The Daily Telegraph - Saturday

Joe Biden’s Democrats are talentless, extreme – and about to face a reckoning

- Vanity Fair lèse-majesté

The worst-kept secret in American politics is out: Ron DeSantis is running for president. For months, the governor of Florida has been eyeing up the opportunit­y of running as the Republican nominee. He has done all of the things you need to do – including a trip to the UK last month. He has also sat it out quietly as his main rival – Donald J Trump – has taken potshots at him.

It was an unenviable position for a putative candidate to have been in. Most polls show Trump way ahead of the other candidates among Republican voters. Despite – or because of – his legal troubles, he has settled at around twice the polling of his nearest rival. A poll this week showed Trump as first choice for 53 per cent of Republican-leaning voters and DeSantis at 26 per cent. Other contenders linger on single digits.

Some have taken such polls to suggest that Trump is unassailab­le. But all of them were taken before DeSantis was actually running. Now he has declared his candidacy, several things will happen. The first is that the Left’s attacks on him will heat up. This week headlined a piece suggesting that DeSantis would happily share a platform with neoNazi sympathise­rs to launch his campaign. He should expect more of this, and it won’t hurt him at all on his own side. Republican voters have been through – and seen through – political hit jobs of this kind for years now.

The second thing is that DeSantis now has the opportunit­y to lay out what he would do in the Oval office. At this week’s online Twitter launch with Elon Musk, the governor managed to get into detailed policy as well as broad direction of travel announceme­nts. But the third thing is that now DeSantis can – and should – respond to Trump’s barrage against him.

For months, Trump has been attacking DeSantis by trying out nicknames on him (the most inane being “Ron DeSanctimo­nious”, which doesn’t even fit the target). He has also started to try to criticise DeSantis’s record.

This is an unwise move. As governor of Florida, DeSantis has overseen a massive amount of growth in his state. Florida has become the number one destinatio­n in America for people fleeing Democrat-run, crime-ridden cities. During Covid, DeSantis took the bold decision to avoid locking down and was proved right. Furthermor­e, he has not only picked culture war battles but has also won them.

As a result, when DeSantis was asked about Trump’s recent attacks on him yesterday, he had the chance to point out that it is strange to be attacked by Trump from his Left. In an open debate between Trump and DeSantis, the former may revert to his bully-boy tactics, but the latter has achievemen­ts to run on.

In any case, all this means that the Republican primary has become interestin­g. The party now has an opportunit­y to have meaningful policy and direction-of-travel discussion­s – not least the question of whether the party wants to keep looking back to the 2020 election (which Trump still claims to have won) or forward to actually winning the next election.

It is a healthy position for a party to be in. The vibrancy of the debate within the American Right might be fruitfully contrasted with the lack of anything similar among their British counterpar­ts.

But the bigger comparison is with the state of the Democrat party.

Last month Joe Biden released a video announcing his plan to run for re-election in 2024. The 80-year-old president is already the oldest man to have held that office, and it is not a reflection on everyone his age simply to note that Biden does not always seem to be up to the job. Though his vice-president, Kamala Harris, appeared in the launch video, she did not speak. The clear intimation was that Harris just could not be unstuck from the ticket so may as well stay along for the ride.

The only Democrat to have announced that they wish to challenge Biden is Robert F Kennedy Jr. In some polls he has been as close to Biden for the Democrat nomination as DeSantis is to Trump. But Kennedy is an outlier, someone who has picked up a certain amount of notice not just because of America’s love of dynastic politics, or his own often idiosyncra­tic views, but because nobody in the true mainstream of the party is challengin­g Biden.

In part that is because to try to kill the king at this moment would be seen as an act of within the party. The assassin would not be rewarded. But the bigger problem for the Democrats is that, if you get rid of

Gavin Newsom managed to ruin San Francisco as mayor before trying the same policies on a state-wide canvas as governor

Biden, you have to jump down a generation from those who have held the party in their grip for so long.

As Americans have been reminded from seeing Senator Dianne Feinstein wheeled into the chamber at the age of 89, the Democrats have a generation­al problem. Biden, Feinstein, Nancy Pelosi and others have controlled their party for a long time – too long for its own good. One result of this is that, while the Republican­s can go down a generation and find plenty of talent (not least DeSantis, Senator Tim Scott and Governor Glenn Youngkin), the Democrats have a talent drought.

Nothing seems to grow below Biden. There was a time when Secretary of State Anthony Blinken was talked about as a successor. But the American electorate have hardly seen Blinken for the past two and a half years. Any foreign policy credit that can be picked up – and there is precious little of it – has been picked up by the president.

Just about the only name being bandied about to take up the Democrat mantle is Gavin Newsom, the governor of California. By contrast with DeSantis in Florida, Newsom presides over a state where 1 per cent of the population were chased out in a single year. They are leaving the state not just because of the high tax burden but because of the disintegra­tion of the cities.

Newsom managed to ruin San Francisco as mayor before trying the same policies on a state-wide canvas as governor. He may be one of the only talked-about successors to Biden, but he would be the most talkedTo about candidate imaginable for the Republican­s. If Newsom ever runs for the presidency, you can expect plenty of Republican commercial­s focusing on any one of his state’s filthy, zombie-ridden, crime-infested and tent-encamped streets.

As things stand, there is a significan­t ideas battle going on across the American Right and none at all on the American Left. Biden ran as a unifying moderate, but has governed as an anti-Republican – specifical­ly an anti-Trump – Leftist. The Democrats who exist under him seem to spend most of their time trying to both pander to, and not get destroyed by, the extremists on their own side.

Newsom himself recently set up a taskforce to look into the paying of reparation­s to descendant­s of slaves in California. The group came back with a recommenda­tion that billions of dollars should be paid to black Americans in the state for such crimes as “overpolici­ng”. Even Newsom has had to distance himself from the monster he created.

He, Biden and other Democrats are hoping that the Republican­s run Donald Trump as their candidate in 2024, so that they can spend their campaign simply pointing at him and reminding voters that they are not Trump.

But if the Republican­s choose wisely and well, the Democrats could yet be robbed of that opportunit­y and the one reason they have to ask the public to return them to office.

Douglas Murray’s latest book

‘The War on the West’ is now out in paperback

 ?? ?? Ron DeSantis’s entry into the race has made the Republican­s interestin­g. The contrast with their opponents couldn’t be more striking
Ron DeSantis’s entry into the race has made the Republican­s interestin­g. The contrast with their opponents couldn’t be more striking

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