We can start by helping them look beyond the way-too-early polls. Yes, they show Trump’s popularity is plunging among Republicans. But the seemingly huge 56 percent-to-33 percent lead that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has over Trump in the new USA Today/Suffolk University poll means little. DeSantis is little known, and voters mainly are just projecting their own desires onto his blank slate. It just indicates voters’ early interest in a non-Trump conservative.
It also reflects the fact that DeSantis has a talent for telling his Florida voters what they want to hear. Consider his COVID-era leadership. When then-President Trump was proudly pushing the then-new vaccine, DeSantis stumped his state to do so, too. In December 2020, DeSantis told cameras at Tampa General Hospital: “I have the privilege of being able to actually sign for the vaccines from FedEx.” In February 2021, he said on Fox News: “Today is the day we’re going to hit over 2 million senior vaccines.” Days later, at a school gymnasium, DeSantis bragged that vaccination in Florida was “almost 50 percent statewide — that’s MUCH better than almost 45 or 46 other states.”
But then polls showed Trump’s Republican base was turning anti-vaccine — and DeSantis raced ahead to lead the anti-vax parade.
All of us have seen the violence that pandering foments — from the Jan. 6 insurrection to the shooting of Republican congressmen on a ballfield and the bashing attack at the home of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
So we need to remind our conservative friends that they must search carefully to discover Republicans who aren’t afraid to tell truth to power — and to you, the people. That’s just what Georgia’s conservative Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger did when they courageously rejected Trump’s flailing attempt to get them to declare that they had found enough votes to turn Trump’s 2020 defeat into a victory.
We’ve all heard Trump’s abhorrent recorded pleading: “So look, all I want you to do is this: I just want you to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have. Because we won the state, and flipping the state is a great testament to our country. … And there’s nothing wrong with saying that, you know, that you’ve recalculated, because the 2,236 absentee ballots, I mean, they’re all exact numbers that were, were done by accounting firms, law firms, etc. …”
But you probably don’t recall Raffensperger’s law-abiding refusal: “Well, Mr. President, the challenge that you have is the data you have is wrong.”
Georgians resoundingly reelected both men who stood strong against Trump. The courage that Kemp and Raffensperger displayed was the quality our friends never saw in their leaders. It’s what we need to help each other find as we all seek to make America great again.