Covid is threatening to overrun the state of Florida again. In the last ten days, according to CDC data, Florida has accounted for almost 25% of new COVID cases in the nation and many of the state’s hospitals are being largely overrun with new Covid patients just weeks after we were told that vaccinated Americans could “return to normal”.
Meanwhile Governor Ron DeSantis plays cultural warrior on the virus and spends his time secretly concocting ways to appear as reckless as possible to placate extreme forces nationally. What has become plainly obvious is DeSantis who appeared on sure footing in March and April 2020 as the virus first hit us, shifted to an obstinate position in the summer of 2020- as the virus hit its height in Florida and has now dug into that position.
Evolving science means any dug-in position on this issue is irresponsible, especially on masking. The Governor’s views that masks aren’t needed in schools and the attacks his allies and consultants have engineered on social media and in the conservative press on masks demonstrate what a demagogue faux populist our Governor has turned into.
My initial thoughts last June as Florida was surging in cases (at the same point they were flat-lining elsewhere – Florida has actually had four large waves of the virus unlike the nation as a whole that has had three)were that DeSantis’ positions were down to placating donors, be it the hospitality industry or amusement parks that wanted Florida reopened for tourism or sports leagues like, WWE, the NBA and MLS who held tournaments in “bubbles” in Florida.
However, as time went on it became obvious DeSantis’ position was probably bad for business as Florida developed a reputation for not only recklessness around the virus but stupidity which being openly flaunted. As we’ve repeatedly discussed on this site, in order to keep the performative art about COVID going, the Governor shifted to a radical anti-business, anti-capitalist position (a position likely held by the same “communists” he attacks daily) and began an assault on Florida’s private industry.
For years, Republicans have talked up their alliance with business while failing to attract high-end corporate relocation’s or foster a culture on innovation in the state, one which existed in the 1970’s and 1980’s, better times for Florida. Endless tax breaks have done nothing to move the needle on Florida attracting businesses or young professionals to the state. Florida’s reputation as an intellectual wasteland, while partly undeserved as has hit a critical boiling point in perception thanks to DeSantis’ demagoguery on COVID and his efforts to muzzle tech companies (who ironically in the 1980’s & 1990’s found a fertile and conducive environment in Florida but have not since).
So what is DeSantis’ end game? Simple – he wants to “own the libs” as much as possible even if it means killing people in his own electoral base here in Florida, to emerge as the leader of the national GOP – something already in progress. Unless, DeSantis’ poll numbers nationally dry up and his small dollar donor base is reduced to just Florida, he will continue to put national politics, performative art and George Wallace-styled demagoguery above the state.