And maybe, as the political calendar begins winding from this long summer toward the midterms and then the 2024 cycle, conservatives will look back on the last two years and longer and recognize that DeSantis was their leader even while Trump was still in office. It was DeSantis, more than any other governor, who took on the “mantle of anger” over lockdown policies and the broad closure of society. Florida was rewarded with a bigger economic bounce out of the pandemic, and inward migration.
Donald Trump’s currency with some conservative voters was built on his willingness to break taboos. Trump’s playing the media game by his own rules seemed to indicate that he would really deliver on a different type of governance from what was on offer from the usual Bush scions. But in many cases, he wouldn’t or couldn’t.
DeSantis is not a wild man like Trump, but he has been willing to take up conservative causes that other deep-red-state governors (looking at you, Utah and Arkansas) won’t touch at all. And he seems to relish the fight with the media, the corporations, or the bureaucracy — the forces that turn conservative victories into long-run defeats. When conservatives look back on the last few years, who was taking on Dr. Fauci? Or defeating woke indoctrination in schools? Or putting progressive corporate activists back in their place? And who was AWOL on all those fights because he was too busy sulking about drop boxes?