Desmond Keuper

After the Silicon Valley Bank collapsed at the end of March, Gov. Ron DeSantis claimed that diversity initiatives were responsible. As governor, the issues he has focused on have included, first and foremost, the passing of bills prohibiting the discussion of queer and race-focused issues in public schools. He has also attempted to deter what he perceives to be the threat of “woke Disney.” Since losing the 2020 election, former President Donald Trump has continued to face severe legal challenges, most notably via the committee appointed to assess his role in an attempted insurrection on Jan. 6 and his indictment concerning a scandal involving writing up money he spent to prevent a porn star from going public with an affair they had as a business expense. Apart from his legal troubles, Trump has also been experiencing difficulty following the collapse of the NFT trading cards he was involved with.

According to Politico, although he has not officially announced his intent, DeSantis and Trump are “favorites” among those who intend to run or have been predicted to run for president on the Republican ticket in 2024.

The issue here is most visible pertaining to Trump. A man who has attempted to incite an insurrection to overturn the results of a democratic election, by most rational accounts, should not be allowed to participate in politics in any serious capacity. A DeSantis presidency would prove disastrous for queer youth, who already have had their rights stripped away due to the legal manifestations of blind fear mongering. But what I want to highlight in this article is how little substance Trump and DeSantis have to offer the American people. At the end of the day, bizarre conspiracy theories, absurd cultural battles and fear mongering over the discussion of queer and racial issues, with some NFT trading cards on top, will not curb anxiety among working-class Republicans over the candidates’ ability to meet their basic needs. Republican voters have been susceptible to politicians’ tendencies to virtue signal over culture-war-centric issues in the past. However, if the 2022 midterms are any indication, a majority of voters will ultimately make their decision on an economic basis rather than on the basis of culture war virtue signaling.

The 2022 midterms saw an immense blue wave, despite Republican predictions of victory. As other op-eds have noted, this was largely due to the Republican tendency to focus on niche cultural issues or conspiracy theories like QAnon that do not pertain seriously to the material interests of most voters. Jacobin Magazine would declare that Republicans had become “Too Weird” for most Americans while Vice would declare that “QAnon Lost the Midterms,” identifying a rejection across the board of Republican candidates too closely associated with the QAnon movement. The extreme line drawn on abortion continues to alienate many moderate voters. Democrats were faced with opponents with little in the way of actual economic change to offer. As unemployment remains a prevalent issue following the pandemic, and as the general cost of living in the United States continues to rise, it becomes more and more clear that voters need economic change. This sort of change is unlikely to come from figures like Trump and DeSantis.

At the end of the day, conservatives want job security, food security and a reasonable cost of living. Some members of the far right will always remain susceptible to conspiracy theories, transphobic fearmongering and empty culture war anxieties. But, as Trump and DeSantis devolve further and further into ridiculousness and as more conservative politicians delude themselves into thinking that by embracing this tactic they will attract voters, the Republican Party will continue to alienate its base. It is worth noting that DeSantis has previously worked to eliminate regulations on medium-sized banks like the Silicon Valley Bank, meaning that he would likely prove inept at handling another similar collapse. Trump raised the national deficit by $6.9 trillion, and his United States-Mexico-Canada agreement has worked to decrease the annual American GDP. The American economy would suffer under either politician. Culture war drama and conspiracy theories are all they have to offer.

I hope that Democrats take advantage of this opportunity. As conservative politicians continue to implement abortion bans that threaten abortion rights following the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, and as conservatives make life miserable for queer youth on the state level, Democrats must take advantage of any power they can obtain as Republicans will most certainly do the same, and, as the Republicans lose power, they will use what power they have left with increased vigor like a cornered animal. Whoever is given the Democratic nomination must present a straightforward economic plan to appeal to working-class voters. In the primaries leading up to the 2016 presidential election, by focusing on economic issues that acutely affected working-class Americans, Bernie Sanders was able to draw a considerable number of Republicans to his base. It is unlikely that Sanders will be running for president in 2024, but whoever is on the Democratic ticket should model their campaign on this basis.

Desmond Keuper is a junior majoring in philosophy.