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Ron Desanctimonious Sends People to the Dictionary

Donald Trump’s new moniker for Ron DeSantis, “Ron Desanctimonious,” may have limited ability to go viral.  The issue is, frankly, many people don’t know what “sanctimonious” means. 

Once we have established the definition, the question becomes whether DeSantis meets that definition. 

Indeed, “sanctimonious” has been trending on Merriam-Webster’s top lookups.

As a result of this light jab at DeSantis’ expense, “sanctimonious” has been trending on Merriam-Webster’s top lookups. It is ironic that Trump has people scrambling for a dictionary, given that he’s supposed to have a limited vocabulary (one which inclines towards superlatives, such as “biggest” and “best” or more simple adjectives such as “bad” or “not good”).  Yet Trump’s mind is not without subtlety, and so one should not be surprised if he uses his cunning to find a devastating pejorative for his perceived rival. 

Sanctimonious is defined by Merriam Webster as “hypocritically pious or devout.”  

Is DeSantis, or should I say Desanctimonious, “hypocritically pious” or “devout”?  Hold that thought. Merriam-Webster tells us that in the 1600’s, the word “initially meant holy,” but then went on to take the connotation of a “showy display of holiness.” The Christian Post took this view, reasoning that Trump was trying to portray DeSantis as a “religious fanatic.” Hardly.

In its current usage, “sanctimonious” doesn’t necessarily take on a religious context. In other words, the “sanctimonious” person need not show off their supposed religious virtue. Instead, they can be showy in terms of their moral virtue (as so many are, let’s face it). DeSantis is not especially pious in the literal, religious sense.  But one might say there is a certain piety to his advocacy of his political positions and, frankly, his advocacy of himself. 

Unfortunately, there is a certain humorlessness to DeSantis. He has no sense of irony, and cannot laugh at himself. Trump is derided as a narcissist, etc., and maybe he is. But Trump also has a self-deprecating humor, as though he were also in on the joke. For example, in a speech to the United Nations, Trump boasted:

“In less than two years, my administration has accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country. … So true.”
Trump at the UN, 2018

The audience of international dignitaries was unimpressed, and a wave of laughter could be heard. Trump quipped amiably, “Didn’t expect that reaction, but that’s okay.” Here the crowd now laughed with Trump and applauded. This kind of ironic self-awareness is what DeSantis lacks, and what puts him in danger of coming off as sanctimonious.

DeSantis doesn’t have that sense of detachment and nimble wit. Therefore, in the political fights, however effective he might be, he is in danger of appearing sanctimonious indeed. 

DeSantis’ victory speech upon being reelected governor of Florida 

Yet more of an issue with DeSantis’ personality is his woodenness.   Though he doesn’t shy away from political fights, he is stiff and boring as a speaker and a politician.  From his victory speech: 

“The people.  Have delivered.  Their verdict.  Freedom.  Is here.  To stay.”

With this in mind, the “Ron Desanctimonious” moniker misses DeSantis’ most glaring weakness.  Though through a certain perspective DeSantis is sanctimonious, it is neither his defining feature nor his biggest flaw.  

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