Tuesday, January 23, 2024

ANNALS OF DeSANTISTAN: The Pointless Cruelty of Ron DeSantis. (Tim Dickinson, Rolling Stone, January 21, 2024)

We got to know RONALD DION DeSANTIS he was when he was our St. Johns County Congressman, 2013-2018 and Governor, 2019-date. To know him is to know he is an angry phony, a hollow man, an rough beast.  Finis for now. From Rolling Stone: 

The Pointless Cruelty of Ron DeSantis

He thought owning the libs would endear him to the MAGA masses. It only revealed a sadistic streak to match his outsized ambition for power

THEY SAY OF  Donald Trump, “The cruelty is the point.” 

For Ron DeSantis, we might amend that to say, “The cruelty was pointless.”

Rarely in American politics has a civic leader, a governor no less, used his official power to marginalize, demean, and endanger so many — in the naked service of career advancement — only to fall so spectacularly flat. 

In the case of DeSantis, the Florida governor got trounced by Trump in the Iowa Republican caucuses. And despite his “Never Back Down” branding, DeSantis raised the white flag of surrender before having to face new embarrassment in the New Hampshire primary.

DeSantis, a military veteran and a Harvard law school graduate, devoted his ample wits to needless division. To make inroads with the MAGA base — seeking to become the standard bearer for Trumpism, without the personal baggage of Donald Trump himself — DeSantis turned the Sunshine State into a culture war weapons lab. 

Time and again, he attempted to one-up Trump by demonizing vulnerable groups — particularly LGBTQ+, Black, and immigrant Floridians. He rounded up migrants in Texas and flew them to Massachusetts for sport. He flouted science on Covid-19, wantonly undermining public confidence in the science of the vaccine — likely leading to thousands of needless deaths. He signaled his contempt for women by signing one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country. In the service of his political ambitions, DeSantis deformed public education; earned a travel advisory from the NAACP; and even went to war with Disney — only to run one of the most Mickey Mouse campaigns in recent memory.

DeSantis’ presidential hopes may be over for 2024, but as the survey below demonstrates, the divisions he stoked will long outlast his forgettable White House bid.

Don’t Say Gay

DeSantis’ waged his culture-war cruelty campaign with remarkable vigor against LGBTQ+ Floridians. In the spring of 2022, he passed the “Don’t Say Gay” legislation that banned public schools from teaching about sexual orientation or gender identity in early grades, and effectively forced queer teachers to closet themselves in the classroom. Last year, he passed a new law expanding the restrictions up to eighth grade. 

Disney, Drag Bars, and Groomers

In the same vein, DeSantis used his power as governor to demean trans people, signing into law a bill that limited drag performances, gender-affirming health care, school pronouns, and bathroom choice for transgender individuals. Championing Florida as what he called a “citadel of normalcy,” DeSantis embraced one of the biggest lies of the culture wars — namely that insidious forces are “grooming” unsuspecting children into deviant queer lifestyles. 

DeSantis even took this “groomer” fight to one of the biggest employers in the state, Disney — which took exception to his “Don’t Say Gay” bill — leading DeSantis’ most pugnacious spokesperson to post on X (formerly Twitter): “If you’re against the anti-grooming bill, you are probably a groomer.”

Un-Woking Ed

Seeking to delight his base by dumbing down the state, DeSantis went to war with “wokeness.” That included campaigns against diversity, equity, and inclusion, or DEI, curriculum in Florida, the hostile takeover and degradation of a tiny liberal arts college he deemed too liberal, as well as feuding with the College Board over the AP African American Studies curriculum. 

This divisive crusade finally led to the NAACP to issue at travel advisory against visiting the state of Florida, a move the organization insisted was “in direct response” to DeSantis’ “attempts to erase Black history and to restrict diversity, equity, and inclusion programs.”

Coronavirus Craziness

Perhaps most harmful, DeSantis attempted to outflank Trump on the the politics of the coronavirus, including not only prematurely lifting lockdowns but also demonizing the covid vaccine itself. In his attacks on Trump, DeSantis blasted the former president for one of his few successful programs: Operation Warp Speed, which cut red tape to speed a Covid vaccine to market. 

DeSantis saw policial benefit in casting his lot with the anti-lockdown, anti-vax “medical freedom” crowd during his presidential bid. Always ill at ease on the campaign trail, DeSantis used these Covid attack lines like a security blanket. Indeed, he couldn’t quit harping on Trump’s pandemic response — even after internal polling proved the attacks were a dud with voters

The public health danger from this political opportunism has not abated, even as DeSantis’ presidential ambitions have stalled out. In January, the extremist whom DeSantis installed as the state surgeon general called on Florida to halt the “use of mRNA Covid-19 vaccines,” citing conspiracy-theory fears about “DNA integration” and the “integrity of the human genome.”

Shipping Migrants to Martha’s Vineyard 

Perhaps nothing revealed DeSantis’ cruel ambitions more than his treatment of vulnerable asylum seekers. To make Florida less hospitable to migrants, the legislature had authorized millions of dollars to move migrants out of the state. With this cash in hand, DeSantis’ office reportedly cooked up a bizarre scheme that intercepted migrants in the border state of Texas, and had them flown — at Floridian taxpayers’ expense — to Massachusetts, where they were marooned on the resort-island of Martha’s Vineyard. 

Nothing about the operation made any sense as a policy matter. But it aligned easily with DeSantis’ true political north star: being pointlessly cruel. 

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