America First: The New Chapter

A remarkable and revealing conversation took place recently in South Carolina between a self-described “very hardcore Trump supporter” and Gov. Ron DeSantis.

At a DeSantis town hall, the concerned woman spoke movingly from her heart about the injustices hurled at President Trump. The video clip is well worth watching, as this voter explains that “my love for President Trump comes from all the despair, all the things that he’s been through, has served as our president of the United States, and he did a good job.” She continued: “I’m thinking more with my heart, and my sorrow and my love for him, and for this country.”

The woman concluded by complimenting DeSantis on his presentation that day and indicated she has a lot of thinking ahead before she casts her ballot in that key early primary state. The governor thanked her and totally agreed, saying, “I appreciate what President Trump did” and “how they treated him with things like Russia collusion was a disgrace.”

DeSantis then pivoted to the crucial question facing every single Republican voter, including current dedicated fans of President Trump: What are we going to do about it?

First, all patriotic populist conservatives should speak in harmony and accord regarding the injustices inflicted upon Trump – and many other citizens of our republic – simply because they hold fast to conservative values. Federal law enforcement and prosecutorial might have been weaponized as political sledgehammers against everyone from school board activists to pro-life ministers.

But once we have identified and decried these injustices, the American Right cannot rest in a place of powerless grievance-prattling. Our cause is too great, and this moment too perilous for America, for this movement to simply accept the status of aggrieved outsiders.

Instead, conservatives must embrace the tactics and candidates best able to win crucial elections. Only then, once back in power, can this populist movement begin to truly defang the abusive administrative state – the very apparatuses that target Trump.

Any honest analysis of recent trends nationally exposes that Republicans have massively disappointed for three successive election cycles, in 2018, 2020 and 2022. These losses have allowed for the very violations that so understandably anger voters on the populist Right. But the task ahead involves far more than raw emotion. As the Good Book preaches, we must be “as cunning as serpents and as gentle as doves.”

So, what are the tactics needed to win the presidency? Chasing ballots aggressively, especially through early voting and ballot harvesting, where legal.

Who is the candidate to win?

Ron DeSantis has both the record and the agenda to unite the movement and simultaneously win over persuadable independents and disaffected Democrats. He did it in Florida and provided a rare, booming beacon of light on an otherwise very disappointing November 2022 election night. DeSantis was rewarded by voters with a runaway landslide because he boldly took on the ruling class, from Dr. Fauci to the corporate media, to big business.

In this regard, Ron DeSantis should not be regarded at all as a repudiation of Trumpism or the 2016 movement. Instead, DeSantis represents the natural next evolution of America First.

As the patriotic populist cause matures and grows, the driving animus must prioritize winning and then governing. Who can win elections and then effectively use discipline and focus to score tangible policy wins for our voters?

After all, we on the political Right acutely understand what time it is in America. We are losing our country, and quickly. The Left creates and exacerbates crises that were unthinkable just a few years ago, including wide-open borders, stifling inflation, and the widespread denial of basic scientific truths like innate differences between the two sexes.

Given this fulcrum moment in our national life, a robust primary and vigorous debate will make us stronger as a party into the fall of 2024. I, for one, remain deeply grateful to Donald Trump for everything he did for our movement and for our nation. Concurrently, I believe that a new and better chapter lies ahead for America First. Within this unfolding competition, our country could use more of the reflective thinking and speaking exemplified by Ron DeSantis and that inspiring, patriotic woman in South Carolina.

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About Steve Cortes

Steve Cortes is the founder of the League of American Workers. He formerly served as a senior advisor to President Trump, and a broadcaster with Fox News, CNBC, and CNN.

Photo: TITUSVILLE, FLORIDA, UNITED STATES - 2023/05/01: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks at a press conference at the American Police Hall of Fame & Museum in Titusville. DeSantis used the event to sign bills into law that increase penalties for offenses involving sexual battery on children and drug trafficking targeting children, and a third bill involving pretrial release and detention. (Photo by Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)