Ron DeSantis And The Banality Of Evil

Ron DeSantis: the poster boy for the banality of evil.

In his own way, Florida governor Ron DeSantis is remarkable – for being unremarkable. Is it really so surprising that the further Ron steps onto the national stage, the more unlikely it becomes that he’ll ever be president?

The more we learn about Ron and his twisted views of history, science, justice and life, the smaller he gets. While it would be easy and satisfying to paint Ron with the broadest brush possible, doing that would miss who he really is and the threat he genuinely poses.

Ron’s not stupid. In fact, he’s hard proof that both Harvard and Yale graduate mediocrity all the time. That’s the thing about Ron. He’s got skills. He does know how to work hard and succeed.

In his early days, he was a great student, graduating magna cum laude from Yale. He did well at Harvard Law, too. Joined the US Navy in 2004 – not so much as a “fightin’ man” but as a litigatin’ one. The Navy made Ron an officer (though not a gentleman) and assigned him to the Navy Judge Advocate General’s Corps (JAG).  

In the spring of 2006, DeSantis arrived at Joint Task Force Guantanamo (JTF-GTMO). He worked directly with detainees at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.

In fall 2007, DeSantis deployed to Iraq. He served as legal adviser to Dane Thorleifson, the SEAL Commander of the Special Operations Task Force-West in Fallujah.

DeSantis thrived in the military. Over the course of his soldiering career, he won the Bronze Star Medal, the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, and the Iraq Campaign Medal.

To give Ron his due, he has served America. We cannot take that away from him. Apparently, he also was a hell of a baseball player. He was part of the Dunedin National team that made it to the 1991 Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

That Was Then, This Is Now

The young DeSantis may have harbored perverse Christo-fascist thoughts, but at least he had the good sense to keep them to himself. These days, he sees this authoritarian spew as his talking points and campaign rhetoric. Ron’s latest proud accomplishment? He got Florida’s Department of Education to downplay slavery – because (apparently) everyone did it, and because slavery (somehow) benefited slaves even as it enslaved them.

That’s some serious gaslighting bullshit there. White racists aren’t good at much, but they’re all surprisingly good at gaslighting.

Alas, for Ron, outside of Florida, his uber-Christian schtick dies a terrible death. Outside of his home state, Ron’s as popular as a polyp up your ass. He’s losing supporters and – more importantly – he’s lost the faith of the donors. Hell, despite the fact that Ron’s only real rival – Donald Trump – faces mounting legal issues, lawyer Ron thinks Trump’s the victim of a witch hunt.

When Jack Smith drops evidence-based truth bomb after truth bomb after truth bomb, Ron’s take won’t age terribly well. How can a former government lawyer fail to see the rule of law when it’s this clear. More importantly, why is lawyer Ron pooh-poohing evidence he hasn’t seen yet?

See what I mean about name brand institutions graduating people who undermine their own institutional brands?

Think Harvard will end up pointing to Ron as one of their “proud graduates”?

Talentless, No Character & Banal

What makes Ron dangerous is his own profound ineffectiveness. His outright mediocrity. Those are his saving graces, too. For all his terrible ambitions, Ron lacks the wherewithal and the skills to get anywhere near them. But, even a man as talentless, lacking in character and banal as Ron can find themselves stretched.

Mediocre people will naturally gravitate toward each other and toward mediocre leaders because only other mediocrities can fully appreciate each other. And, Ron DeSantis is nothing if not profoundly mediocre.

Philosopher Hannah Arendt coined the term “banality of evil” more or less to describe Nazi and Hitler acolyte Adolph Eichmann.

Arendt found Eichmann ordinary, rather bland. He was a “bureaucrat who was ‘neither perverted nor sadistic’, but ‘terrifyingly normal’. “He acted without any motive other than to diligently advance his career in the Nazi bureaucracy. Eichmann was not an amoral monster, [Arendt] concluded in her study of the case, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil (1963). Instead, he performed evil deeds without evil intentions, a fact connected to his ‘thoughtlessness’, a disengagement from the reality of his evil acts.

The irony is that Ron really does epitomize the current state of Republican politics. He appears to be a kinder, gentler version of Trump; he absolutely isn’t. He has no use for democracy if democracy won’t elect him and people like him.

Remember the Nazis who marched on Charlottesville, back in 2016? “Jews will not replace us” is the battle cry of mediocre white people who (apparently) feel unable to compete in the real world. That flows from the same place as Ron’s hatred for all things “woke”.

By “woke”, Ron means “empathetic”.

Ron wants to make Florida the least “woke” state in America. Meaning the least empathetic state in America. What will being that unempathetic mean? It won’t mean Florida’s a great place to live or raise a family or even do business. Just ask the Walt Disney company or Carnival Cruise Lines.

Ron’s own campaign staff keep telling him to “act more human” before his run completely implodes.

In order for Ron to act more human, first he’d have to be more human. And, being human isn’t one of Ron’s skill sets.

Being banal – that is one of Ron’s skills. It’s his main skill, too. Unfortunately for Ron, it’s not one that wins a lot of elections. Don’t get me wrong: Ron could thrive inside Florida and Florida politics for a long time. But, at no time, when Ron’s doing that, will he be interested in (and fighting for) the working class.

That sleight of hand is part of what makes Ron so utterly and profoundly mediocre.

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