Can the GOP Accommodate Two Rock Stars?

Fresh from his deft Martha’s Vineyard gambit, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis flew into Kansas on Sunday to rally support for Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, now running for governor against incumbent Democrat Laura Kelly.

Saul Alinsky, the acknowledged master of forcing poseurs to honor their own policies, could not have done better than DeSantis. No political stroke in memory has succeeded in exposing liberal hypocrisy quite so effortlessly and effectively. Had the Islanders taken the 50 illegal aliens in, they might have checked DeSantis’s move and saved a little face, but they didn’t. They lived up to their most ludicrous stereotypes, calling in the National Guard and deporting the hapless Venezuelans to some sterile Army base on the mainland. It will be years before “Martha’s Vineyard” is anything but a template for a meme or a punch line to a joke.

Both Schmidt and U.S. Senator Roger Marshall had fun with Martha’s Vineyard in the speeches they gave preceding DeSantis’s. The SRO crowd at the Olathe (O-lay-the) Civics Center ate it up. When DeSantis took center stage, the thousands in attendance were primed. They surged to their feet and roared their appreciation. If it wasn’t clear before this past week, it was clear to everyone in Olathe. Ron DeSantis has arrived.

Before Donald Trump descended the golden escalator at Trump tower in June 2015, the GOP had gone more than a quarter-century without a rock star. Now, it has two, and that is the challenge. Although he ran as the moderate candidate in the 2020 GOP primary, Marshall, a medical doctor, has been a pleasant surprise for conservatives. That said, he did not mention Trump in his speech. Schmidt has also been tagged as something of a moderate, but one would not have guessed that from his intense and impressively disciplined speech. He did not mention Trump either.

Halfway into his roughly hour-long speech DeSantis, too, remained mum on Trump. Nor did he mention Martha’s Vineyard. Leaving the thunder to Schmidt, DeSantis almost matter-of-factly walked the audience through a tutorial on effective governance. Unlike Trump or Obama before him, he began his sentences with “we,” not “I.” DeSantis spent much of that time discussing his evidence-based COVIDpolicy and its extraordinary effect on the state’s tourist economy. He focused as well on the inarguable benefits of having kept the public schools open when other governors did not, among them Kansas’s Laura Kelly, or “Lockdown Laura” as the earlier speakers called her.

Like Marshall and Schmidt before him, DeSantis addressed the corruption of public schools through the imposition of the evil Marxist twins, Critical Race Theory and gender ideology. These are the social issues on which Republicans will focus in 2022. For the time being at least, certainly in Kansas, abortion is something of a hot wire. Gender is not. No issue provoked a more visceral reaction from the crowd than the idea of boys participating in girls’ sports. On this front, Kelly is particularly vulnerable, having twice vetoed bills proposed by the Republican-led Kansas legislature that would have banned biological males from competing against females.

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