Ron DeSantis: From Navy JAG to Political Fighter - Setting Himself Apart from Trump

AP Photo/Jeff Roberson

This weekend at the Iowa State Fair, you could hear someone, caught on a person’s cellphone, say, "Thats his F****** plane!" Trump was doing a flyover of the Fairgrounds. He was effectively trolling Ron DeSantis. 


Many people are enamored with ostentatious living and extravagance, as well as with celebrities, fame, and fortune. That is one of the connections that cements Donald Trump with his base and a typical Trump supporter. To them, he’s larger than life. 

So how does Ron DeSantis, a successful Republican governor—America has several successful Republican governors—set himself apart from the man who flies around in his own plane and inks deals that result in his name being prominently displayed at the top of hotels, casinos, and commercial office buildings? 

While DeSantis has been touted as one of the best conservative governors in America based on his policies and issues, the reality is that most Americans are more drawn to narratives and stories than the intricacies of public policy. 

One possible avenue for DeSantis to explore is his unique background as a Navy JAG (Judge Advocate General). This is a position within the Navy that combines legal expertise with military service, and DeSantis' experience in this field is one that definitely sets him apart from Trump. 

This weekend, my wife, with whom I am well pleased, and I watched "A Few Good Men." We hadn’t seen it since it came out 31 years ago. For those who don't know, A Few Good Men is about Tom Cruise, a Navy JAG, who defends two Marines who are charged with murder. At one point in the movie, my wife asked, "What's her position?" referring to Demi Moore's character. I said she plays a JAG too. I had already pointed out that Cruise was a JAG. After referring to the term JAG a few more times, my wife asked me, "What is a JAG?" It suddenly dawned on me: most people probably have no idea what a JAG is, despite the fact that a major candidate for the presidency served as one. 


But the challenge for the DeSantis campaign lies in translating this unique backstory into a current narrative that appeals to voters. 

DeSantis' time as a Navy JAG took on even greater significance when he volunteered to go to Iraq, serving in a role as an adviser to SEAL Team 1. This experience provided him with firsthand knowledge of the situations and challenges faced by military personnel in combat. It is a story that highlights his intelligence, bravery, dedication, and obvious commitment to serving his country. 

Whereas Trump served his country as president for four years, DeSantis served his country in a time of war for six years. 

Moreover, by incorporating this unique backstory into the Governor's political narrative, more than he's done up to now, DeSantis will not only differentiate himself from Trump and his other opponents, but he'll also connect with voters and provide reassuring factors for voters. e.g., leadership, patriotism, and discipline, just to name a few. 

To further solidify this narrative, DeSantis could also focus on issues related to veterans' rights, such as improving access to healthcare and support services, addressing mental health concerns, and advocating for job opportunities for veterans transitioning back into civilian life. By demonstrating a comprehensive understanding of the issues facing veterans and offering concrete solutions, DeSantis can position himself as a champion for this important constituency. 


It's worth noting that DeSantis is not the only politician who has successfully used their military background as a part of their political narrative, to differing degrees of success. John F. Kennedy did. George Herbert Walker Bush did. Senators John McCain, John Kerry, and Bob Kerrey did too. However, Bob Kerrey was never his party's nominee. Still, all of these American patriots were able to leverage their experiences in the Military to connect with voters and establish themselves as strong leaders. 

Donald Trump's larger-than-life persona and extravagant lifestyle have solidified his connection with his base, making him a fascinating figure for many Americans. In contrast, as a conservative governor, Ron DeSantis needs to find a similarly unique aspect to set himself apart from Trump and the rest of the field. While DeSantis' background as a Navy JAG who volunteered to go to Iraq is a distinguishing factor, he must effectively incorporate this narrative into his political campaign to resonate with voters. 

Ron DeSantis faces the obvious challenge of setting himself apart from the one and only Donald Trump. His unique background as a Navy JAG and combat adviser to Navy SEAL Team 1 provides him with a powerful story to do exactly that. America wants a fighter. That much is clear. 

By strategically incorporating his Navy JAG narrative into his campaign messaging, highlighting his experiences "wearing the cloth of his country," as he often puts it, while also addressing issues important to veterans, DeSantis can firmly position himself as a strong leader for the 21st Century who understands the complexities of military operations and is committed to serving his country both on and off the battlefield.



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