Reporters often cover political campaigns, particularly crowded intraparty primaries in which there’s a lot of activity, using the language of battles and games—writing about gambits, bids, salvos, returning fire and so forth. This can be clichéd and reductive, but it makes basic sense given that political positions are often adopted strategically. One candidate endorses single-payer health care; another comes out against it; a third looks to differentiate their campaign by endorsing a “public option.”
The 2024 Republican primary, at the moment, is what you might describe as a cold war between former president Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Trump declared his candidacy in November, but hasn’t actively campaigned, while DeSantis hasn’t declared yet despite being urged by some prominent Republicans to run. They are nonetheless, polls show, the only two relevant candidates or potential candidates in the race, and have not been on friendly terms recently.
DeSantis’s m.o. as a public figure is making symbolic, controversial gestures. Earlier this year he attempted to revoke Disney’s special tax status to punish it for criticizing a bill he supported. In 2021, he appointed, as state surgeon general, a doctor who had recently appeared at an anti-vaccine event whose other featured guests included a Houston woman who believes that humanoid lizards control the government and that gynecological problems can be caused by demon sperm. (Really.)
Donald Trump, meanwhile, is Donald Trump. You/we know all about this guy. The point is, the salvos and gambits in the 2024 primary are going to be considerably more insane than, like, Amy Klobuchar taking a compromise position on how much to raise tax rates on individuals who earn more than $400,000 a year.
This week, for example, DeSantis announced that he is petitioning Florida’s state supreme court to impanel a grand jury investigation into “crimes and wrongdoing committed against Floridians related to the COVID-19 vaccine.” He also announced the formation of a “Public Health Integrity Committee” which will “assess” (i.e. disagree with) “federal public health recommendations and guidance.” Florida is already the only state which does not recommend children receive COVID vaccines.
On Thursday, Trump returned fire by, ah, announcing that he is selling a “digital trading card collection,” i.e., NFTs, at the price of $99 per card. The announcement was made via an infomercial-style pitch video advertised on an infomercial-style webpage, CollectTrumpCards.com. (The initial run is sold out, though the cards can be purchased on resale markets.) The images depict Trump, variously, as a superhero and cowboy and astronaut and so forth, and also, in one get-up that was not photoshopped with the greatest level of attention to detail, a guy who is at the opera or something:
You can still see the white space around his head!
Purchases also enter customers into a “sweepstakes” with alleged prizes like playing golf with Trump or speaking to him on Zoom.
“Needlessly contracting a communicable disease in Florida” versus “paying $99 or more to enter a Florida-based sweepstakes”—what a choice, for Republican primary voters, and for America. And we’re just getting started!