Ok, so I’ve had a few minutes to digest the Americans for Prosperity endorsement for Nikki Haley. And let me be clear, while I think this endorsement is significant, it is far too early for a postmortem on the DeSantis campaign. In my view, DeSantis is clearly and without question the most capable, competent, and ruthlessly effective chief executive we have seen, perhaps ever, at least in the political sphere. But, as I have written about incessantly, the most powerful force on Earth is the power of the right idea, and DeSantis needs to do a better job of expressing his.
Politics is, at its core, about the power of ideas. And I will add “the art of the possible,” to show solidarity with those loyal to that cliché. But, as I have also written about incessantly, the purpose of a great political party is not simply to defeat the other political party. The purpose of a great political party is to provide superior ideas and, through those superior ideas, superior leadership. Simply being against bad ideas, while easy, isn’t enough. You must be in favor of good ideas.
DeSantis began this primary campaign at an extreme disadvantage. He had so many incredible accomplishments as governor of Florida that at times it almost seemed he did not know where to start. As I wrote at the beginning of his campaign, the right move was not to lead by listing his accomplishments. Instead, he needed to talk about what he wanted to do in the future. Elections are about the future, after all. And, so, in my view, the most important thing a president needs to do in the future is to abolish the IRS and replace the immoral tax code with a lower, flatter, fairer, and simpler tax collection system.
I also wrote here that DeSantis should be pointing out that the former president wasn’t conservative enough, tactical enough, strategic enough, or disciplined enough to navigate the choppy waters of the Washington D.C. swamp and that there’s been no evidence since leaving the White House to demonstrate he would be any better the next time around.
Many of my fellow travelers in the pro-DeSantis wing of the Republican Party support him irrespective of anything his campaign is about. I am sympathetic to that emotion because he is the country’s most impressive public policy leader today. But people like us are not your typical voters. Those of us who spend our time talking to each other on Twitter about how great DeSantis is do not mirror the American body politic, and that includes Republican voters.
Most Republicans, or Democrats for that matter, do not pay any attention at all to policy. They get up each morning, go to work, do what they need to do, come home, do what they need to do, go to bed, wake up again, go to work, wash, rinse, and repeat. (If you’re reading this, that doesn’t describe you.)
It is impossible to predict what will happen in politics tomorrow, let alone next week or month. But it is not hard to know what is important in general. What is generally important in America today is that we are overtaxed and over-regulated and that our government, at every level, costs too much, does too much, and accomplishes too little. The more money we spend on government, the dumber we become as a society. There is a serious opportunity cost in giving the DC bureaucrats our money.
In America, and frankly, all around the world, we need a stronger economy and a freer private-sector enterprise system, leading to more jobs, higher wages, and more prosperity. The presidential candidate who makes that the center of their message and never deviates from it will capture the imagination of most of the voters in this country today.
The good news for DeSantis is that there is still time for him to be that candidate.