Tuesday, August 10, 2021


Yesterday, The Washington Post's Paul Waldman wrote this about Florida governor Ron DeSantis, whose state is on track to have a million additional COVID cases by the end of September (at the current rate of well over 20,000 a day):
... more than any other Republican, DeSantis may have cracked the code of how to position oneself to lead the GOP in a new era....

Any politician can be an Internet troll concerned with nothing so much as Owning the Libs.... But to really capture the hearts of the party base, you have to show your willingness to do actual harm to people’s lives as you wage war against the other side. And that’s where DeSantis is excelling.

... DeSantis signed a law nullifying local public health measures and banning private companies from requiring customers to show proof of vaccination....

And in an escalating battle with local officials, he instructed school districts not to require masks and even threatened to withhold funding from any district that does so.

... the fact that Florida has become Delta Ground Zero has apparently only increased DeSantis’s determination to allow covid to continue spreading. He knows full well that at gatherings of Republicans the crowd cheers any mention of low vaccination rates.
I thought of that when I read this press release from Texas governor Greg Abbott, who shares DeSantis's determination to encourage the spread of the virus:
Governor Greg Abbott today announced a series of actions the State of Texas is taking to mitigate the recent rise in COVID-19 cases in Texas. The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) will be utilizing staffing agencies to provide medical personnel from out-of-state to Texas health care facilities to assist in COVID-19 operations. The Governor has also sent a letter to the Texas Hospital Association asking hospitals to voluntarily postpone elective medical procedures, for which a delay will not result in loss of life or the deterioration of a patient's condition, in order to increase hospital capacity for COVID-19 patients.
Texas's healthcare system is so overtaxed that the state wants elective surgeries postponed and is recruiting medical personnel from out of state. This comes six months after Texas experienced a days-long power crisis, in which more than 4 million people lost power and at least 210 died. And yet many of the reforms that could prevent this from happening again won't be implemented:
After the blackout, analysts at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas said one simple way to build resilience into the natural gas supply chain would be to mandate weatherization of new gas wells built in Texas.

... the state Legislature failed to act on that recommendation.

Other major proposals that might help safeguard the grid in both winter and in summer hardly received a hearing....

Suggestions to encourage power plants to have emergency backup fuel were rarely discussed. Bills to increase energy efficiency standards to relieve pressure on the grid were voted down. A proposal to back up the Texas grid by connecting it to other parts of the country was also not addressed.
Despite all this, it seems quite likely that Abbott will win reelection next year, as will the Republican majority in the legislature. In Florida, one poll shows a potential DeSantis opponent leading the governor (barely), but another recent poll shows DeSantis cruising to victory again.

So I'm wondering whether Republican voters actually like the societal breakdown they're experiencing under DeSantis and Abbott. Are they invigorated by it the way they seem to have been invigorated by the failed pandemic response of Donald Trump last year? (Recall that they responded to Trump's COVID failures by giving him the second-highest vote total of any presidential candidate in history.)

Much of right-wing culture is organized around the notion of a breakdown in society. Nearly every story on Fox and other right-wing cable news outlets is built on the premise that if allowed to go unchecked, this -- whatever it is -- will destroy civilization as we know it. Migrant border crossings, urban crime, teaching about racism in the schools, and even the election of Democrats to public office -- all of it is supposed to lead to chaos, lawlessness, and anarchy. Many right-wingers are doomsday preppers. Even more of them are gun owners who've persuaded themselves that they own firearms not because they like them (the real reason), but because they expect to need them someday to fend off marauding bands of MS-13 gang members or "urban thugs" from Chicago -- or their own government.

If you think this way, after a while it seems you might want society to break down. It would confirm your priors. It would feed your cosplay fantasies of someday being an armed hero or a grizzled survivor in a world gone mad. And besides, you've invested so much in the theory that the Democrat Party wants to take your guns and give your vote and your country to transgender Mexican fentanyl-dealing Marxists -- it would really suck if you were wrong after all these years.

So as long as they're not personally on ventilators in ICUs, and as long as they don't personally freeze to death because Texas utilities won't winterize equipment, I think Republicans like the failings of their politician heroes. What's happening in Florida and Texas seems bad, but it would have to be a lot worse before DeSantis and Abbott fans stopped enjoying it.

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