As the opening round of the 2024 presidential campaign kicked off Wednesday night with the first Republican debate, Tuesday’s lead New York Times story was a 7,500-word investigative epic by Nicholas Confessore, Times reporter and MSNBC political analyst, on the highest polling Republican on the lectern that night.
The mission was clear from the headline: 2024 presidential candidate, Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, was an elitist hypocrite. “How Ron DeSantis Joined the ‘Ruling Class’ -- and Turned Against It,” it read.
Early last year, Gov. Ron DeSantis nestled into his chair onstage in Naples, Fla., to explain to an audience of the would-be conservative elite his journey through the reigning liberal one they hoped to destroy. His host was Larry P. Arnn, the president of Hillsdale College, a small Christian school in southern Michigan that has become an academic hub of the Trump-era right. His subject was Yale University, where Mr. DeSantis was educated and where, as he tells it, he first met the enemy.
Yet DeSantis also took advantage of the opportunities the Yale brand got him. Confessore found hypocrisy in DeSantis’s garden-variety populism, though to be fair his summary of DeSantis’s stand wasn’t bad.
Mr. DeSantis, 44, is not the first Republican politician of his generation to rail against his own Ivy League degrees while milking them for access and campaign cash. But now, as he seeks the Republican presidential nomination, he is molding his entire campaign and political persona around a vengeful war against what he calls the country’s “ruling class”: an incompetent, unaccountable elite of bureaucrats, journalists, educators and other supposed “experts” whose pernicious and unearned authority the governor has vowed to vanquish.
The reporter tried to portray DeSantis’s clawing back of “woke” activism as a countervailing conservative orthodoxy in itself.
Confessore, who tried to link former Fox News host Tucker Carlson to the racist massacre in a Buffalo supermarket in an epic May 2022 story, liberally salted this epic with insults:
….He was far from the only public school graduate in Yale’s freshman class, but he already carried a chip on his shoulder, caught between a powerful confidence in his own gifts -- his “superiority complex,” as one classmate described it -- and his discomfort with Yale’s more cosmopolitan milieu….
He went so far as to downplay DeSantis being elected captain of his baseball team: No one else was available!
As a senior, Mr. DeSantis was elected captain, which his closest Yale friends have sometimes presented as a testament to his leadership qualities. According to other former teammates, however, there were no other contenders: The team had few seniors that year, and Mr. DeSantis was a starting outfielder. His arrogance could startle….
Confessore relayed some lurid details of the “hell week” held by DeSantis’s old fraternity which, if applied in nonpartisan fashion by the press, would surely embarrass a good number of sitting politicians. He uncovered a bogus insight into DeSantis’s psyche:
….Today, some of the former brothers and pledges regard Mr. DeSantis’s behavior as foreshadowing a comfort with power -- and with using it to bully others.
Confessore claimed DeSantis played centrist for a while as governor and gave him a little credit for bucking overzealous Covid conventional wisdom and reopening schools in fall 2020 while liberal jurisdictions kept them shuttered.
Then it was back to cynical labeling slant against DeSantis.
….The conflict thrust Mr. DeSantis to the culture war’s front lines, and he would repeat the playbook over and over, with a blitz of hard-edge school and curriculum policies that outraged many liberals and endeared him to the grass-roots right.