A couple of days ago, Bulwark reporter Christian Schneider wrote about former male sex worker Marco Rubio's transformative nature-- a would-be Madonna. "In the course of his young political career," wrote Schneider, "Marco Rubio has been a Tea Partier, a Reformicon, and a neoconservative. Now he’s auditioning for the role of MAGA FAN #7 by trying to paint Anthony Fauci as the real villain of the pandemic. His strategy seems to be: Dazzle the Trumpenproletariat so completely that they adopt him as their new king. It’s adorable. The political equivalent of leaving your husband in hopes of catching the eye of pharma bro Martin Shkreli... For guys like Rubio-- and Joni Ernst, who also jumped to get the vaccine ahead of front-line healthcare workers after claiming that she thought COVID was NBD and that the real number of deaths from the virus was under 10,000-- this is all just kabuki theater. They belong to a party that is populated by people who hate 'elites.' So they have to hate 'elites,' too. And since the definition of who or what is 'elite' is infinitely elastic, Rubio tries to butch up whenever there’s a clear target... Rubio isn’t doing this because he’s stupid. He’s doing it because he’s an ambitious coward desperate to earn the approval of a deranged man who still has a chokehold on the Republican party."
That said, on Tuesday when the New Republic announced their Scoundrel of the Year it was another Florida Man, not Liddle Marco. Florida's governor, Ron DeSantis, "an heir to Trumpism," wrote Jeb Lund, "concealed the severity of the coronavirus pandemic and fomented a depraved indifference to human life."
On Tuesday, Florida reported 12,075 new confirmed cases of COVID and 108 more deaths. Yesterday it was 13,871 more cases and 134 more deaths. Today (at noon), 17,192 more cases and 125 more deaths. Florida has a total of 1,323,315 cases now and 21,673 COVID-deaths, a nightmare scenario that DeSantis once loudly boasted could only happen in New York (998,524 total cases) and never in Florida. Florida has 61,613 cases per million residents. New York has 51,329 cases per million and Italy, which DeSantis also derided for mishandling the pandemic early on, has 34,877 cases per million residents. Is it DeSantis fault that Florida has done so horribly during the pandemic? Not entirely. He shares blame with Trump and the state legislature, all of whom rolled out the red carpet for COVID.
In way of introduction, Lund noted that as a youngster, "DeSantis always wanted to make something of himself. What a pity. From working-class beginnings in Dunedin, Florida, DeSantis began his journey to restoring anti-elitist, real-world values by going to Eli Yale’s Finishing School for Fancy Boys when they needed a baseball player, then Harvard Law School. At both, he drank deep of the rarified intellectualism that produced George W. Bush, the commitments to ethics and service that drive Mike Pompeo, and the American heartland experience so uniquely embodied by Ted Cruz. Later, he served as a JAG officer in the Navy, the same crucible that forged Lindsey Graham. After his discharge from the Navy, DeSantis spent an exhaustive two years in the wilderness of the private sector, then plotted a course to power by writing a book about America, values, the Constitution, values, the dangers of socialism, and Barack Obama. DeSantis’s Dreams from Our Founding Fathers lengthens Obama’s Dreams from My Father to a devastating degree not seen since the addition of '... in bed' to fortune cookie fortunes. You could plot the rest of Captain Ron’s by-the-numbers ASMR bio yourself to the soothing ticking of a ventilator. DeSantis won a safely conservative House seat by running against Obama and socialism in 2012, even suggesting that Obama’s face should be on food stamps. In the House, he helped found the Freedom Caucus, which is a lot like having your name on the remedial wing at Murder School. Taking the long view of his constituents’ needs, he contributed to a wonderful precedent by voting against Hurricane Sandy aid. Thankfully, at that point Florida had run out of hurricanes and would never be hit by another again. When Marco Rubio ran for president in 2016 and announced his intention to vacate his Senate seat, DeSantis saw his chance. Alas, Donald Trump horsewhipped Rubio almost everywhere but Marco’s literal backyard, and Rubio-- who entered politics to be near rich people, like someone taking a high school weight-training elective to hang out near football players and maybe be mistaken for one of them-- slunk back to his incumbency, but not before DeSantis’s abortive Senate run had tapped into the Koch and Club For Growth donor networks that have helped give Florida politics the healthful complexion of the Eglin Air Force Base test range."
DeSantis was wily enough to manipulate Trump into endorsing him in the 2018 primary and then ran a campaign that tirelessly characterized Andrew Gillum as a Black socialist former mayor of Black crime capital Tallahassee. He won the governorship by a margin of 30,000 votes-- 4,076,186 (49.6%) to 4,043,723 (49.2%).
