Ron DeSantis and the Big-Lie Boys: Trump’s Heirs Count Down to ’24

President Donald Trump greets Ron DeSantis during a campaign rally in 2018.
Photo by Joe Raedle via Getty Images
Tina Nguyen
August 26, 2021

Somewhere in my recent travels, at a desert campground in rural California, I met a couple who was training for an off-road, cross-country race. I was six days removed from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where I had taken in the MyPillow C.E.O. and Donald Trump obsessive Mike Lindell’s Beckettsian “election fraud” symposium, replete with cameos from Steve Bannon, a zoom appearance from Alan Dershowitz, and exceedingly little plausible proof that Trump lost the 2020 election for any reason other than that more people voted for Joe Biden. As I made small talk with my new campmates, the question of American democracy was fresh in my mind. Inevitably, we started talking about my job, and inevitably, their long-buried feelings about Trump emerged.

During the conversation, the husband brought up an incident that I’d nearly forgotten after five years: the last time, he argued, that a Republican attempted to stop Trump from becoming leader of the G.O.P. It was July 2016, and Trump had just handily dispatched his final intra-party rival, Senator Ted Cruz, in the primaries.

Back then, amid the nascent Trump hysteria, there had been talk of leveraging the parliamentary quirks of the Republican National Committee to let delegates off the hook from the looming election result, allowing party leaders to orchestrate a brokered convention, effectively steamrolling the presumptive nominee. Alas, all these high-anxiety, political engineering stunts went unfulfilled. Any heresies were memory-holed, less than a week later, after Trump secured the nomination. (Ronna Romney McDaniel even dropped her maiden name.) But these were still the days when a Republican could openly wring their hands in despair over where Trump was leading the party, and lament that Hillary Clinton seemed destined to rout him.