Opinion DeSantis and the Agony of the Anti-Anti-Anti-Vaxx Republican
As Delta surges in Florida, DeSantis is focused on battling Biden
President Biden, plainspoken son of Scranton, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, the endlessly ambitious, staunchly conservative Ivy Leaguer, were probably never going to be the best of friends. A loyal adherent of Donald Trump, DeSantis sided with the outgoing president’s baseless claims that last year’s election was stolen. For the first several months of the new administration, Biden and DeSantis kept their distance. Biden won the presidency byThat changed with the arrival of the Delta variant, which has hit Florida far harder than any other state. The governor and the president spent the first half of August locked in a feud over how to properly respond to the new surge, most pointedly when it comes to masking in schools.
The right-winghas forced Republican politicians to make an agonizing choice. On the one hand, public health and public opinion both militate strongly in favor of vaccination. On the other hand, a vocal segment of their own base demands resistance.
Most have tried to navigate the fine line between these competing pressures by formally endorsing the vaccine as a personal choice while loudly standing up for the rights of vaccine refusers., the party’s leading choice to lead it should , exemplifies the careful balance. On Monday, DeSantis announced tough new measures to punish any city or county in Florida that requires its public employees to receive a vaccine, with a $5,000 per infraction.
DeSantis flirts with the anti-vaccine crowd
The GOP governor has been drifting toward the movement for months.The Florida governor’s clear and unadulterated public messaging about the need for vaccines has become more diluted in recent months, culminating with a press conference he held this week to bash President Joe Biden’s new vaccine mandate plan — and threaten to fine cities and counties that impose their own mandates.
At his press conference, DeSantis stood beside a man who claimed the vaccine “changes your RNA,” a completely false anti-vaxx talking point. You could tell DeSantis knew this immediately. As soon as the line was uttered, he looked down at the ground, then nervously thrust his left hand into his pocket. His careful work to frame the issue entirely as a matter of rights was suddenly going up in flames:
At the Ron DeSantis press conference today, a guest claimed that the COVID vaccines change your RNA which is absolutely false.
I'm putting this longer clip here so you can see that DeSantis did nothing to correct this misinformation, which is prevalent in he anti-vaxx movement.— Josh Jordan (@NumbersMuncher)
After this uncomfortable moment, DeSantis still had a choice. He had a turn to speak afterward, and could have explicitly denounced the dangerous, paranoid nonsense that had just been circulated with his imprimatur. But to do so would have been to alienate a crucial constituency. The DeSantis game is to bring along anti-vaxxers without explicitly attaching himself to their most toxic beliefs. They could babble about RNA and Bill Gates all they wished offstage; onstage, the message would be relentlessly focused on the abstract issue of people’s rights.
DeSantis Appeals Mask Mandate Ban Ruling, Says State Has to 'Protect' Ability to Live
"My philosophy is, as a governor, my job is to protect your individual freedom," DeSantis said during a press conference Friday.The Republican governor's case will now be heard by a panel of 15 judges on Tallahassee's 1st District Court of Appeal, and could ultimately make it to Florida's Supreme Court.
The forces that brought DeSantis and his party to this pitiable position were roughly twofold. First, the Republican party has developed a growing skepticism of scientific authority over time. Fifty years ago,more than Democrats did, but the conservative movement’s attacks on science (especially the varieties of science that implied the need for regulation of pollution or consumer goods) hardened into an institutionalized skepticism; the first COVID skeptics out of the gate were disproportionately drawn from climate-science skeptics.
Second, Trump’s panicked response to the coronavirus was to deny it altogether. Once Trump decided the pandemic was a hoax designed to sabotage his reelection, his followers embraced that view, from which it naturally followed that every measure putatively aimed at containing the “pandemic” was described as unnecessary or harmful.
