Among MAGAts Nothing Will Backfire On Rhonda Santis, Just Like Nothing Backfires On Señor Trumpanzee
Yesterday, during a segment of Hugh Hewitt’s neo-fascist radio show, Trump threatened that the U.S. would face “problems in this country the likes of which perhaps we’ve never seen before. I don’t think the people of the United States would stand for it… I think they’d have big problems. Big problems. I just don’t think they’d stand for it. They will not sit still and stand for this ultimate of hoaxes.” A signal for his domestic terrorist militias to “stand back and stand by,” they way he signaled them before the J-6 attempted coup? He also threatened that if he’s indicted, he’ll run for president again.
The Democrats should take him up on that. They’ll never find as bad a candidate who is more hated and who will cause a deeper and more deadly split in the GOP and help the Democrats win more seats in the House, Senate and in state legislatures. The perfect foil for a party that is all about “we’re the lesser evil.” Then again… is Trump really the worst candidate available? Most people I know in Florida swear that their governor, Rhonda Santis, is absolutely worse than Trump. I know, hard to imagine.
Late yesterday, Jack Shafer puked all over DeSantis’ latest nasty little campaign stunt. Shafer understands just who DeSantis is and what he’s all about: “Evidence,” he wrote, “continues to mount that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis would gladly set himself on fire, jump off a tall building, drive a Shelby Mustang off a cliff, ride a barrel over a waterfall, fly a wing-suit through a narrow mountain gap, or dance the yo-yo pole like the stunt men in Mad Max: Fury Road if he senses even a smidgen of political gain in return. The potential candidate for 2024’s Republican presidential nomination and current candidate for reelection in Florida indulged in another circus act this week by flying to Martha’s Vineyard two planeloads of undocumented immigrants from Texas. (DeSantis claimed he wanted to dissuade undocumented immigrants from coming to Florida, saying, ‘We are not a sanctuary state and it’s better to be able to go to a sanctuary jurisdiction. And yes, we will help facilitate that transport for you.’)”
Daring to exploit exhausted and traumatized immigrants— children among them— as human pawns in a political game would terrify a normal politician. No matter your views on immigration policy, imagine being treated as political refuse that’s dumped to own the libs. Pulling a stunt like this required the heart of a reptile and the ambition of a Genghis Khan, although the comparison might be unfair to skinks and geckos, which feed primarily on insects, fruit and the occasional mouse. That DeSantis performed his cruelty on migrants not even residing in his state tells you all you need to gauge his status as a scoundrel. It’s hard to decide which horrifies most, that DeSantis, Yale undergraduate, Harvard law, U.S. Navy, would squat this low or that he thought it would charm his followers.
In previous episodes, stuntman DeSantis has used the power of the state to either punish or threaten punishment against the Special Olympics for requiring vaccination, the Disney Corp. for engaging in free speech about “Don’t Say Gay” legislation, and the Tampa Bay Rays for tweeting against gun violence. In other acts of saber-rattling, DeSantis has threatened a Miami bar’s liquor license for allowing minors to attend “sexually explicit” drag shows, undermined a state referendum that gave formerly incarcerated felons the right to vote and helped ban the state pension fund from considering environmental, social and governance standards (aka, “ESG“) in making investments.
None of DeSantis’ Jackie Chan-esque moves before the news cameras have much to do with the traditional governmental goals of keeping neighborhoods safe, paving the streets, providing potable water and balancing the budget. Like his fellow stuntman Donald Trump, he devises his stunts as political spectacles that arouse the culture-war biases of his base and drive them to the polls. Shipping migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard, like many of DeSantis’ exploits, have less to do with making Florida a commodious place and everything to do with making his opponents whinge before his boldness. DeSantis has become so enamored of his role as Gov. Gutsy that he recently shot a reelection ad that portrays him as a political Top Gun who dogfights with the “corporate media.”
A governor genuinely interested in curbing corporate power wouldn’t bother with revoking the privilege to run a special taxing district, as DeSantis has with Disney. He would move to tax corporations, regulate them or subject them to anti-trust action. But that’s too much like real governance. (Nota bene: In typical showman fashion, the revocation of Disney’s special taxing district doesn’t take place until June 2023, plenty of time for DeSantis— if he wins reelection— to declare victory over Disney and row back the cancellation.)
DeSantis’ antics can’t be dismissed as mere political entertainment. As the Cato Institute’s Will Duffield recently wrote, using state power to bully people or corporations for exercising their free speech rights soils the First Amendment. DeSantis isn’t the only political stuntworker threatening retaliation against those who would defy him. In 2021, President Joe Biden accused Facebook of “killing people“ because it allowed posts questioning the safety of the Covid vaccines. Again, no matter where you stand on vaccines, the government has no power to squelch discussions it dislikes. Even so, Biden administration officials acted on the president’s fury by working behind-the-scenes to “persuade” Facebook to de-post anti-vaccine messages, accomplishing state censorship without having to rely on the law.
DeSantis, like the many members of Congress who would dictate social media policies to big tech, performs his stunts with one goal in mind. He wants to instill a deep and pervasive fear of his wrath. You’re Disney, speaking out? He knows how to make it hurt. You want to establish vaccination guidelines for your non-profit, as the Special Olympics did? He’ll threaten to defund you. You believe the undocumented should be treated with dignity? By requisitioning some of them from Texas and depositing them in your wealthy liberal enclave, he’ll turn his ire into your theoretical inconvenience and dial up the pain if you ignore him.
Some commentators have predicted that the Martha’s Vineyard gambit will backfire on DeSantis for going too far. But it won’t. His fellow member of the stuntman guild— Trump— has already ushered in a new political age that demands greater acts of malice and spite to keep the groundlings’ attention. Like other stuntmen, DeSantis never satisfies himself with his last stunt. He’s always looking to top himself.
The migrants are Venezuelans fleeing the authoritarian Venezuelan government and I’m wondering what Mario Diaz Balart and other Republicans with big Venezuelan-American populations in their districts think, Doral, Weston, Hunters Creek, Kendale Lakes, Fountainbleau and Three Lakes, all in Florida, being the biggest Venezuelan population centers in the U.S. So far, Diaz-Balart has been mum about the outrage. An outrage, by the way, that was probably illegal since Rhonda used Florida taxpayer money for his little campaign stunt.