If — and it’s a big “if” — Ron DeSantis throws his hat in the ring and if — another big “if” — President Biden runs again, we could have something unique and, I believe, unprecedented: two Catholic major party nominees vying for president.

Not only that, two very different kinds of Catholics.

The Catholic Herald notes:

Two big takeaways emerged from the US midterms. The first was that the Democrats were not obliterated by a Republican “red wave”. The second was the effective crowning of Florida Governor, Ron DeSantis, as the unofficial new leader of the GOP and its likely candidate for the 2024 Presidential election.

DeSantis, who has been Governor since 2019, is – like President Joe Biden – a Catholic. He would likely be a very different kind of Catholic leader if he emerges as the next President of the United States.

For instance, in April DeSantis approved a bill which bans elective abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy, something he said he was “proud” of. In one debate the Democratic challenger, Charlie Crist, called the ban “callous and barbaric”.

DeSantis said: “I would like to see everybody have a shot. I’m proud of the 15 weeks that we did. I know Charlie Crist opposes that even though the baby is fully formed, has a heartbeat, can feel pain and can suck their thumb.”

Beyond abortion, DeSantis has established himself as something of a culture warrior, especially in education. The so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law means public school teachers in Florida are banned from holding classroom instruction about sexual orientation or gender identity.

The Parental Rights in Education Act ensures that “Classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.”

DeSantis said teaching kindergarten-aged children “they can be whatever they want to be” was “inappropriate”. Meanwhile, his “Stop WOKE Act” sought to ban lessons and training on race and diversity in schools and workplaces, although it has faced pushback in the courts.

In this instance, WOKE stands for “Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees”. DeSantis said: “No one should be instructed to feel as if they are not equal or shamed because of their race. In Florida, we will not let the far-left woke agenda take over our schools and workplaces. There is no place for indoctrination or discrimination in Florida.”

For many conservative Catholics, DeSantis looks ideal – a family man who champions freedom and traditional values. Whether he can export his brand of conservatism nationwide is another matter. Abortion access gained some notable victories in the midterms after the Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v Jackson.

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Photo: by Gage Skidmore / Flickr / Creative Commons license