Donald Trump vs. Ron DeSantis. Who is more dangerous for the country?

Who is more dangerous, Donald Trump or Ron DeSantis?

I ask because for more than seven years, Democrats, myself included, have argued that Trump is particularly and singularly unfit to be president. It wasn’t just that we were opposed to his positions on those issues, but that he was temperamentally unfit for the job. He was reckless, belligerent and dishonest. Reckless, unpredictable, norm-breaking, and willing to undermine American democracy and its institutions if necessary to stay in power.

I looked forward to the day when we could go back to fighting a Republican on issues we simply disagreed with. Of course we would have political differences, but that is part of the normal democratic process.

Portrait-style illustration by Nicholas Goldberg

Opinion Columnist

Nicholas Goldberg

Nicholas Goldberg served as editorial page editor for 11 years and is the former editor of the Op-Ed page and Sunday Opinion section.

But now that such a Republican has emerged, it raises entirely new concerns.

DeSantis, who has been the governor of Florida since 2019, is not out of control in the same way that Trump is. He’s stolen from Trump’s playbook, but he’s more disciplined, more refined. As president, he would not constantly go off script or bad mouth his enemies. he wouldn’t have to defend impeachment votes. He can actually read the briefings, work the system and participate in the management process. Unlike Trump, he appears to have a passionate work ethic.

But here a question arises. could those very qualities make him an even more dangerous president? Could he be worse than God, God forbid, because he is more effective?

Although DeSantis has not announced his candidacy for 2024, he already has an election campaign. Don’t say gay! Ban critical race theory. Teach only the happy, inspiring parts of American history.

He swears by the usual right-wing truths. more guns, less immigrants, lower taxes. He wants to tighten restrictions on abortion and soften the death penalty. death sentences. He lambasted vaccine skeptics and argued that Dr. Anthony Fauci should be jailed for lying to Congress. He hinted that the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol could have been a false flag operation by the FBI. He made it hard to vote in Florida.

So which of the two would I prefer to win the race for president if I had to choose? A crazy bastard or an entitled ideologue who might actually do more bad things.

Before I answer, a few caveats. First, they are not the only Republicans seeking the 2024 nomination. Another candidate may overtake one or both of them in the coming months. DeSantis is currently high in the polls, but he is little known outside of Florida. he may not survive close scrutiny (especially in several major media profiles that describe him as a nasty and aloof oddball who can’t make eye contact with other people). And Trump, of course, could self-destruct at any moment. Among other things, he could be charged in any investigation.

But if I had to choose, I’d take DeSantis.

Reluctantly, of course. I certainly don’t want him to be our next president.

But in my view, his danger is not as great as four more tumultuous, distracted years of Trump. The damage Trump has done while in the White House has been unprecedented in modern American history, and four more years could be far worse. He may not be a skilled or effective executive leader, but the reckless undermining of institutions, the self-serving denial of legitimate election results, attacks on the press, attacks on truth, facts and science, his disconnection from reality is impossible. imagine going through it again.

DeSantis will certainly rub us the wrong way. However, Trump’s next presidency threatens American democracy itself.

Some observers agree with my opinion.

“At the end of the day, I’d take a cynic like DeSantis over a lunatic like Trump,” said longtime GOP consultant Mike Murphy, who has advised many moderate Republicans, including John McCain, Mitt Romney and Arnold Schwarzenegger. “Trump may be easier to beat from a Democratic perspective, but who wants to take the risk of rooting for him?”

Others, however, raise their hand even when making such a choice.

“It’s like a debate about which is better, syphilis or gonorrhea,” said Norman Ornstein, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a longtime Trump critic. “Trump and DeSantis are different versions of the same danger.”

Ornstein says Trump’s second term will be all about retribution, punishing those who crossed him in the past. It would be a godsend for Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Hungary’s Viktor Orbán, and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un.

But DeSantis would be a disaster in other ways. “I don’t think he has deep convictions about anything,” Ornstein says. “He may not be a narcissistic sociopath on the same level as Trump, but he’s smarter and more subtle. And he has no moral core.”

It’s too early for the polls to mean much, and anyway they’ve offered mixed messages about whether DeSantis or Trump is ahead. All we know for sure is that they are the two leading prospects in the GOP right now.

As a Democrat, I can’t say which of them wins the Republican primaries (if either of them win). I’m just an observer.

But I think that the danger arising from Trump’s victory in November 2024 will be greater.

I reserve the right to change my mind once we get to know DeSantis better and see him in action. But if he turns out to be worse than Trump, then I really fear for this country.


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