Lund contends that "Florida does not have a governor, but pestilence does, and in this respect DeSantis has served his only non-Trump constituency with an ardor unparalleled in his career. His legacy of evasion, distortion, and endangerment in furtherance of the unchecked spread of disease among every other citizen of the state could only be surpassed by his dying of Covid-19 in a protracted Clouseau-esque manner... When the rest of the United States begged Florida to shut down in March and April, he listened to the Chamber of Commerce’s demands that the state stay open via magical-thinking restrictions that presume viruses distinguish between houses of booze, houses of God, and hours of the day. When America begged him to close the beaches, he dragged his feet until the media was awash in images of MTV Spring Break 2020: Viral Loaded. Florida ultimately shut from April 2020 to … April 2020, then reopened and never looked back. We couldn’t let the cure (not getting the disease) be worse than getting the disease (getting the disease); what part of that isn’t getting through to you?"
And the blame for the cascading pandemic in Florida was always someone else-- never the COVID-enabling, herd immunity-seeking Republicans. Unfortunately, DeSantis worked harder on fudging the statistics than on protecting his state from the disease.
For months, Florida has swirled with more rumors about hospitals than there were rumors about where your meat came from in Occupied France. For every shitbird in the Ralph Lauren flatfront militia threatening to take the Insurrection Act into their own hands, there’s someone who heard about a hospital in Jacksonville or Orlando where they’re not allowed to say when someone died of Covid-19.
Unfortunately, for Captain Ron, the latter rumor-mongering grows out of something very much like the truth, including delayed and suppressed Covid-19 data, changing metrics, muzzling local health directors to keep schools open, muzzling state-level health officials, fighting lawsuits trying to turn over information to the public, and taking advantage of the punitive array of consequences for whistleblowers. The latter prospect became terrifyingly real when Florida Department of Law Enforcement agents conducted an armed raid of a former state data scientist potentially guilty of illegally emailing former coworkers and absolutely guilty of making DeSantis look like a jerkoff. Last but not least, it turns out that the State of Florida deliberately excluded Covid-19 death data from official counts for a few weeks leading to this year’s presidential election, making it appear as if the pandemic were becoming less lethal as the Trump-DeSantis Nothing Offensive reclaimed the state. After the election, the count resumed.
At every step of the pandemic, DeSantis has chosen a path of disinformation, misinformation, and omission to conceal the severity of the crisis. The voice coming from the TV in Tallahassee speaks in the same tones as the Sackler family telling you Oxycontin isn’t addictive and Camel Cigarettes telling you that your T-zone was never better. Fuck it—you know what probably works? Hydroxychloroquine. Here’s DeSantis as late as December 15: “The evidence does not show that restaurants are a significant threat.” Keeeeeep fuckin’ that chicken. He has created a statewide environment of depraved indifference to human life and either engaged in or tolerated a conspiracy to suppress information affecting Floridians’ mortal safety, and in any other circumstance we would call him a murderer.
None of this passive culling of the citizenry was done on principle, and it certainly wasn’t done for you. As ever, DeSantis’s only audience was the creature that made him, his Maxi-Me, Donald Trump. If Florida’s governor is, at best, a weather vane that always finds the strongest gust pointing toward Washington, he at least has the virtue of being right about it. He might not have begun as a Trumpist, but he has every intention of outlasting the boss.
Indeed, an heir to the Trumpian creed is slouching forth from the Sunshine State. DeSantis has suppressed local health officials and lifted bans on gatherings. When Hillsborough County got big ideas about shuttering a local minister’s Megachurch, DeSantis issued a superseding stay-at-home order that exempted church services. Since then, almost a million more Floridians have gotten the chance to try to pray the RNA away. Millions more, however, haven’t had their First Amendment rights as well respected: When the Trump administration decided to try to distract from its slow suffocation of hundreds of thousands of Americans by inventing a wave of communist insurrections in every city by Black Lives Antifa, DeSantis was happy to play along, with a law that made vehicular homicides at the hands of right-wing vigilantes an acceptable form of political expression.
Floridians have been waiting nine months for a mask mandate; and they’ll get Nothing. They’ve been waiting forever for unemployment and will get much the same, stymied by a system designed by Rick Scott and the finest minds in Republican consultancy to be enraging, protracted, and hostile to the concept of functionality. When the community most needed a moral voice that insisted on a set of priorities for all, to the benefit of all, DeSantis once again staked Nothing. Pile on enough Nothing, and it sunders the invisible connections that can endure even months of lockdown. Once a void is big enough, there’s no telling what it will swallow. He delegated, and in so doing unwittingly revealed to so many of us who, among our friends, truly didn’t care what happened to anyone else either.
Ronald DeSantis, the First Impaired Boater of the Intracoastal Waterway, a man whose administration has overseen four times the number of deaths to Covid-19 as the state lost to the Civil War, is only halfway through his first term as someone who will do Nothing to jeopardize his chances of becoming president. His world is a liminal space, the Governor’s Mansion an especially classy van on the way between gigs. You can stuff the ground with dead, but he’ll never trip over the bumps because he’s never really been here. The true cost of the Florida dead will be felt, if it is felt at all, at the exact second it costs him the next office and not a second sooner.