Though there are exceptions to the rule, men make history. History does not make men. Of course, the term is inclusive of both sexes. And sometimes, a combination of the man and the moment changes everything.
In modern American political context there are three examples of this phenomenon. Ronald Reagan in 1980, Newt Gingrich in 1994, and Donald Trump in 2016. There could be another, Ron DeSantis in 2024.
Many of us can remember the late 70s, a time very similar to today. Energy issues, inflation, America on the run, a weak Democrat president who was out of touch. Though at least Jmmy Carter was not senile. Then along came Ronald Reagan and swept that losing streak away. The 1978 midterms, a good Republican year, was a harbinger. Reagan was elected in 1980 and the American Renaissance began. Within three years America was strong again, the economy was humming, and we regained respect at home and around the world. The man and the moment had met. Could DeSantis be the Reagan of 2024?
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Fourteen years later Bill Clinton had a bad first two years, Newt Gingrich saw his chance and led the Republicans to full control of Congress for the first time in almost fifty years. He capitalized on the sclerosis of the Democrat majority in Congress and beat them like a rug. He changed the congressional paradigm. Though Clinton was president, Gingrich was prime minister. Congressional reform was enacted, Clinton was defanged, and the Republicans won the heart of middle America.
In the mid teens of the new century a populist tide was rising. The Republicans and Tea Party congressional landslide of 2010 was another harbinger. The game was afoot, as on the other side of the Atlantic Brexit, despite most predictions, was passed by British voters in 2016. There were lessons to be learned. The Democrats ignored them. Into the void stepped Donald Trump. He was the perfect man for the moment. He was a fighting conservative, though sometimes his heavy artillery aimed in the wrong direction. However, he was a voice of the forgotten citizens of an elitist system. He changed the game. He still does.
But 2024 will not be 2016. It very well may be more like 1980. The already disastrous record of Joe Biden mimics the worst problems of the Carter administration. As in 1980, will we see a popular Republican governor, another fighting conservative, beat a stale bloodless Democrat, or his veep? It is more than possible.
Ron DeSantis could be what the time offers and the era could be ripe for his leadership. He already is taking on Biden mano y mano. He has a national profile. And with the recent spate of attacks on him, it shows the Democrats are nervous of his potential. Once again, the man and the moment may come together. If so, America will be the winner and another era of renaissance may be on the way.