It seems Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has been so shaken by Trump’s name-calling that he is now pronouncing his own name differently. In his YouTube campaign announcement video, he refers to himself as Ron “Dee-Santis,” with an apparently new emphasis on the first syllable “De,” using a long “e” vowel sound that no one has used before. Is he trying to emphasize that he is not Ron “Desanctimonious?”
One might assume that Donald Trump’s taunts are childish or nonsensical. But there seems to be a ring of truth to his labeling of DeSantis as “Desanctimonious.” Ironic, isn’t it, that Trump of all people might edify Americans about the English language? Let us examine Trump’s moniker for DeSantis, which is sometimes abbreviated to “Ron DeSanctus.”
Merriam Webster defines “sanctimonious” as “hypocritically pious or devout. However, Governor DeSantis is not overly “pious” in the religious sense. He doesn’t flaunt his religion like former Vice President Mike Pence or former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. But “sanctimonious” can also have a moral element to it. Merriam Webster gives the example: “a sanctimonious moralist.” This is where the governor might run into some trouble. As some political commentators have noted, DeSantis comes off as a little pious and self-righteous in terms of his own political positions and indeed his own political career.
DeSantis’ presidential campaign launch on Twitter demonstrated the problematic elements of his personality, though most of what he said was quite reasonable. In this lengthy appearance, DeSantis only referred to himself in laudatory terms. For example, he emphasized that “I’m going to follow through on what I tell people I’m going to do.” He was so insistent on this point that it came off as more self-congratulatory than reassuring. The incisive Megyn Kelly noted of DeSantis’ glitchy Twitter Space announcement:
“Through all of this, I didn’t laugh or connect with the candidate even once. And this is a guy whose policies–most of them anyway–I support. He didn’t crack a joke at his own expense. He didn’t say something that touched me about America or the troubles we’re going through. He didn’t even tap into the righteous anger so many of us are feeling.”
Kelly here identifies a potential Achilles heel in DeSantis’ candidacy, which Trump himself intuited and labeled with an almost metaphysical precision with “desanctimonious.” DeSantis is confident enough, but his manner is fairly brusque and literal. As Kelly noted, there is a certain humorlessness to DeSantis, which puts him in danger of coming off as sanctimonious.
Call Trump what you will, but sanctimonious he is not. He’s a womanizer, a television star-cum-president, a free-association thinker and speaker. But he does have a sense of humor about himself. That’s why he let Jimmy Fallon mess up his hair on live television, for example, in a moment of unscripted levity during the 2016 campaign.
DeSantis’ politics are a combination of standard conservative positions, with an addition of more current and relevant culture issues such as critical race theory in schools. He holds these positions tightly and plows forward in a direct line – like a steamroller. One can admire that approach.
Yet, it does put him in danger of appearing “holier than thou” if he never challenges his own party’s assumptions. Trump, on the other hand, is famously a wild card. You don’t know whether he’s coming at you from the left or the right. This nimbleness is also what helps Trump avoid the stiff demeanor sometimes attributed to DeSantis. Trump is mercilessly ridiculed in the media. Yet he can also ridicule himself. DeSantis, on the other hand, does not seem comfortable doing so.
It could be that DeSantis finds himself as an introvert trying to express himself quite reluctantly, especially in comparison to the supremely extraverted Donald Trump. If this is the case, DeSantis should take a page from another famous introvert, Richard Nixon, who despite his guarded personality, achieved the White House.
At any rate, whether the name-calling is fair or not, most of America clearly doesn’t know what “sanctimonious” means. I know this because I received thousands of hits on my grammar blog explaining its meaning. Perhaps we should all thank our new English teacher, Donald J. Trump, for adding this word to our vocabulary.
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