Ann Coulter Is Rooting for a Trump-DeSantis Throw-Down. She’s Not Alone.
Ann Coulter has a gift for pushing just the right buttons to inflict maximum irritation. She has been a top-tier troll since Donald Trump was little more than a failed casino magnate.
Which makes Ms. Coulter’s recent attacks on the former president — her onetime political idol — at once delectable and illuminating. Take her contrarian assessment of Mr. Trump’s chokehold on the Republican Party.
“No one wants Trump,” she asserted in a column last week. “He’s fading faster than Sarah Palin did — and she was second place on a losing presidential ticket.”
Parsing recent polling data, Ms. Coulter made the case that high approval for Mr. Trump among Republicans is less about his enduring appeal than about the G.O.P. having been boiled down to a Trumpian rump. Increasingly, she contended, “the only people calling themselves ‘Republicans’ these days are the Trump die-hards.”
Ms. Coulter’s anti-Trump bile is not entirely new and carries the bitter fury of a disillusioned believer. While an early and enthusiastic MAGA convert — during the 2016 campaign Ms. Coulter cheekily proclaimed herself ready to die for her candidate and penned a cringey hagiography titled “In Trump We Trust: E Pluribus Awesome!” — she began souring on his presidency pretty quickly over his failure to make good on his more draconian immigration promises. (Ann really wanted that border wall.)
When Ms. Coulter turns, she does not go gently. Her critiques of Mr. Trump have included calling him “a shallow, lazy ignoramus,” “a complete moron,” “a blithering idiot” and “a lout.” She now considers his entire presidency a flop. “Trump accomplished everything he was ever going to accomplish at 2 a.m.” on election night in 2016, she emailed me last week. “The best thing that could have happened to the Republican Party (and the country) would have been for him to be vaporized at the moment he was announcing his victory. Pence would have been afraid to betray Trump’s supporters. Trump wasn’t!”
Of late, Ms. Coulter has begun poking at Mr. Trump from a very specific angle: comparing him — unfavorably — to Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida.
Mr. DeSantis is a ticklish topic around Trumpworld. The governor rose to power by becoming a mini-Trump, and the former president still considers Mr. DeSantis his creation. But the governor is clearly eyeing the White House in 2024, and, unlike other potential candidates, he has not pledged to sit things out if Mr. Trump runs. Such disloyalty does not sit well with the former president, and there are rumblings of a brewing feud between the two Florida Men. As the water cooler chatter goes: Mr. Trump sees Mr. DeSantis as an ungrateful upstart, while Mr. DeSantis sees Mr. Trump as expecting too much groveling.
Earlier this month, when Mr. Trump called politicians who refuse to reveal their booster status “gutless,” it was seen as a slap at Mr. DeSantis, who has been shifty about his booster situation. A few days later, Mr. DeSantis voiced regret over not aggressively opposing the nationwide lockdown that Mr. Trump ordered early in the pandemic.
Republicans are eager to downplay tensions that risk undermining party unity.
But Ms. Coulter is eager to fan the flames. “Trump is demanding to know Ron DeSantis’s booster status, and I can now reveal it,” she tweeted about the kerfuffle. “He was a loyal booster when Trump ran in 2016, but then he learned our president was a liar and con man whose grift was permanent.”
Ms. Coulter, it seems, has found a shiny new leader with whom to antagonize her former hero. “For months now, Trump’s been playing the aging silent film star Norma Desmond in ‘Sunset Boulevard’ to DeSantis’ younger, prettier Betty Schaefer,” she wrote in her column Wednesday, which closed with this punch to the throat: “Give voters a populist conservative who’s not a con man and a liar and they’ll be ‘Republicans’ again. No wonder Trump hates DeSantis.”
In her email, Ms. Coulter got even more personal. “DeSantis is better than Trump, for many, many reasons, including: He won’t bring Jared and Ivanka into the White House.” She also expressed confidence that Mr. DeSantis can handle Mr. Trump. “He’s mostly just ignoring the 11-year-old. Unlike Trump, DeSantis has a day job.”
Having split with Mr. Trump, Ms. Coulter has an obvious interest in pushing the line that he is a washed-up relic. That said, the gal has a track record for sensing — and exploiting — political vulnerabilities.
She is also just one tiny piece of a bigger predicament the G.O.P. is facing. Every whisper of discord between Mr. Trump and other Republican leaders is going to be devoured — and amplified — by a political class still obsessed with the former president and his influence.
There are plenty of reasons for this. Many Trump critics are panting to see the ex-president’s acolytes and enablers, like Mr. DeSantis, pay a price for snuggling up to him for so long.
Old-school Republicans are hoping that the party’s up-and-comers will start putting some distance between themselves and the chaos of the Trump era, a necessary step toward rescuing the G.O.P. from its MAGA quagmire.
As for the political media, it loves a good fight. And any fight featuring the former president promises to be tacky, unhinged and entertaining.
Going forward, Ms. Coulter won’t be the only force tweaking Mr. Trump and focusing on any hint of friction. As usual, she’ll simply be more shameless about it than most.
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