Next year, Americans choose who will be the next president of the country. Before that, however, the primaries will decide who will be the candidates of the two big parties.
The Republican Party caucuses officially start in less than six months. On January 15, 2024, Iowa voters will be the first to choose who they want to represent their party in the presidential election.
The chosen name must compete against Joe Biden, who is running for re-election. Ron DeSantis, governor of Florida, is trying to present himself as an alternative to former President Donald Trump, but so far without much success.
According to the average of surveys organized by the portal FiveThirtyEight, DeSantis had a difference of 2 percentage points less than Trump on January 6. Today, the difference is 37 percentage points. The former president is the big favorite in the internal dispute, but the governor hasn’t given up yet.
The reasons for the widening gap between the two main candidates are many. For some analysts, the indictments against Trump favored the former president, who claims he is the target of a witch hunt. For others, DeSantis’ far-right political line holds him back.
One opinion, however, is almost a consensus: the governor of Florida is in a tight spot, a very complicated dilemma in this dispute. Joe Lowndes, a political scientist at the University of Oregon and an expert on the right and far right, spoke to the Brazil in fact about the subject.
“DeSantis is in a situation where if he were to criticize Trump based on the indictments, he would have a broader electoral base in the future, in the national election. But it infuriates the Trump base, to have their candidate criticized,” Lowndes said, ” so he’s stuck. He can’t fight back against Trump, but fighting back is the only way to differentiate.”
DeSantis made the government a campaign
Even though there are still a few months left before the official start of the previews, Ron DeSantis’ campaign has already started a long time ago, albeit unofficially.
Winning the 2020 reelection by a wide margin, something rare in a state that until then was considered very divided, the Republican made Florida a showcase for the party’s most conservative voters.
“Everything that’s been done in Florida has been done nationally, towards the 2024 election, without a doubt,” said Lowndes, “DeSantis won by a large margin in the last gubernatorial election, and I think what they thought was, well, this is the only place in the country where this culture war policy really worked in the 2020 midterm elections.”
The political scientist also said that he thinks that “what they saw, knowing this, was that if they started to govern in Florida in the same way that the campaign addressed these issues, then the government itself would be a form of national campaign.”
Since then, DeSantis has signed extremely controversial laws into law. One of them prohibits any discussion of LGBTQIA+ issues in classrooms. Another legislation, dubbed the Anti-Immigration Law, is the toughest in the country on the subject. The government is currently undergoing multiple lawsuits claiming that the law is unconstitutional.
Glória Souza de Oliveira, activist of the Defend Democracy in Brazil Flóridaa resident of Boca Raton, in the Miami area, spoke about the impact of this law on the Latino community:
“What we see are cases of people, in the Brazilian community itself, the number of people, acquaintances, or acquaintances of acquaintances, who moved from Florida. They tried or are trying to leave here for fear of retaliation, of these persecutions. It has increased and increased a lot. We really know a lot of people who really want to leave Florida due to the anti-immigrant law”, said Glória.
A shot that backfired
On the last day 19, government officials approved the new curriculum to be followed by schools in Florida. Among the most controversial points, one of them stated that African-American history classes should teach children that slavery was also beneficial to the enslaved, since it would have taught them important skills.
The purpose of these projects is exactly to dispute the most conservative electorate of the Republican party, which today supports Trump. However, political scientist Candice Nelson of the American Universitydisagrees with the effectiveness of the method.
“I think this is going to be a bad thing for Governor DeSantis,” Candice told the Brazil in fact. “I don’t think it’s going to help you in the long run. And if he thinks it’s going to help him with the Republican base, that probably won’t happen either. Because the Republican base, or at least 30% or 40% of it, is very attached to Donald Trump, and they support him no matter what is going on.”
The curriculum change, in fact, did not go well. DeSantis even called Vice President Kamala Harris, who criticized the proposal, a liar. Even Republicans, like fellow candidate Tim Scott, publicly opposed the change.
This is not the first time that DeSantis has been involved in controversies involving racism. Demonstrations by neo-Nazi groups waving flags supporting the governor have become commonplace in Florida, and most recently, a campaign communications aide shared a video in which an image of DeSantis was superimposed on the Nazi Black Sun.
Joe Lowndes explains that this connection between far-right groups and the DeSantis campaign runs deeper than mere support: “What we have here, really, is not simply the DeSantis campaign focusing on issues of race and sexuality and these outside Nazi groups trying to add to it. There’s this swath in the middle, of volunteers, workers, even close advisers to DeSantis who, I think, have become kind of a medium of exchange between these far-right ideas, fascists, white supremacists, and the campaign itself.”
The aide who shared the video with the Nazi image was fired, but the campaign did not say why. He left with a wave of advisers who were let go, in principle to cut costs.
Glória, however, the Brazilian who lives in South Florida, has no doubts about how to characterize the republican:
“It is no coincidence that this sexist, misogynistic, anti-immigrant policy is what governs and supports neo-Nazi politics and ideology. So even though Ron DeSantis doesn’t call himself a Nazi, he’s definitely supportive and these people feel super comfortable with him. It is clear that”.
Editing: Rodrigo Durão Coelho