It should come as no surprise that the pandemic will play a starring role in the Republican presidential primary.
Donald Trump served as commander-in-chief during the first leg of the fight against COVID, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ bucking of “Fauci-ism” vaulted him into the national political conversation.
And although the two candidates’ approaches were often compared in the spring and early summer of 2020, hindsight has revealed their differences.
As early as March of that year, Trump worried aloud that heavy-handed “cures” might be more injurious than the disease itself, expressing his sincere hope that the country might reopen by Easter.
He also occasionally lashed out at the face of his own government’s response team, Dr. Anthony Fauci.
Yet, as with any number of issues, Trump’s rhetoric could be contrasted with the substance of his administration’s policies.
Trump made fun of the then 79-year-old Fauci’s pitching arm and deemed his answer on school reopenings for fall 2020 unacceptable.
But Fauci remained in his capacity for the duration of Trump’s term in office, where he boasted considerable influence both within the White House and over public opinion from his bully pulpit.
Despite Trump’s tough talk, Fauci and other public officials who misled the public about masks and proved incapable of balancing the first-order effects of the virus with its second and third-order ones remained in control through January 2021.
On Trump’s last full day in office, he even awarded Fauci a presidential commendation.
In his stewardship of Florida, DeSantis exemplified a leadership style dissimilar from and preferable to Trump’s.