The DeSantis Announcement Incompetence: This Is What Happens When No One On Your Staff—Or You—Knows Their Presidential History

Yes, the Twitter announcement was a mess, but that’s not what bothered me. What bothered me was this, five minutes and 46 seconds into Gov. Ron DeSantis’s long-awaited entry into the race for the White House…

We must return normalcy to our communities. America’s a sovereign country. Our borders must be respected. We cannot have foreigners pouring into our country illegally by the millions. We cannot allow drug cartels to poison our population with fentanyl. Public deserves safe communities and law and order must be maintained in American cities. We can’t have inmates running the asylum, and we must reject attacks on the men and women of law enforcement.

Normalcy??? The word was invented by then U.S. Senator Warren G. Harding when he ran for President in 1920. (The proper word was and is “normality.”) “Back to Normalcy” became his campaign slogan and is forever associated with Harding, who won election easily and went on to be regarded as one the nation’s worst Presidents, though historians are grudgingly coming to accept that he wasn’t a bad as his racist predecessor, Woodrow Wilson.

There is no way anyone connected with a Republican Presidential campaign (Harding was a Republican) should allow the word “normalcy” to creep into a candidate’s speech: there are too many ominous similarities between 1920 and 2024 already. A terrible Democratic President was in the White House, and he was cognitively disabled (Wilson had a stroke; Biden is…well, you know…). Civil unrest was looming; the nation was exhausted from war and hyper-partisanship with a Republican Senate battling the Democrat executive, and the economy was unstable (as the US discovered in 1929). So how did DeSantis end up using that word?

Ignorance, plain and simple. Historical ignorance, lack of civic education, and incompetence. To me, it is axiomatic that anyone with the hubris to run for President ought to have a working knowledge of the history of the office as well as the nation. Clearly, DeSantis doesn’t, and worse, as Donald Rumsfeld would point out, he doesn’t know what he doesn’t know, so he has neglected to find advisors and aides who are more historically literate than he is.

What else don’t they know? Isn’t there a famous quote by someone about repeating the mistakes of the past?

On the bright side, I supposed, is that most Americans are similarly illiterate and ignorant, so the “normalcy”-Harding connection won’t even occur to them. I can’t believe I’m referring to American ignorance about their own country’s history as a “bright side.”

Ha! I just checked, and sure enough, Ann Althouse was also bothered by “normalcy.”

Well, that makes two of us….

21 thoughts on “The DeSantis Announcement Incompetence: This Is What Happens When No One On Your Staff—Or You—Knows Their Presidential History

      • Indeed, hopefully he will quickly learn that running for Prez, especially in the current political milieu, is vastly different than his FL governor experience. He needs very wise advisors if he is to successfully navigate the shark infested waters. Time will tell.

      • Help me with this: I just looked up normalcy in Webster’s dictionary and there it is. I understand the word was coined by Harding’s campaign. I’m not getting what the issue is regarding its use.

        Here’s another word related question. I’d be interested to hear your answer. How do you pronounce “forte” and do t look it up.

        • Don’t get me confused with Althouse. I’m not bickering about the word from a linguistic standpoint: normalcy is now used. Using it in connection with a Presidential campaign evokes a bad President, and thus doings is incompetent and evidence of poor historical knowledge. I told a very erudite friend about De Santis using the word, and he said “What?? That’s crazy! It will make everyone think of Hoover!”

          “Harding.” I corrected him. “Whatever,” he said. He knew the word was associated with failed Presidents. That’s enough.

          • Jack,
            I work two days a week at a lefty college in Manhattan as their locksmith. I’m 63, and I find it amazing how little the students around me know about anything that I/you would view as common knowledge. It’s like no one teaches it, and I mean parents and teachers.
            The answer your friend gave about Hoover instead of Harding points to that.
            I’ve worked as a locksmith in commercial, residential, industrial setting for forty years and met thousands and thousands of people. One of the things I’ve learned is that there’s an awful lot of people in this country who are content to be oblivious to what goes on around them. They live in tiny little worlds and that’s all there is to them. They don’t want to be bothered; “I don’t want to get involved.” They won’t know Harding from Hoover.

