Ron DeSantis is Putting His Political Ambitions above the Health of Floridians
I was in Florida last week as Covid cases spiked again and opinions about the state's Governor, Ron DeSantis, seem to be equally divided. Some believe he is protecting their right to make poor decisions about their health, and others think he is willing to sacrifice lives to further his political ambitions. The later stance was captured yesterday by Dean Obeidallah, of MSNBC.
MSNBC: "There should be a special place in hell — or potentially in prison — for politicians who put their political goals ahead of the health and safety of our children. That is exactly what Gov. Ron DeSantis is doing in Florida with the executive order he signed last Friday barring school districts from mandating that students and school employees wear masks during the spike in Covid cases."
One has to feel a bit sorry for DeSantis; he really believes he can get the Republican nomination in 2024 as a more refined [a relative term in this case] version of Donald Trump; Trump without all the baggage. The problem, of course, that DeSantis and the other Trump 2.0 candidates will face is that to get the GOP nomination you will need to adopt some pretty moronic policy positions on issues like Covid and climate change, for example. The Republican base will demand adherence to Trumpian orthodoxy, no matter how nonsensical. That's the reason that Florida's Governor has refused to answer questions about election fraud; you can't admit that Biden won and hope to get the nomination in 2024. The "big lie" is now a GOP sacrament.
So, DeSantis is at a bit of a disadvantage compared to Donald Trump Jr., Mike Pompeo, and Tucker [I'd rather in Hungary] Carlson. They can tour the country making speeches full of wonderfully inane, fact-free Trumpisms and not risk killing folks. DeSantis, on the other hand, has to balance running a state with his political ambitions, so, occasionally, he has to consider elitist stuff like science and research when making policy in Florida.
DeSantis has decided to adopt a "straddle" strategy, trying to adhere to GOP orthodoxy while also acknowledging reality. You can see this in his fight against the impact of climate change on Florida's coasts. Jake Cline of the Sierra Club recently published a piece titled, Can DeSantis Tackle Climate Change Without Admitting It’s Real?
Sierra Club: "When Ron DeSantis was running for governor in 2018, he found himself in a quandary. On the one hand, the effects of climate change in Florida—increased flooding in coastal communities, more-active hurricane seasons, and the loss of wildlife habitat—had become impossible to ignore. In the nation’s third-most-populous state, a 2018 poll found that 66 percent of voters considered climate change “a serious problem.”
"But the Republican Party was deep in the grip of climate denialism (as has been the case for decades). DeSantis’s predecessor, Governor Rick Scott, had forbidden state employees from even using the term "climate change" and ordered them to refer to sea level rise as “nuisance flooding,” an absurdity that did not escape the attention of the nation’s comedians."
DeSantis decided he had to address the effects of climate change or lose support in coastal areas, but knew that he couldn't accept the science or risk his political career in the Republican Party. So, he settled on a plan to tackle the impact without acknowledging climate change or addressing the underlying causes of the problem.
More recently, DeSantis applied a similar strategy to vaccinations and Covid restrictions in Florida. Originally, the Governor came out strongly in favor of vaccinations and traveled to local sites to promote the shots, but as the right-wing media turned against such efforts and the conspiracy theories multiplied, he scaled back his efforts.
New York Times: The governor has consistently urged Floridians to get vaccinated, though he no longer holds public events at vaccination sites as he did earlier this year.
And, critics have noted that as the fight against the Covid Delta variant reached a crescendo in recent weeks and cases skyrocketed in the state, DeSantis seems more interested in satisfying the GOP's Trumpist base than saving lives.
WPTV-FL: "Gov. DeSantis has failed Florida at every stage of this pandemic, and now he has let down Floridians once again by failing to effectively lead efforts to get our state fully vaccinated," Florida Democratic Party Chair Manny Diaz said in a statement. "Instead of ramping up vaccine distribution when President (Joe) Biden passed the American Rescue Plan, Gov. DeSantis politicized the rollout process, contradicted public health experts, and did little to combat the vaccine hesitancy he helped sow."
Now, DeSantis has decided that he can score political points on mask restrictions in the public schools which are about to re-open. He's threatened to withhold state funds from school districts that require masks even as Florida set the record for the number of young people hospitalized with the virus, more than 13,000 and rising. His stance has been hailed by Trumpists as a victory for parental rights, totally ignoring the rights of other parents to send their children to safe schools. DeSantis seems to have succumbed to the "liberty without responsibility" narrative that's driving the GOP's right-wing these days.
The Governor's attempt to straddle difficult and politically charged issues like election fraud, climate change, and the pandemic might work in the short-term, but there is always the possibility that over time Florida's voters will come to realize that Ron DeSantis doesn't have any firm convictions and is more concerned with his political future than their well-being.
By: Don Lam & Curated Content