To judge by several early polls, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida has a decent shot of beating former President Donald Trump in the race to win the Republican presidential nomination in 2024. Some liberals have pronounced this terrible news — because, they say, a DeSantis presidency would be just as awful as, and perhaps even worse than, a second Trump term.
This is wrong. A DeSantis presidency would be bad in many ways, and my fellow liberals should fight with all they have to prevent it. But Mr. DeSantis almost certainly would not be worse than Mr. Trump.
Exaggerating the threat posed by the Florida governor could inadvertently increase Mr. Trump’s prospects in the Republican primaries. And if Mr. DeSantis does get the nomination, progressive overreaction toward him in the primary contest could ultimately undermine the case against him in the general election.
The case against Mr. DeSantis is rooted in his policy commitments. During his time as Florida’s chief executive, he has governed from the hard right, taking aggressive aim at voting rights, pursuing politicized prosecutions, restricting what can be taught in public schools and universities, strong-arming private businesses, using refugees as human props to score political points and engaging in flagrant demagogy about vaccines. Before that, as a congressman, he supported cuts to Social Security and Medicare and voted for a bill that would have severely weakened Obamacare. All of that provides ample reason to rally against him should he end up as the Republican nominee in 2024.
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