            I asked about “forte” because I thought you might appreciate this.

            I’ve always pronounced it “for-ray” as most people do. Having taken both the Verbal Advantage and Vocab audio courses, I know that it is pronounced “fort”. I won’t do it because I’ve never heard ANYONE pronounce it correctly. I know that I’ll only confuse the issue.

  1. Has normalcy not become a alternate word for normality yet?

    But I do understand the confusion. In my extensive 18th and 19th century reading, I frequently come across the word “impracticable” used by our Founding Fathers and their successors. One of the most irritating books I read was by an author who kept segueing into her lack of understanding of what the subject – in this case, James Madison – meant by the use of “impracticable”. It became a running gag, almost, as she stopped to comment on that particular word. I couldn’t help but think, “This word is used all the time in period writings. You certainly should have run across it before. Why not look it up instead of adding useless filler to your book.”

    Oh, well…

    Batman’s right, though. It’s early. We can hope he gets better.

    • I had normality replaced with normalcy in college by my English professor. It has been acceptable and, in fact. the rule in many places for awhile. I complained to no avail. I have had normality criticized as incorrect a couple of times since then. It is pretty common.

  2. I don’t have any real problem with “normalcy,” or particularly care about the Harding connection. That was a long time ago and in an entirely different world.

    But here is the problem I do have — what does “normalcy” look like? DeSantis tries to clue us in, but in my opinion, falls flat:

    We must return normalcy to our communities. America’s a sovereign country. Our borders must be respected.

    Fine, as far as it goes. But what does that look like? A militarized border? A wall around every inch of the country? Shooting invading aliens on sight? What?

    We cannot allow drug cartels to poison our population with fentanyl.

    Apropos to the above, perhaps, but let’s get real — the drug cartels aren’t “poisoning” us. We, the American people, are far too addicted to drugs. If people want to kill themselves with opioids, DeSantis can’t stop them, nor Trump, nor anybody. We’ve been having this conversation since I was a toddler, and the solution is still elusive because wherever there is demand, there will be supply.

    Control the border and who comes in? Sure. But stop pulling our legs about drug cartels poisoning us.

    Public deserves safe communities and law and order must be maintained in American cities. We can’t have inmates running the asylum, and we must reject attacks on the men and women of law enforcement.

    And what exactly can DeSantis do as President about Chicago’s gang violence, New York’s subway maniacs, or San Francisco’s homeless, drug-addicted underclass? I’ll tell you what — not a damn thing. He’s not going to send in the National Guard or declare martial law. Those problems must be addressed at the local level, and until urbanites stop electing soft-on-crime Democrats, the stabbings, shootings, and assaults will continue.

    Bah. Not off to a promising start, I see. I am tired of politicians trying to “normalize” the country. Why don’t we just try to make it a better place and leave it at that?

    • One of the things I loved about Drugs, Inc. over the several years I watched it was the insights to “cause and effect”.

      Yes, heartily agree we’ve got our fair share of addicts and abusers, but supply and demand is as accurate and active in the illegal drug trade as it is in any other business.

      With cheap product, the cartels do “create” demand. The cheap, high quality heroin they pumped into the market created a lot more lifetime heroin addicts.

      I’m sure you see it on as many corners in your town as we do here.

      So yes, they actually are poisoning our communities.

      And they are very smart businessmen. That combined with consumers who start with poor choices makes it especially difficult.

      As to the rest of the discussion, I go back to my position from 2016 – I want a candidate who can scrap and win. Florida is a large and diverse enough state that I hope successes there translate to the national stage.

      In every game there are errors made, but what matters most is the result when the clock draws down to zero (or to Jack’s favorite pastime, the 3rd out in the bottom of the ninth).


    Supposedly the word has been knocking around since the 1800s, but only became a major “thing” here when Harding used it in his campaign. It’s still used mostly here, but not in the UK or UK-English nations.

