After widespread disappointment in the 2022 midterm election results, neoconservatives are jumping on the Gov. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., bandwagon, hopeful that he will lead a Republican Party without former President Donald J. Trump.
Idealists who pushed a globally-managed new world order after the Cold War, neocons advocated failed nation-building around the world, compromised domestically with tax-and-spend neoliberals, contentedly ceded control of cultural politics to the radical left, and ended up a dainty, bow-tied coterie of controlled opposition subsumed by Washington’s ossified elite.
After the 2020 election, many neocons presumed that rank-and-file Republicans would automatically come to their senses and restore them to leadership as a matter of course.
Instead, Trump remained the aggrieved heart and soul of the Republican Party, which proceeded to drive the few remaining neocons in active political life into virtual oblivion.
Unappreciated by anyone but themselves, and conditioned by bitter experience to accept losing as a default position, many now reject the "neoconservative" label altogether.
Some can even be found in the Biden administration, perhaps compliantly announcing their pronouns when prompted by Vice President Kamala Harris.
In such a post-Trump party, neocons appear to believe they might again find a respected, and perhaps even leading, place.
David French, for one, tweeted after the election that he has "no doubt which [of Trump or DeSantis] is better for the nation and for the GOP."
David Frum, once a high-level George W. Bush administration official who has been reduced to writing for The Atlantic, publicly urged DeSantis to get more aggressive about seizing the leadership mantle from Trump, arguing that "if DeSantis is in the game now, he has to play now."
Bill Kristol, neoconservatism’s managing director, is also spoiling for a fight for the soul of the party. "He’s gonna have to confront the madman head on," he tweeted of DeSantis vs. Trump, "for a stiff-armed mano a mano."
It doesn't seem to have occurred to the neocon commentariat that a Republican civil war in the 2024 primary could be so destructive that whoever wins may emerge battered and overspent enough to allow an 82-year old Joe Biden to stumble into a second term.
Nor do they appear to realize that while Trump will carry his large corps of supporters, DeSantis will have to share the non-Trump Republican vote with however many other primary candidates throw their hats into the ring.
A possible result of this is that Trump will sweep the primaries with the same pluralities he won in 2016.
Perhaps worst of all, neocons fail to see that Trump and DeSantis have virtually no significant policy differences, and that the Florida governor shares the former president’s views on social and cultural politics, which are at odds with neocon beliefs.
The true neocon, however, doesn’t care as long as his own "relevance" is back in play.
As long as it’s not led by Trump, even a losing party offers hope and at least a glimpse of power somewhere down the line, or within the controlled opposition neocons already inhabit.
A winning party led by DeSantis, however, promises the opportunity to fall at the young governor’s feet to offer him their unequaled "wisdom" and decades of "expertise," wrapped up in the sickening platitudes of Beltway flattery.
If DeSantis is triumphant in 2024, let us hope he sees through them.
Paul du Quenoy is president of the Palm Beach Freedom Institute.
Paul du Quenoy is president of the Palm Beach Freedom Institute. He holds a Ph.D. in history from Georgetown University. Read more — Here.
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