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Is Trump or DeSantis worse? Yes


I think John Ganz is correct that the question of whether Trump or DeSantis is “worse” is the wrong question, even if you concede that Trump’s derivative of Mussolini and DeSantis’s derivative of Orbán and Putin are not exactly the same:

As for who is worse between Trump and DeSantis, as Stalin remarked when asked wether the Left or Right opposition was worse, I would say, “they are both worse.” Trump’s wild flouting of the rule of law is deeply troubling, but so is DeSantis institutional steamroller. Historically, most fascist movements failed and the states they did produce flamed out, but authoritarian conservative regimes lasted a good deal longer. I think the question of who is worse is not quite the right one. The fact of the matter is, as Linker admits, we now have at least two flavors of the authoritarian radical right in the U.S. I think we should think instead in terms of what the sociologist Michael Mann calls an “authoritarian right family,” of which fascism is just one branch: “Fascists were nurtured among the authoritarian rightists and continued to have close family relations with them. As in all families, their relationships could involve love or hatred.” This family often shares personnel and ideas, but also has seriously internal disputes over strategy, tactics, and philosophy. The emergence of distinctly fascist movements pushed more traditional authoritarian conservatives to radicalize their appeals in order to compete with and co-opt fascist energy.

While much is made of their rivalry, Trump and DeSantis should be viewed as part of single political process: Trump opens a wider political field for DeSantis, who now appears more normal and less alarming than Trump, and therefore an acceptable compromise. We can already see this happening with things like Linker’s column or John McWhorter’s recent column approving of some things he has done. This is not to cry bloody murder and accuse them of “normalization.” Let’s try to take an objective rather than moral stance here and view our roles as political writers as part of a larger social mechanism. We should take all this as evidence of an accomplished fact that we already know: DeSantis is already normalized and acceptable to sections of the conservative elite, even those who are ambivalent or opposed to the present state of the right:Well, he’s bad but at least he’s not Trump. I can sleep at night.” This might tell us something about the maturity of right-authoritarian politics in America: they are no longer about throwing themselves headlong in desperate, insurrectionary gambles for power, but now are more methodically integrating themselves into the normal legitimating and ruling apparatus.

The fact that anti-Trump conservatives like Linker and McWhorter are already saying that DeSantis would be an improvement over Trump is a demonstration in itself that he’s at least as dangerous.

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