Florida has effectively jumped into territory not seen in generations in terms of state government anywhere in this country. For all the false equivalencies made about Governor Ron DeSantis with other right-wing public officials (oh he’s like Gregg Abbott, he’s baby Trump, he’s like Jim Jordan, he’s no worse than Rick Scott, etc) we are witnessing history unfold in front of our eyes.
Governor DeSantis is trying to accomplish what the likes of President Trump and Governor Scott could only dream about – the attempts to use the institutions and power of the state to force local governments and private business to bend to his ideological zeal and will. Unlike Trump who was an insecure, weak-willed narcissist that often caved-in to the last person in the room who got his attention, DeSantis isn’t capable of pivoting, adopting a course change or even showing a modicum of empathy.
While Donald Trump was a wannabe autocrat and a dangerous demagogue, he never quite had the competence or discipline to do what Governor DeSantis is doing at this very moment – use the levers of government to create a virtual authoritarian dictatorship while screaming FREEDOM! in the greatest case of projection we have ever seen.
The Governor wants the world to see HIM AS THE VICTIM OF COVID-19, instead of the 40,000+ dead Floridians or the 15,000+ currently hospitalized or the almost three million residents who have contracted the virus.
Currenrtly, Florida is averaging over 22,000 new COVID-19 cases daily over the last seven days according to Centers for Disease Control. Florida’s rate of virus transmission if it were an independent nation-state would be the third worst globally over the course of the last two weeks.
In the last few days, as I am sure all our readers are aware, the Governor and his minions including Former Speaker of the House turned State Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran have resorted to personal bullying of local public servants. These officials who have been threatened have a job to protect children, teachers and by extension the residents of their communities. DeSantis and Corcoran as a simple Twitter search will show, have effectively used government and bully pulpit to threaten the livelihood and careers of those who disagree with them.
The DeSantis administration wants no mask mandates and does not want businesses to have the ability to regulate the premises of their own entity, when it comes to masks or vaccines. This is the Governor’s view even while Florida, as noted above is one of the three biggest global hot spots for the COVID-19 virus.
Governor DeSantis has already lost one court case this week with regards to his efforts to muzzle one of Florida’s largest industries, cruises and now faces a litany of litigation related to Executive Orders and hastily passed partisan legislation which consolidated power in his hands preempting local authorities. It should also be recalled, DeSantis’ efforts to regulate tech companies so that cannot enforce their user agreements on political figures (Something you’d expect in Communist China or Putin’s Russia, not the US) have faced court setbacks as well.
Several legal experts that have weighed in on the situation in Florida feel DeSantis knows what he has done and is currently doing runs a serious risk of being found unconstitutional (or “extra-constitutional as one scholar I listed to referred to DeSantis’ actions as). But everyone concedes this seems to be about national politics – the performative art of looking “tough” to an increasingly angry and deranged base that votes in GOP Presidential primaries. DeSantis in other words could care less what actually happens to Florida’s citizens.
Many may see the ongoing struggles as merely about masking or vaccinations. But what they really represent is a fight for the soul of our state – whether the constitutional order will be maintained. Will local government’s control over its purview be respected and will private business have the right to set health guidelines for itself that protect workers and customers? Or will the preferences of one man, who has an uncanny ability to use and manipulate the levers of power be how this state is governed?