Florida’s COVID crisis a reflection of DeSantis malfeasance and autocratic instincts

Last week, Florida led the nation in per capita deaths from COVID-19, which is especially odd given the Governor and his Press Secretary Christina Pushaw challenged the media to compare Florida to blue states in terms of COVID numbers (and as usually happens what Pushaw tweets ends up in the right-wing site within hours, in this case, RedState.com).

Florida vs California

Unfortunately, for Floridians the actual comparison shows Florida failing when compared to blue states as well as to other red states. Talking heads on the right LOVE to compare California to Florida. Dr. Ashish Jha has compared the numbers.

The graph and data tells the story. California’s mitigation efforts are working, while Florida’s anti-science, authoritarian-driven efforts to prevent local governments and private businesses from taking steps to steps to stop the spread are failing miserably.

Florida is the only state in the union which has on a per capita basis in August 2021 produced deaths (this wave of COVID which has come AFTER the availability of vaccinations) than in any previous months since the pandemic began.. And that was before over 1,200 more deaths were reported to the CDC from Florida today and before the close to 2,000 deaths reported last week.

Because of the piecemeal reporting from Florida’s Department of Health and the lack of availability of consistent data It’s difficult to pin down exact numbers, but it appears Florida has averaged somewhere between 300 and 325 deaths a day from COVID-19 over the past month. Keep in mind, DOH has been going back into previous data and adjusting death totals – so while they may report 8 deaths today, week from now, you may access the data from September 9th and see 300 deaths.

Florida’s numbers are so unflattering, other Republicans like the inept Gregg Abbott in Texas and the AWOL Henry McMaster in South Carolina can utter “Thank goodness for Ron DeSantis and Florida!.” in terms of keeping their states from the bottom of the heap in mitigating COVID.

Short-term tourism success may lead to long-term disaster

Florida is at a point of being broken. Governor DeSantis pushed reopening and “freedom” as an economic fix. But what we’re finding is while it proved a temporary respite to economic woes with beach and amusement park driven tourism, long-term Florida’s reputation has taken a hit – the much talked about efforts to relocate large tech companies and other corporations from high tax blue states has fallen flat and every week we learn of a slew of new cuts to air service from abroad to the state.

In terms of travelers from abroad, while the US doesn’t appear on red lists of other western countries for COVID (yet at least), the reputation of Florida has taken a nasty tumble in the eyes of many abroad. Now seen as the embodiment of uncouth American disregard for science, public health and general welfare, many of the types that previously vacationed in this state probably will not in the future. Whether this is a fair generalization of Florida isn’t the point – perception is reality when it comes to matters of this nature.

DeSantis using COVID to grow Autocracy

The highly-focused and disciplined behavior of our Governor is designed to build a virtual autocracy in the state where preeption of any local ordinances that conflict with DeSantis ideology can be arbitrarily cancelled and any private company must bend its own corporate culture to what the Governor wants.

Unlike Donald Trump, who wanted to consolidate power in his own hands but was largely clueless on how to do so, DeSantis has carefully built a construct where he can strip power and independence away from other entities and consolidate it around his inner circle. DeSantis focus and discipline in executing such a move is what separates him from the impulsive and undisciplined Trump.

DeSantis control over the right-wing media ecosystem so those who praise him will never see the inherent contradictions in his comment on COVID. Instead they’ll just keep going attacking the “corporate media” while COVID infections and deaths rise on a daily basis here in the Sunshine State.

Our Governor is highly scripted and disciplined politician who has taken all the anger Trump created, all the red meat issues he threw to his base and given them a messaging consistency Trump never could. Trump for all his demagogic rhetoric, meandered all over the place even during individual speeches. DeSantis has seen maintaining a tough guy veneer on COVID and not being open to any sort of movement is a winning strategy in terms of keeping an angry following AND consolidating unprecedented power in his personal hands.

Thankfully for Floridians the courts are aggressively pushing back on DeSantis excess.

DeSantis rhetoric causing lives to be lost

Few if any individuals on the planet have done more to tastelessly politicize COVID-19 than Governor DeSantis. He’s turned COVID denialism into a tacky way to raise money and as a consequence spreading the message that COVID is a joke and scientists like Dr. Anthony Fauci are the enemy of ordinary people.

Below is sampling of DeSantis tacky fundraising apparel and dangerous rhetoric.

It’s about your health and whether you want that protection or not. It really doesn’t impact me or anyone else.”

Ron DeSantis September 3, 2021

You know the breakthroughs are not that rare…The vaccinations have been effective against preventing severe illness, but it hasn’t created the type of herd immunity that we hoped.”

Ron DeSantis September 7, 2021

DeSantis rhetoric centers around the following premesis:

  • Blame immigrants for the COVID surge. Inspired by Viktor Orbán’s Hungary, DeSantis seems determined to turn Florida into a combination of Orbán’s anti-immigrant, anti-LGBTQ, largely ethnocentric Hungary and a place of lawlessness and zero accountability like Venezuela.
  • Attack “woke” local governments and use preemption laws to create a new “anti-Federalist” model which centralizes power in the hands of a Chief Executive (this is also taken from Viktor Orbán).
  • Attack the “corporate” media for hating on Republicans, and “ordinary” Americans .
  • Characterize unvaccinated and unmasked Floridians who are actually responsible for spreading the virus as victims of a liberal plot to make everyone conform to Dr. Anthony Fauci’s worldview.
  • Push school vouchers as a way to expand the culture wars
  • Attack scientists and doctors as pointy headed elites pushing panic for political purposes.

Given everything happening in Florida and the continued human toll COVID-19 is causing our state, Governor DeSantis malfeasance is the leading cause for our struggles. As the current difference in cases and deaths between Florida and similar other locales indicates, if the leadership of the state is unwilling to protect Florida’s citizens, the human cost is enormous.

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