Ron DeSantis made waves Saturday for seemingly calling Trump supporters “listless vessels,” prompting accusations from Trump supporters that DeSantis was attacking the base of the party. But is that actually what DeSantis said?
In an interview with The Florida Standard, DeSantis lamented that there’s a faction within the party that labels anyone who doesn’t unquestionably support Trump as a RINO, regardless of their conservative beliefs, essentially detaching the conservative movement from principles and resulting in favor of loyalty to a personality.
“We have a strand in our in our party that views supporting Trump as whether you are a RINO or not,” he explained. “And so you could be the most conservative person since sliced bread, [but] unless you’re kissing his rear end, they will somehow call you a RINO. So it’s been totally detached from principle in what you actually believe and results.”
DeSantis continued, “So there’ll be people who are huge Trump supporters like in Congress, who have, like, incredibly liberal left-wing records that’s [sic] really just atrocious, and yet they’re viewed as by some of these folks as like really, really good.” He went on to cite Reps. Chip Roy (R-Texas) and Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), who have strong conservative records but face attacks from some Republicans as RINOs because they endorsed DeSantis and not Trump.
“So it’s just been totally detached from any type of substance, and ultimately a movement can’t be about the personality of one individual. The movement has got to be about what are you trying to achieve on behalf of the American people. And that’s got to be based on principle because if you’re not rooted in principle, if all we are is listless vessels that are just supposed to follow whatever happens to come down the pike on Truth Social every morning, that’s not going to be a durable movement.”
Was DeSantis attacking Trump supporters specifically? It doesn’t look that way to me. Frankly, the focus on loyalty to a personality goes back further than Donald Trump. In 2008, GOP primary candidates were constantly invoking Ronald Reagan on the campaign trail and during debates, with their supporters similarly insisting that the candidate they supported was the political heir of Reagan, and all other candidates were shameless RINOs. This Reagan tribalism severely divided the party and ultimately led to Barack Obama’s election. The current Trump tribalism is no different. It threatens to divide the party in a way that could spell political doom in the next election.
This is not to say that the current issue is limited to Trump supporters. Last week, a DeSantis influencer vowed to help Joe Biden get elected in 2024 if Trump isn’t the nominee. The Republican Party can’t afford this kind of division. The 2024 election, like the 2020 election, will be close, likely decided on by a small margin of votes in a few select states. Republicans have to ask themselves if it’s worth putting the country through four more years of left-wing leadership in the White House out of loyalty to a personality over principles.
Make the right decision, folks.