Ron DeSantis Dubs 2024 Run 'Nonsense' as Poll Shows Joe Biden Would Trounce Him
The Florida governor tried to dispel rumors that he is looking to get on the GOP ticket for a 2024 White House run.During a press conference to promote the opening of a monoclonal antibody treatment center in St Cloud, Osceola County, DeSantis tried to bat away rumors of a White House bid, telling reporters, "all the speculation about me is purely manufactured.
Republican party elites found anti-vaxx sentiment embarrassing and unhelpful. Most of them have endorsed the vaccine as a choice, with varying levels of enthusiasm. Yet they have found themselves stuck with an anti-vaxx core too large to risk alienating. This has set off the same kind of finely parsed calculation that they employed to respond to various Trumpian outrages.
Their answer has always been to find a way to avoid defending the indefensible and instead change the question to the excesses of the other side. Was Trump’s recorded confession of sexual assault morally acceptable? Who knows? But they did know that Hillary Clinton’s socialist schemes weren’t. Was it okay for Trump to strong-arm a foreign government into ginning up a scandal against his opponent? That didn’t matter — the real issue was the unfairness of the impeachment proceedings, held in a basement, and so forth.
DeSantis had perfected the art of anti-anti-anti-vaxx politics. He had given the jab his official endorsement, yet day after day he sent signals that he would defend the rights of anti-vaxxers. If necessary, DeSantis would trample traditional conservative principles to do so. Conservative Republicans normally respect freedom of contract, but DeSantis used his power tofrom requiring their passengers be vaccinated. Conservative Republicans also don’t generally treat government employment as a sacrosanct right, but here he was insisting, “We are gonna stand for the men and women who are serving us. We are gonna protect Florida jobs.” Nor do they generally approve of state authority overriding local control of schools, unless that authority is being used to .
DeSantis, Abbott risk blowback amid appeals to conservative base
Republican Govs. Ron DeSantis (Fla.) and Greg Abbott (Texas) are enacting policies in their states that are popular with the national conservative base but that risk backlash as the two governors contend with their own reelection bids next year and possible presidential runs in 2024. © The Hill DeSantis, Abbott risk blowback amid appeals to conservative base Abbott made headlines on Monday when he signed an overhaul of the state's election procedures, which places restrictions on voting in the state. And just last week he signed into law a sweeping bill that outlaws most abortions in Texas after six weeks of pregnancy.
The gambit works in theory, as long as everybody can stay on message. The problem with the theory is that hardly anybody actually cares about the abstract principles DeSantis is claiming to defend. The idea that bodily autonomy trumps personal responsibility, property rights, and local control is a hierarchy of values invented for this circumstance. (“My body, my choice” is not a notable Republican slogan.) The real point is to signal political solidarity with anti-vaxxers, to show that he believes their views are deserving of respect.
The trouble is that his message that anti-vaxxers have a legitimate point of view has the effect of legitimizing their message. What’s more, getting the anti-vaxxers to stick to the approved talking points is tricky, given the notorious difficulty kooks have with message discipline. Putting a kook in front of a microphone and asking him not to share with the world the evidence of the dubious conspiracy he’s uncovered is to demand an unrealistic level of impulse control.
Once a political party’s percentage of kooks has risen above a certain threshold, it’s no longer practical to kick them out. They must instead be placated. It is a constant process of papering over distinctions to avoid an internal schism that would enrage the kooks. The Republican party didn’t set out to position itself with vaccine skeptics. But they have found themselves, once again, standing shoulder to shoulder with the absurd, looking down at their feet and pretending it isn’t happening.
DeSantis Warns Businesses Who Follow Biden's Vaccine Mandate Will Be Fined $5K Per Employee .
"We are going to stand for the men and women who are serving us. We are going to protect Florida jobs," the Florida governor said.Speaking in Alachua County, DeSantis slammed Biden's vaccine requirements and argued the president is ignoring the science regarding people's natural immunity after being infected with COVID-19. The Republican governor and fellow elected officials committed to their stance by banning so-called vaccine passports or requiring proof of vaccination through both an executive order and a law. That rule is going into effect on September 16.