Republican Divide: Testing Limits Of Anti-Wokeness In The US – Analysis


By Vivek Mishra*

The race for the United States (US) national election in 2024 is already becoming crowded. The Governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, finally ended a much-prolonged political indecisiveness—although more for the American voters than for himself—by announcing his bid for the 2024 presidential elections via a Twitter session alongside Elon Musk.

Although the conversation started with a technical glitch on Twitter’s end, it carried the hallmarks of a classic conversation around a different brand of conservative politics in the US than the one represented by Donald Trump. In some ways, it also marked a propping up of DeSantis over Trump by Twitter and Elon Musk, as Donald Trump continues to use Truth Social despite the restoration of his Twitter account by Musk.

This development has sparked a great deal of interest and speculation about how DeSantis compares to former President Donald Trump in two prominent ways. First, whether DeSantis or Trump should be a candidate of choice for running against Joe Biden; and, second, what it means for the Republican Party’s prospects in the upcoming 2024 national elections.

For some time now, the discourse on national elections in the US has identified a space for DeSantis on the political spectrum for personal, political, and administrative reasons. At the individual level, his strong institutional links with Yale and Harvard Universities, and his military background as a former US Navy personnel, position him strongly as an alternative to Donald Trump within the Republican voter base. Politically, he has proven his mettle as an actionable Governor of Florida who has not shied away from taking on big corporations, ushering in strong legislation, and waging a war against ‘Wokeism’ through his Stop Woke Act. However, by announcing that he could pardon the convicts of the 6 January riots, he sought to go beyond Trump.

Great Republican divide 

The announcement of Ron DeSantis’ presidential bid as the Republican Party candidate has set the stage for an intriguing comparison with former President Donald Trump. While both candidates share some similarities in their assertive styles and conservative values, they also have notable differences in their approach, experience, and policy priorities.

DeSantis’ socially awkward but measured demeanour, his policy-driven focus, and his tough punitive policies contrast with Trump’s confrontational rhetoric and outsider status. Trump’s failure to deliver on the border wall with Mexico and his elevation of Dr Anthony S. Fauci at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic will likely be sold by DeSantis as Trump’s failures, especially in contrast to his politically conservative yet popular decisions in Florida on issues of abortion and educational reforms.

Furthermore, DeSantis’ track record as a Congressman and Governor provides him with valuable governance experience, distinguishing him from Trump’s lack of state-level politics. This experience accords DeSantis with a solid foundation in governance and a decisive voter base. It also positions him as a conventional candidate within the Republican Party as compared to Trump’s unconventional outsider status.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on the US, and both DeSantis and Trump have faced scrutiny for their handling of the crisis. Trump faced criticism for downplaying the severity of the virus early on, while DeSantis has been applauded by some for his efforts in reopening Florida’s economy quickly. However, he has also faced criticism for his opposition to strict mitigation measures. Although many believe that DeSantis’ COVID-19 gamble paid off, his contrasting approach to the pandemic compared to Trump’s will likely play a significant role in shaping public opinion and determining voter support.

While both DeSantis and Trump are aligned with conservative values, they differ in their messaging and policy priorities. Trump’s “America First” agenda emphasised issues such as immigration, trade, and national security. In contrast, DeSantis has focused on issues such as economic growth, education reform, and law and order. His policies reflect a more traditional Republican platform with an emphasis on conservative principles, albeit with his own unique policy proposals.

Donald Trump’s unorthodox campaign style and populist appeal attracted a significant base of loyal supporters during his presidency. His ability to connect with disaffected voters and speak to their concerns contributed to his electoral success. Ron DeSantis, with his more conventional approach and policy-driven focus, may be able to broaden the Republican Party’s appeal beyond Trump’s base. His style might be more palatable to moderate and independent voters, potentially increasing the party’s chances in the national elections.

Ron DeSantis’ entry into the presidential race carries significant implications for the Republican Party’s chances in the 2024 national elections. If DeSantis can leverage his track record, attract a wider range of voters, and strike a balance between conservative principles and broader appeal, he could present a compelling alternative to both Trump loyalists and moderate Republicans. This would position the Republican Party to expand its reach and potentially attract more diverse support, strengthening its chances of electoral success.

By striking a balance between conservative principles and wider appeal, DeSantis could position the party for electoral success in 2024. The competition between the two candidates will undoubtedly shape the future direction of the Republican Party and its electoral prospects in 2024. 


If anti-wokeness refers to the opposition or resistance to progressive social justice movements and ideologies, particularly those related to issues such as race, gender, and social equality, Republican candidates could compete for support within their party and may seek to appeal to segments of the population that are critical of or resistant to these progressive movements. The political divide in the Republican Party characterised by Ron DeSantis and Donald Trump, stretched also with independent presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy, could test the limits of anti-woke sentiments as the US nears its presidential elections in November 2024. 

In July this year, Elon Musk declared that if DeSantis runs against Biden in 2024, the former will win without a campaign. The road may not be as easy for DeSantis as declared by Musk. He faces a great challenge from his fellow Republican and former president Donald Trump who currently is in the lead in the latest polls. Besides, DeSantis faces opposition and backlash for his decisions that have especially impacted women and black voters.

A recent poll has shown that women across the US have opposed at least six legislations by DeSantis: Making abortion illegal after six weeks of pregnancy; removing books from K-12 libraries flagged as inappropriate; banning college majors and minors in Critical Race Theory (CRT); ending the college diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programme; banning college majors and minors in gender studies as well as radical feminist and queer theories, and allowing individuals to carry concealed guns without a permit or training.

The final battle within the Republican Party for an upper hand could well be undergirded by the sentiments of who is more woke a candidate between Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis. Trump’s laying the blame at DeSantis’s door for Disney’s ‘woke’ descent in Florida and the latter’s anti-woke legislations have set the stage for the same.

*About the author: Vivek Mishra is a Fellow with the Strategic Studies Programme at the Observer Research Foundation

Source: This article was published by the Observer Research Foundation

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