Perhaps no politician has taken the reins from Trump with more vigor — and disastrous effects — than Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, a man who thinks he could be the next Republican president. But to supplant the last leader of his party, he has to out-Trump Trump.
To accomplish this meteoric rise, he needed to do two things. First, become the darling of the Trump freedom fighters, fighting for the right to get sick and die. And second, he has to be the opposite of the establishment, in this case Joe Biden and his administration. If Biden swerves left, DeSantis must swerve right, even if the hospitals in his state are overrun and the funeral parlors reach capacity.
It hasn’t necessarily been easy for DeSantis to bait Biden. As The New York Times reported in March, Biden’s top advisers said they saw “no benefits in waging a culture war against Republican governors while they are fighting to contain the pandemic.”
But as the Delta variant became more of a threat and people like DeSantis became more entrenched, waging war against mask mandates in their states, Biden had no choice but to engage more directly. (Luckily, a Florida judge rejected DeSantis’s mask ban on Friday.)
Enticing Biden into open battle is what DeSantis wants and needs. It takes attention off the unbelievable tragedy playing out in his state, a tragedy in which he is complicit.