There are moments when one might wonder if President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis are running for president or for messiah.
At the recent CPAC conference in Washington, D.C., the former president proclaimed to the sparsely attended gathering of right-wing activists, “I am your warrior. I am your justice. And for those who have been wronged and betrayed, I am your retribution.”
That kind of speechifying echoes the strongman rhetoric favored by fascist dictators, but it also has an Old Testament resonance; the vengeful, God-anointed king raised up to battle the forces of worldly wickedness.
The “God picked me” talk was even more explicit in a DeSantis television campaign ad last year when the Florida governor was running for reelection. In the video touting DeSantis, an announcer declared, “And on the eighth day, God looked down on his planned paradise and said, ‘I need a protector.’ “
Apart from making God sound like the developer of a fancy retirement community in Orlando, the ad definitely implied that DeSantis is the Chosen One of the Lord.
DeSantis may not actually believe he has been called to rule by a higher power (unless that means big-money GOP donors). Trump, by contrast, very likely thinks he is bigger than Jesus. More significantly, both know the path to the Republican presidential nomination runs through the evangelical churches of America whose members voted 80% for Trump in 2020.
The disturbing thing is that many of those evangelicals, particularly those who are part of the Christian nationalist or Patriot Church movement, would be eager to back a candidate with dictatorial tendencies (and, in Trump’s case, a very un-Christian personal morality), as long as he employs his unchecked power to ban abortions, suppress LGBTQ rights and assert that the United States is, once and for all, a Christian nation.
For those of us who favor democracy, however flawed it may be, a competent, ethical politician will do just fine. No messiahs need apply.
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