teachings to saving our economy from the ravages of Dr. Anthony Fauci’s COVID policies, it is DeSantis, not Trump, who shines. Plus, DeSantis has an ideological framework that is consistent with the principles of the Republican Party.
Most of us on the Right viewed Trump as a transactional figure; a boorish man for an absurd age, who did not believe as we did ideologically, but who could serve as the battering ram to burst open the gilded doors of power and to place our people into positions of power where they could accomplish some major swamp-draining action.
But Trump proved incapable of even this. Thus, the civil war that now rages today between Club Trump and Team DeSantis.
There is mounting pressure from donors who originally supported DeSantis’ upstart challenge, much as JFK challenged the entrenched LBJ in 1960 and as Ronald Reagan ran against the elite’s chosen Republican candidate of George H.W. Bush in 1980, for the governor to abandon his bid for the GOP nomination.
Many Trump supporters have come to hate the governor that so many of them worshipped for daring to oppose (Trump’s) COVID-19 policies that eviscerated the economy. DeSantis’ executive leadership in Florida was so great, in fact, that the forty-fifth president chose to move to Florida following his controversial term in the White House!
A Big Lie: DeSantis Loses Power in Tallahassee
Now, rumors abound that Florida’s governor is facing a loss of power at home. Tallahassee insiders—who universally loathed DeSantis and merely went along with him because he was such an effective executive—are now outing themselves as the “Never DeSantis” crew we in Florida knew them to be.
For all the lies spewed by the Trump Campaign about how DeSantis is a “globalist” or a “RINO”, Florida’s forty-sixth governor was hated by the miniaturized “Deep State” of Tallahassee. He brought them to heel without tearing the state apart. These forces are now in full swing as DeSantis perceived to have been permanently marred and weakened due to his upstart challenge to the new Republican establishment leader, Donald J. Trump.
Unbelievably, the gonzo Florida politician who represents the First District of Florida, Rep. Matt Gaetz, defended DeSantis against the scurrilous attacks in the press saying DeSantis has lost his influence in Florida since running for president. Gaetz, who is beset by a coterie of controversies—and is himself a Trump fanatic—rightly argued that, should DeSantis’ campaign for president end, he would return to a Florida grateful to have its excellent governor back.
DeSantis would find that his leadership in Tallahassee would be welcomed and that he would continue to effectively govern until the end his term as governor (after which, more rumors abound that Gaetz hilariously believes that he would replace DeSantis).
The problem with these stories in the press is that DeSantis is not dropping out. He’s never indicated that he’s going to abandon his cause for the presidency.
Why should he?
Not a single vote has been cast in the GOP Primary—and there won’t be a vote cast until the middle of January 2024!
Stories undermining DeSantis’ brilliant leadership of Florida have likely been planted by the swampy forces at Mar-a-Lago to further undermine and destroy the DeSantis Campaign, which has been trailing former President Trump bigly in national polls.
Of course, Trump was the man who has spent every election that he’s run in decrying “Fake News” and their allegedly inaccurate polls. In 2016, Trump proved that presidential polling data cannot be relied on. Now that the polls are saying what Trump wants to hear, suddenly, they’re all to believed.
The Only Polls That Matter Are Actual Votes
The only polls that matter are final election tallies.
Just look at DeSantis’ ground game in the first primary state of Iowa. The Florida governor is dominating in face-to-face meetups, whereas Trump is chasing down interviews with the mainstream media and diverting gobs of campaign cash to his growing legal woes. This is not the stuff of a winning campaign.
What’s more, Trump may eventually be disqualified from even holding office, if the court challenges to Trump’s eligibility under the so-called “Insurrection Clause” of the Fourteenth Amendment to pass constitutional muster.
All this is to say that, far from being a defeated presidential candidate and a lame-duck governor, DeSantis is still competitive. Even if Governor DeSantis were to end his presidential campaign—which would only happen if he lost actual votes (as opposed to politically charged polls)—he would return to Florida and find that he still has much influence and will have no real problem asserting that influence as he saw fit.
The Mar-a-Lago crew needs to cool it with their civil war against DeSantis and recognize that, whoever wins the GOP Primary, the victor will need the other candidate’s supporters (and the support of the other candidate as well) if they are to overcome President Joe Biden and the Democratic Party.
A 19FortyFive Senior Editor, Brandon J. Weichert is a former Congressional staffer and geopolitical analyst who is a contributor at The Washington Times, as well as at the Asia Times. He is the author of Winning Space: How America Remains a Superpower (Republic Book Publishers), Biohacked: China’s Race to Control Life (Encounter Books), and The Shadow War: Iran’s Quest for Supremacy (July 23). Weichert occasionally serves as a Subject Matter Expert for various organizations, including the Department of Defense. He can be followed via Twitter @WeTheBrandon. He writes opinion columns from a conservative perspective.
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