GOP 2024 frontrunners Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis both represent strains of white nationalism, according to one former Republican congressman on Sunday.
The former president and the Florida governor have consistently led the pack in polls for the Republican Party’s 2024 presidential nomination. Trump, who seeks a second term in the White House after losing to Joe Biden in 2020, announced his current run much earlier than usual, just after last year’s midterm elections. DeSantis, meanwhile, has yet to officially enter the race, but is widely expected to be planning an announcement before the end of spring.
Despite early worries among party members that his influence on the party was toxic, Trump now regularly leads DeSantis in polls, often by double-digit margins. While the Florida governor might be lagging behind the former president, he is also the only candidate notching significant numbers besides Trump. Others, like former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley and businessman Vivek Ramaswamy, regularly poll in the low single digits.
David Jolly is a former congressman who represented Florida’s 13th Congressional District from 2014 to 2017. He formally left the GOP in 2018, owing to the direction the party had taken under Trump, and has remained independent ever since.
On Sunday, the former congressman appeared on MSNBC alongside others to discuss recent comments from Senator Tommy Tuberville, an Alabama Republican, in which he said that white nationalists were just “Americans” in his eyes and should not be expelled from the military. Jolly said that this was another example of a Republican mainstreaming white nationalist ideology, adding that Trump and DeSantis stand for different strains of it as well.
“The danger in what we see in these remarks is this normalization and mainstreaming of white nationalism within today’s GOP,” Jolly said. “You see it with Donald Trump and his nod to Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys…Donald Trump, I like to say, offers white nationalism for the working man. Ron DeSantis offers white nationalism for the country club crowd. They belong to the same party, the narrative is the same.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center defines “white nationalism” as groups that “espouse white supremacist or white separatist ideologies” with a focus on “the alleged inferiority of nonwhites.” Some examples it provides on its official website include the “Ku Klux Klan, neo-Confederate, neo-Nazi, [and] racist skinheads,” which it said can “be fairly described as white nationalist.” The center also reports that, despite the topic’s persistence in national politics, the actual number of white nationalist groups has been declining since it reached a peak in 2019.
Newsweek reached out to Trump and DeSantis’s press offices via email for comment.