    You are right in some ways about the comparison to 1920. However, civil unrest isn’t “looming,” it’s already come and done possibly permanent damage. If anything, we’re in the eye of the storm before the second part hits. The US then was just emerging as a world power, now the US may be on its way out as a world power. One party didn’t have such a tight grip on both the state apparatus and the media. Most importantly, the public hadn’t completely lost trust in all of those things. Also, the problem in the 1920s was the government didn’t do enough to keep the economy from going too far to the point of going out of control, now the problem is the government, through policies we’ve already discussed is pretty darn close to trying to keep the economy down.

    There’s a very good chance that 2024 could play out thus: The economy gets a little better, but not that much better, although the administration touts what gains there are. The war in Ukraine plods on, as the border becomes a place of trenches and scarred no-man’s land, to the point where it starts to be accepted as just a fact of life. Gas prices and grocery prices don’t come down, but they come to be accepted as a “new normal.” Civil unrest simmers, but never boils over, as the right makes a lot of noise about DEI issues, but takes no concrete steps against them, and the leftist militia that is BLM and antifa stays quiet so the administration doesn’t look bad. Biden quite handily remains the nominee, as no leftist populist on the level of Bernie Sanders emerges to challenge him and the Democratic National Convention is nothing new, with a lot of fiery speeches on abortion and DEI. The main attraction, of course, is former President Obama, speaking in his hometown. In the meantime, Trump, DeSantis, and a few other major candidates (Tim Scott, Mike Pence, Nikki Haley, one or two other Senators and governors) engage in a brutal, ugly primary that tears the fabric of the party and uses up a ton of money. The Republican National Convention in Milwaukee is anything but a snooze, as assaults from BLM and various pro-abortion groups take center stage and the local authorities do little to protect the venue or delegates. Still, in the end there can be only one nominee, and that nominee is Trump, with Kari Lake as Vice-President. The Republican ticket limps into the general election, where the media goes to work showing up every mistake, every gaffe, every statement that could be (and is) interpreted in the most unfavorable light, every everything, to the point where, by the end of the campaign, there’s barely anyone in this nation who does not think Trump is a buffoon whose time has come and gone and Lake is delusional. It’s not a complete blowout for the Democratic ticket, but they win by a comfortable margin.

    Of course, it could also play that Trump and DeSantis have a very secret conference at Mara-a-Lago, where they agree to a deal – DeSantis will be Trump’s VP with the understanding that Trump will then support his run in 2028. DeSantis knows he has time, and also that Trump can serve only the one term, and he’d rather swallow his pride – temporarily-and wait than risk a bruising primary that could end up taking them both down. Trump also knows he can only serve the one term, but he might not get it if he has a huge primary fight that could result in a badly damaged GOP ticket. Together the two are pretty much unstoppable, as both rally huge numbers, while Biden stumbles in public because he can’t hide in his basement this time. Trump has learned a few things since the last set of debates, and just lets Biden stumble and bumble, resisting the desire to tell him that “you threatened to take me behind the gym once, well, here’s your chance.” Meanwhile Ron DeSantis swallows Kamala Harris whole and spits out her shoes in the one debate they have. The blue wall cracks and Trump returns to the White House.

  4. After what we now know happened to Trump during his presidency and the confirmed politicization of the alphabet agencies, what will a Republican president have to do to ensure a similar fate is not forthcoming? The answer is probably a deep clean and purge with unprecedented speed and unprecedented actions to remove lingering security clearances from former employees. When this happens, it’ll be a 24/7 news cycle of how the new president doesn’t understand how the intelligence community works and how these actions are dangerous. To that, we should apply that logic right now. When these alphabet agencies are misused as a political weapon, they have put every future president in a position to make these wholesale and drastic changes. It is their malfeasance that was dangerous and god-willing, they will learn that lesson the hard way. Every employee likes to think they are an integral part of their organization and the shit will just hit the fan when they’re gone. These intelligence officials are no different – the only caveat is that I’m not sure they aren’t the destructive types that flip the table on the way out the door with the thought that this somehow vindicates their importance.

    Is my above rant on topic? Not sure…but it was on my mind and this site seems to be my preferred venue for therapy.

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