Opinion | Ron DeSantis Thinks Trump Didn’t Go Nearly Far Enough

“For years, the default conservative position has been to limit government and then get out of the way,” DeSantis writes. Such reticence about using the power of government to fight back against the arrayed forces of the left — including Facebook, Disney, the government, the schools, the media and much else — means “essentially greenlighting these institutions to continue their unimpeded march through society.”

My colleague Carlos Lozada traced many of the critiques of Trump that are threaded through DeSantis’s book, but to his list I’d add one more: DeSantis is saying that Trump, for all his complaints about the “deep state,” shied away from fully using the power of his office to destroy the threatening forces of the left. And DeSantis is trying to show, in vignette after vignette, that he has both the will and the discipline to do what Trump did not. (That Trump is now under federal indictment for, among other things, keeping boxes with classified documents piled in an ornate bathroom and scattered across a storage room floor at Mar-a-Lago, helps DeSantis’s case.)

Trump often appears in DeSantis’s book as a faintly comic figure. When DeSantis requests federal aid after Hurricane Michael devastated the Panhandle, Trump says, according to DeSantis’s recounting, “They love me in the Panhandle. I must have won 90 percent of the vote out there. Huge crowds. What do they need?” It is left to Trump’s chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, to beg DeSantis to delay announcing the aid because Trump “doesn’t even know what he agreed to.”

The Trump that emerges in DeSantis’s anecdotes is overmatched by the details and minutiae of government. That is clearest in DeSantis’s extensive account of his Covid governance, in which he marinates in the details of his response and his decisions while battering away at Dr. Fauci as the personification of biomedical Leviathan. As Lozada observes, this is DeSantis criticizing Trump by proxy — Dr. Fauci served under Trump, and DeSantis is making clear he would have never let that stand. The critique of Trump is not so much that he agreed with Dr. Fauci as that he didn’t care enough to figure out where he disagreed with him and how to bend the state to his will.

And so DeSantis delights in describing the methodical, relentless effort he put in to bending the state of Florida to his will. He describes winning Florida’s governorship and ordering his transition team to “amass an exhaustive list of all the constitutional, statutory, and customary powers of the governor.” Much of the rest of the book is an exhaustive, and at times exhausting, account of how he used them.

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