The long cold war between Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis is finally coming to an end. Until recently, DeSantis had been careful not to antagonize the former president or to alienate his base; Trump, in turn, had mostly avoided taking potshots that might inadvertently elevate a presumptive rival. To wit: It wasn’t until the week before the midterms that Trump poll-tested “DeSanctimonious,” to little effect. The insult didn’t resonate with the MAGA base, and mostly annoyed the donor class that both men are maneuvering to secure. After all, in their eyes, DeSantis had committed zero sins other than merely existing and being a good MAGA company man.
But as DeSantis takes more obvious steps into the ’24 arena, Trump has begun to preview the more incendiary tactics he’ll use to firebomb any challengers. Over the past few days, Trump has taken to Truth Social to post scurrilous insinuations about DeSantis’s stint teaching at a Georgia prep school in the early 2000s. “That’s not Ron, is it? He would never do such a thing!,” Trump wrote, sharing a photo of a young DeSantis, apparently holding a beer, surrounded by three women whose faces have been blurred. The caption over the photo reads, “Here is Ron DeSanctimonious grooming high school girls with alcohol as a teacher.”
The Truth campaign appears to gesture at some perceived irony regarding the DeSantis administration’s gratuitous use of the term “groomer,” a term usurped by the MAGA movement to broadly describe members of the LGBTQ+ community and their allies, implying that their politics are a tacit endorsement of pedophilia. Of course, this is all utter nonsense, but this is how vicious grassroots MAGA political battles are waged at the fringes, unfortunately, in the sub-MyPillow ranks. And Trump, of course, isn’t above the vile. It doesn’t hurt that there are photos of a young DeSantis surrounded by high schoolers floating around, either. As The New York Times previously reported, DeSantis was known to have socialized with seniors at parties around Darlington, a private boarding school outside of Atlanta. But there were never any allegations of misconduct. (“I’ve faced defamatory stuff every single day I’ve been governor,” DeSantis said Wednesday when asked about the post. “It just goes with the territory.”)