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US politics

A war on woke could unite the American right

DeSantis: “zeal for culture war”. Joe Raedle/Getty

Ron DeSantis had a “klutzy start” to his presidential campaign last week, says Lexington in The Economist. His official launch, in an interview with Elon Musk on Twitter, was marred by technical “snafus”. But Democrats write off the “chilly, cerebral” governor of Florida at their peril. Since the end of the Cold War, American conservatism has been missing something crucial: a common enemy. When the Soviet Union was around, the movement’s various factions could all unite against the evils of communism; without it, old divisions began widening. George W Bush’s war on terror “held them in check for a time”, but ended up fracturing things even further. Then came the financial crisis, the Tea Party, and Donald Trump’s “contempt for the elites”. What DeSantis has done is find another “ideological foe” with which to rally the party: wokeness.

By his account, “leftist ideology has infiltrated the federal bureaucracy, public schools, universities, news media and major corporations in much the way conservatives once feared communism had”. This message, and more generally DeSantis’s “zeal for culture war”, is not just a sideline to his presidential ambitions. “It is the unifying principle.” And it’s a message that could resonate with voters: he has a knack for making his resistance to progressive issues “sound like common sense”. Of course, DeSantis “may wind up as just another speed-bump under Trump’s relentless wheels”. But his anti-woke crusade has already proved popular in the diverse state of Florida. Democrats would be “unwise to dismiss its appeal” across the whole country.

⛔️🍊️ You might have thought “Never Trump” conservatives would be disappointed to see DeSantis stumbling with his campaign launch, says Andrew Sullivan on Substack. After all, if he crashes and burns, the dreaded Trump is all but guaranteed to win the GOP nomination. Instead, the anti-Trumpists were delighted. One conservative talked of being “drunk on schadenfreude”; another mocked DeSantis as a “Florida Beta Man”. These people always claim – rightly – that Trump represents a threat to the republic. They should act like it.