Polarizing prospect: The rise of Ron DeSantis against Donald Trump

Donald Trump, former president of the United States, and Ron DeSantis, governor of Florida, are pictured alongside their wives, Melania Trump and Casey DeSantis. via Wikimedia Commons.
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As President Joe Biden nears the halfway mark of his term, we begin to look toward the next presidential election. One of the biggest stories so far has followed one of the Republican Party’s most promising new candidates, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. After a decisive gubernatorial reelection victory, DeSantis could capitalize on his momentum and avoid missing his opportunity like others have in the past. However, a familiar face stands in the way of DeSantis’ path to the nomination: former President Donald Trump announced his campaign for the 2024 presidency on Nov. 15, following his failed 2020 reelection bid. While DeSantis’ win in Florida will give him a solid boost to launch a possible campaign, Trump’s loyal base and stubborn attitude ensure that the race for the 2024 Republican nomination will be closely fought.

The new rivalry has already begun, with both politicians making it clear that they are going head-to-head. Trump originally supported DeSantis in his reelection run, but their relationship is now falling apart. DeSantis recently supported John O’Dea — an open and strong critic of Trump — in his Colorado Senate race. Trump fired back at DeSantis’ decision and left him out of the plans for a rally in Florida. If the last six years have taught us anything, it is that Trump does not shy away from conflict. DeSantis must prepare himself for bitter competition if he intends to win the presidency in 2024. If the two are already at odds two years before the election, it seems likely that their relationship will only continue to deteriorate. 

Some people across party lines have looked at DeSantis’ rise as a positive thing. Many Republicans are now ready to move past Trump, especially after their performance during the midterms, with important Republican party donors expressing interest in supporting newer candidates. Conservative writer Jim Geraghty has also claimed that DeSantis “fights for policies, not to prosecute vendettas.” On certain issues like environmental policy, DeSantis appears to be slightly more moderate than Trump. DeSantis, however, has been behind some extremely socially conservative policies, such as the “anti-woke” and “Don’t Say Gay” bills, both of which he has signed into law, limiting discussion of race and sexuality in educational settings. 

Regardless of who you see as the more radical candidate, the rivalry itself should be alarming to everyone. The two candidates will try to get a hold of the far right of the conservative party that Trump awakened and enlivened, challenging each other to commit to further policy extremes to appeal to America’s hardcore conservatives. DeSantis already showed a glimpse of this when he criticized Trump’s COVID-19 policy. DeSantis disagreed with the advisement to stay home, and he wishes he had spoken out more about it, even against Trump.

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The rivalry between Trump and DeSantis will push the Republican party farther right and polarize our country even more. Over the past 20 years, the percentage of people holding consistent views for one party, as opposed to having ideological overlap, has doubled. Negative views of the opposing party have increased as well. This polarization cripples democracy and stops positive progress. Republicans must resist the increasingly radicalized rhetoric, and we as a country must maintain the bridge between the two sides and promote democracy.

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