Will Growing Pile Of Dead Floridians Stand In Way Of Ron DeSantis’s White House Dreams?
This weekend, the New York Times published one of the most appalling articles we've seen since ... well, we haven't checked this morning's headlines yet. The COVID-19 Delta variant is currently ravaging Florida, thanks almost entirely to Republican Governor Ron DeSantis's malicious, ego-driven stupidity. Yet, this is how the Times's Miami bureau chief, Patricia Mazzei, frames the issue.
If the [COVID-19] surge overwhelms hospitals, Mr. DeSantis's higher aspirations could be in trouble. If Florida comes through another virus peak with its hospital system and economy intact, his game of chicken could become a model for how to coexist with the virus.
Florida's COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths have increased more than 100 percent over the past two weeks, but what's really at stake apparently is DeSantis's political career. He was on his way to the White House, perhaps as early as 2024, but all those damn dead people got in the way. Shakespeare could've done so much with this material.
Florida on Friday reported a record-breaking 23,903 new COVID cases to the CDC. 93 new deaths also logged, accordin… https://t.co/Qp64rBFbpn— Frank Guzman (@Frank Guzman)1628359043.0
Mazzei actually writes that DeSantis is playing a “game of chicken" with COVID-19. This is a goddamn pandemic, and the governor of a major state's so-called “strategy" is so idiotic superheroes lectured stupid kids about it on Saturday morning cartoons. Playing “chicken" with people's lives is not in any way a model for “coexisting" with COVID-19. Mazzei is also repeating a rightwing talking point that the best Americans could ever hope for against COVID-19 is “coexistence," where people routinely die every COVID-19 “season" like they lost Shirley Jackson's lottery. She states outright that the “virus is unlikely to ever fully vanish," but fails to note that the Delta variant thrives in states where vaccination rates are low and/or mitigation efforts are non-existent.
DeSantis spent most of this year appeasing willfully ignorant vaccine resisters. The Sun-Sentinel called him out in December for not having much of a plan to promote vaccinations in Florida, compared to fellow Republican Governor Mike DeWine in Ohio. He also actively opposed private businesses requiring proof of vaccination, and signed legislation in May banning vaccine passports. It's not a surprise Florida has failed to reach herd immunity.
DeSantis overruled local officials on public health measures, including mask mandates. He's vowed to protect the right of students to refuse to wear masks, thereby endangering their classmates. A couple months ago, he also banned trans girls from playing on girls' sports teams. Like most conservatives, he has a bizarre definition of “fairness."
Now Mr. DeSantis is gambling again. A new virus spike has led to a record number of Covid-19 hospitalizations that have undone some of Florida's economic and public health gains and again raised the stakes for Mr. DeSantis
The evidence of Florida's "public health gains" is lacking. The governor's office stopped releasing daily COVID-19 case and death reports in June, which is not the sort of thing you do when you're kicking ass in a given area. It's like if McDonald's started putting up signs that said, “Uh, yeah, we served some folks recently." That's not a positive indicator.
Mazzei describes DeSantis as a gambler, like he's a common Kenny Rogers, but DeSantis is gambling with human lives, which makes him a psychopath, not a beloved country music singer or inspiration for an amusing Seinfeld episode.
If the latest surge overwhelms hospitals, leaving doctors and nurses unable to properly care for the younger, almost entirely unvaccinated people packing emergency rooms and intensive care units, Mr. DeSantis's perch as a Republican Party front-runner with higher aspirations could be in serious trouble.
And a lot of people would've died needlessly. That's more important than whether DeSantis could've become the next George W. Bush.
DeSantis has openly mocked medical experts and smeared Dr. Anthony Fauci in his campaign merchandise. His response to COVID-19 is like if Bush had somehow invaded Iraq while governor of Texas. Ideally, that would've clued even Republicans in that he'd make a lousy president.
Republicans finally turning on GOP Governors whose policies are killing their constituents: Louisiana Sen. Bill Cas… https://t.co/lJyT1Kt2B5— Shannon Watts (@Shannon Watts)1628434971.0
DeSantis's “gamble" has perhaps already crapped out. Republicans with a minimal respect for human life are turning on him. GOP Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, where the Delta variant is enjoying an extended Mardi Gras, told CNN's Dana Bash that he disagreed with DeSantis's decision to overrule local officials. The conservative senator rejected DeSantis's “freedom for all, especially COVID" approach: “Local officials should have control here. I don't want top-down from Washington, DC. I don't want top-down from a governor's office."
While detailing the mess DeSantis has made, Mazzei keeps the focus on the governor's political career.
Last summer's surge hurt Mr. DeSantis in public opinion polls, though his approval rating mostly rebounded afterward.
Mr. DeSantis, who faces re-election next year, has used the tit for tat with the president in campaign fund-raising pitches. (He fund-raised in Michigan on Monday, The Detroit News reported.) Later, he decried "media hysteria" over the rising Covid case numbers and downplayed the dire situation in hospitals — even as the Florida Hospital Association warned about overcrowding as a result of the virus.
Florida's governor is a horrible person who is callously endangering his constituents. That's the relevant story, not this BS game theory, and it's a stark contrast to how the Times has fixated on Hillary Clinton's scandalous email server and Amy Klobuchar's strange relationship with staplers.
Shame on everyone who wrote, edited, and willingly published this garbage.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."