DeSantis Airlines and a Theory of Justice


I mentioned in the last post that I’ve been thinking about Karl Popper and John Rawls a great deal lately. That post was an elaboration of Karl Popper’s Paradox of Tolerance and how it relates to our contemporary political discourse.

On one hand, we have the Democratic Party mostly embracing an ideology confirming status quo liberal democracy. This may be a flawed philosophy that dedicated small ‘d’ democrats feel does not go far enough in its dedication to the Demos. It is, in essence, the conservative position. Let’s keep doing what we’ve been doing. That being said, the Democratic Party remains dedicated to a moderate conservative version of what has become known as the “liberal world order.” Not optimal, but doesn’t leave us worse off but for loss of time.

On the other hand, we have the Republican Party, actively pursuing anti-liberal goals and autocracy. This is a party that has demonstrated its dedication to turning the United States into a one-party state. To advance this goal, the party has unified, with the most minimal internal dissent and protest, to a singular personality who appeals to the most paranoid and monstrous elements of American polity.

In other words, the GOP has embraced fascism. In doing so, they have isolated and delegitimized the traditional conservatism they were said to represent since the rise of Goldwater and the Gipper. We’re no longer looking at “Morning in America” or ” A Thousand Points of Light” “compassionate conservatism” anymore. It’s delusional to pretend otherwise.

Everywhere we look we see bold examples of what can only be described as American Fascism. It may not look like Italian Fascism or Nazism. Perhaps its closest analog is the fascism associated with Franco’s Spain. What we are facing is the rise of American Fascism wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross. In other words, fascism tinged with right-wing Christian theocracy

The brutal consequences that await us all as American Fascism ascends is articulated on smaller stages almost every day. Books and school curricula are being banned. Libraries and librarians are being attacked and defunded. Poll workers and government bureaucrats are under siege. Public schools and institutions of higher education are being policed for dangerous knowledge. Most alarming, self-organized militant groups, de facto Blackshirt Battalions were mobilized to storm the capital. There’s too much evidence to ignore at this point. All of the elements are in place.

Now, we see the crass inhumanity of American Fascist stalwarts like Gov. Greg Abbott and Gov. Ron DeSantis in stark relief. Always looking for an opportunity to “own the libs”, and propagandize their pseudo-machismo, American Fascist governors have taken to trafficking desperate migrants and refugees to so-called “woke” “sanctuary” states and cities. The sinister connotations are clear. Bigots like Abbott and DeSantis are saying, “if you love these inferior people so much, you take them and deal with them.”

I was especially moved by Ron DeSantis’s latest adolescent publicity stunt. Because, apparently, Florida doesn’t have migrants or refugees of its own, DeSantis decided to foot the bill to traffic a few dozen refugees from Texas and drop them in that woke liberal bastion, Martha’s Vinyard.

This caught my attention specifically because I’ve been thinking about Karl Popper and John Rawls.

John Rawls, in his classic A Theory of Justice, proposed a mental test he referred to as the Veil of Ignorance. The model is brilliant in its simplicity. Let’s say you are going to be dropped into a society of which you know nothing. You have no idea what your status will be once you arrive. You may be poor. You may be a racial, ethnic, or gender minority. You may not conform to the society’s sexual and gender norms. Without knowing your own status, what kind of society would you want to be dropped into?

In a way, this trip on DeSantis Airlines was almost a living example of the Veil of Ignorance. These refugees were lied to and trafficked illegally to another place. They had no idea where they were going, nor what they would be subject to once they got there. After all, look at how they were treated once they reached Texas.

So, in that situation, where would you want to be dropped? Would you want to be dropped in another Texas where you would be neglected, abused, lied to, and trafficked with impunity? Or would you rather find yourself among civilized and decent human beings who will empathize with your plight and try to help you the best they can?

It worked out for these refugees. It turns out that the so-called “woke liberals” in Martha’s Vinyard (and to be fair, we don’t know the political affiliations of those involved. It’s likely many were conservative) were true to their principles. With no notice, the community got together, cared for, housed, fed, and provided medical care to strangers who were left on their doorstep by a grumbling ogre.

John Rawls offered this Veil of Ignorance as a tool for assessing the level of justice in any given society. If dedication to justice is a prerequisite for officeholders in a democratic society–and I believe it is–then what can be said about Ron DeSantis, Greg Abbott, and Doug Doucy?

We, as citizens need to ask ourselves if we really want to live in a world that American Fascists like Ron DeSantis have an expressed desire to create?

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