Thursday, December 15, 2022


The Bulwark's Jonathan Last doesn't have much respect for Ron DeSantis's latest moves on COVID:
... the COVID stuff? My God: More than a million Americans died from it. People still die from it every day. And DeSantis is playing games with this disease.
But Last also portrays it as mostly boob-bait for right-wing bubbas:
... none of these proposals will amount to anything. Which is perfectly in line with the DeSantis modus operandi: big, performative, shit-stirring uses of government power—that are quickly (and quietly) walked back, overturned, or abandoned.

Remember the Stop WOKE Act? It was DeSantis’s big anti-CRT-in-schools legislation.... It was stopped by the courts because it is flatly and obviously unconstitutional.

Remember when DeSantis punished Disney for opposing his Don’t Say Gay law by revoking the company’s Reedy Creek special tax district? Yeah, that’s going by the wayside because it wasn’t thought out and would wind up costing Florida taxpayers money....

And how about DeSantis’s mass “voter fraud” arrests, which managed to round up a bunch of people who don’t look like they live in the Villages on trumped-up voter-fraud charges? Yeah, those cases are falling apart in court because they had no basis in law.

Oh—and don’t forget the DeSantis promise to ship immigrants out of Florida after his stunt sending asylum seekers from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard blew up in his face.

This is what he does. And his anti-vaccine programs are no different.

No vaccine maker will be prosecuted in Florida.

There will be no peer-reviewed research showing that the risks of vaccine side effects were greater than the benefits.

A “Public Health Integrity Committee” will not interfere with the practice of medicine in Florida.

And that’s by design.
I don't like this framing. Last is certain that DeSantis knows his wingnut-pleasing assaults on decency will be stopped before they go too far. But if you were a Florida teacher who felt you could lose a job (or face death threats) for helping an LGBT student cope or for teaching accurate racial history, what you went through is real. If your life was turned upside down when you arrested for voting after being told that you had the right, your suffering was real. Maybe the courts will reverse or limit most of DeSantis's worst policies eventually -- but until that happens, real people suffer.

Last recognizes this:
The DeSantis stuff especially grinds my gears because he’s not shitposting on Twitter—he’s using the awesome power of the state to hurt real people. The alleged vote fraudsters? These were actual human beings with jobs and families. The asylum seekers from Venezuela he tricked into going to Martha’s Vineyard? They’re folks who braved unimaginable horrors to escape an ugly dictatorship.
But I'm afraid that the main thrust of Last's argument -- that, in the end, none of these bad policies stick, and that DeSantis doesn't really want them to, because he's just trying to win over right-wing voters and isn't really an extremist -- will become the conventional wisdom in the mainstream media. This would be part of the process whereby the media sells DeSantis as the mainstream, moderate, within-the-pale alternative to Donald Trump.

Also: After Donald Trump, do we really want to trust that President DeSantis would be constrained by guardrails? The current U.S. Supreme Court, in all likelihood, is further to the right than the Florida Supreme Court, and a Congress in which both houses are controlled by the GOP could easily be further to the right than the Florida legislature. Why should we feel certain that DeSantis's worst excesses as president would be curbed?

I don't believe DeSantis is playing eleven-dimensional chess in the way Last describes. I think DeSantis simply doesn't care what happens to people as a result of his actions, as long as the libs are owned and his poll numbers rise. I don't know whether Last is right or I am. But I hope those of us outside Florida never have to find out.

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