Florida Gov. Ron Desantis has finally announced his candidacy for the White House—on Elon Musk’s Twitter, much to the consternation of the establishment media. After a number of glitches and false starts and stops, DeSantis spent most of the conversation, held with author and entrepreneur David Sacks, lashing out against censorship on digital platforms and highlighting his “anti-woke” bonafides. He also touted his performance during the COVID-19 pandemic; DeSantis was among the first governors to lift lockdown orders.
During the conversation, DeSantis’ primary focus seemed to be his efforts against the “woke,” a major sticking point in the ongoing culture war between conservatives and progressives. He referenced his ongoing feud with Disney, which began when the company criticized DeSantis’s Parental Rights in Education Act that prohibits instruction on gender identity and sexuality for students under eight years old. He also talked about how he wanted to ensure kids are “not going to be roadkill in some type of woke Olympics where they didn’t fit some category, and so they’re denied opportunity.” The theme came up again and again in a myriad ways—and not just on Twitter.
Later in the night, DeSantis appeared on Fox News with host Trey Gowdy, during which he discussed his stance on several issues. Yet even there, he seemed laser-focused on the “woke” issue. “The woke mind virus is basically a form of cultural Marxism,” DeSantis said. “At the end of the day, it’s an attack on the truth. And because it’s a war on truth, I think we have no choice but to wage a war on woke.”
Again, wokeness took center stage. Even when Gowdy asked DeSantis how he would handle the situation in Ukraine, the governor immediately responded by saying he would address wokeness in the military and eliminate “gender ideology” within its ranks because “people don’t want to join a woke military.” He eventually said he did not want American troops involved in the conflict between with Russia, but said nothing about whether the United States should be sending billions of dollars to Ukraine—a topic of major concern to many voters, especially Republican voters.
Of course, it’s not surprising that DeSantis is making this pitch. In recent years, the term “anti-woke” has gained significant popularity among conservative politicians and pundits, and no one has embraced this label more prominently than Gov. Ron DeSantis. He has positioned himself as a vocal opponent of what many perceive as the encroachment of radical leftist ideology into various aspects of society.
But while this stance may resonate with conservatives, basing an entire brand on being “anti-woke” is not enough to appeal to working-class folks grappling with pressing economic concerns—who more and more represent the real base of the Republican Party.
DeSantis’ focus on combating the promotion of transgender ideology and critical race theory in schools has garnered attention and support from conservatives, who view these issues as threats to their values and principles. And many of the issues DeSantis and other conservatives have raised are valid. Polling shows that most on the Left and the Right are against sexually inappropriate materials being included in school libraries and the classroom. Indeed, a majority of Democrats supported what leftists falsely labeled the “Don’t Say Gay Bill.”
But still, it is crucial to recognize that the concerns of the working class extend beyond cultural debates. Rising inflation, higher gas prices, and increased grocery costs are having a big and a tangible impact on the everyday lives of conservative voters, and simply being anti-woke does not adequately address these economic challenges.
And so far, Team DeSantis has not articulated much of an answer to these concerns.
The working class constitutes a significant portion of Republican voters, and their concerns should not be overlooked or overshadowed by cultural battles. Issues such as stagnant wages, job security, affordable healthcare, affordable housing, and access to quality education are at the forefront of their minds. These are the bread-and-butter issues that impact one’s ability to provide for one’s families and secure a better future.
To win over the support of the working class, DeSantis must go beyond his anti-woke rhetoric and offer tangible solutions to economic concerns.
He is after all running against a pro in that department. Former President Donald Trump’s appeal to working-class voters during his political campaigns was an enormous component in his electoral success. Trump effectively tapped into the frustrations and concerns of many working-class Americans, particularly in Rust Belt states and economically struggling regions.
His messaging centered around bringing back manufacturing jobs, revitalizing industries, and protecting American workers from outsourcing and unfair trade practices. Trump positioned himself as a champion of the working class, promising to prioritize their interests and revive the American economy.
Moreover, Trump’s straightforward and unfiltered communication style resonated with many working-class voters who felt ignored or marginalized by the political establishment. His use of plain language and relatable rhetoric, often delivered in his signature rallies, helped create a sense of connection and authenticity.
To put it simply, Trump spoke their language.
DeSantis has not yet shown that he can appeal to working-class voters as Trump has. To be fair, he has outlined his stance on illegal immigration, COVID policy, and other issues. But one would have thought he would have spoken to people’s economic concerns as he threw his hat into the ring, being that it is the top issue for both Republican and Democratic voters.
It’s time for DeSantis to wake up and realize that if he wants a shot at winning the GOP nomination and the White House, he’s going to have to do a lot more than assure people that he is “anti-woke.”
Jeff Charles is the host of “A Fresh Perspective” podcast and a contributor for RedState and Liberty Nation.
The views in this article are the writer’s own.