AND THIS IS WHAT CONCERNS ME MOST
As readers may know, I live is Southwest Florida, right smack dab in the middle of the garden where Neo-cons go to die. This is the cultural capital of DeSantisland, if not the center of power.
It was also ground zero for Ian, a Category 4-5 hurricane. My family and I live inland, so we were fortunate enough to escape the deadly surge that devastated so much of my community. We got through with minimal damage. Many in my area were not so lucky. The apocalyptic destruction of our coastline was national news.
Fortunately, as soon as the winds subsided, a veritable army consisting of first responders, linemen, electricians, transportation experts and countless others were mobilized to deal with the destruction and to reestablish modern life. Most in my area admit that the response to this devastating hurricane was top tier. It was, from my perspective, the best, most efficient response I’ve experienced after living through my fair share of hurricanes. This is significant because Ian was by far the worst this area has experienced.
Of course, Governor Ron DeSantis came to Southwest Florida and did his obligatory executive thing and enjoyed the standard photo-ops. My position on this, regardless of party politics, is if a politician is going to bring needed resources that can help thousands of people…give them their photo-op. It’s not that big a deal. And Governor DeSantis, to his credit, brought lots of resources. Overall, he did a creditable job. For all of his faults–and this blog has dedicated thousands of words to his many faults–he is an able executive.
It’s just too bad that he’s a fascist.
The above statement is validated by reports that Governor DeSantis is waving voting regulations in Lee, Charlotte, and Sarasota Counties to compensate for the destruction of voting locations. This despite the fact that many of the policies he is allowing in these counties are anathema to the GOP, such as expanding early voting and the use of drop boxes. He is not, however, doing the same for Orange County. Though Orange County did not get the Category 4-5 winds and devastating surge experienced along the coast, it did experience significant flooding. What’s the difference between these counties? The coastal counties are largely Republican. Orange County is predominantly Democratic.
And Governor DeSantis is running for re-election.
Is DeSantis using a deadly natural disaster to his political advantage?
I’d like to think he is not…
…but I just don’t know.
So, I ask myself, “If Ian had struck Miami/Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach Counties rather than Lee, Charlotte, and Sarasota, would the response have been as efficient?”
Again, I’d like to think it would. I’d like to think that there are some things that transcend politics. After all, I never even considered asking such a question when it came to Jeb Bush, Rick Scott (and I detested Rick Scott’s politics), or even then Republican Governor Charlie Crist. I always just assumed that there was politics, and then there was the responsibility of being the executive of a subtropical state.
No small part of this concern is that there doesn’t seem to be a check on DeSantis’s rise to power. Had any of the above mentioned governors flubbed a hurricane response, the electoral consequences would likely have been significant. That is not the case for DeSantis.
This is a man who literally kidnapped people just to show that he was “owning the libs”. In any other circumstance, luring innocent people into a plane against their will and flying them to an undisclosed location would be considered an unpardonable felony. Governor DeSantis’s followers, however, lauded the move as savvy politics. DeSantis kidnapping desperate refugees in Texas and transporting them to Massachusetts is, to his followers, another example of how the Governor is making Florida more free.
This increased freedom seems to be tightly focused. After all, I as a Florida teacher am significantly less free now that my curriculum has been narrowed and the selection of books I can use are subject to being banned. My LGBTQ+ students are certainly less free, as are teachers who might want to show respect to their trans students by calling them by their chosen name and using their desired pronouns. In the last post I listed DeSantis’s many abuses. None of them are secrets. None of them are being downplayed in the media. From banning books to lambasting children, the Cult of DeSantis is all in. Indeed, the Governor boasts about his authoritarian accomplishments.
In a couple of days, voters will wrap up their final ballots and Governor DeSantis will, almost certainly be re-elected…only to turn his back on Florida and dedicate himself to the upcoming presidential election. And his followers will celebrate because that’s what they are electing him for. They want him “own the libs” as much as he can, and if he can do that at a national level, all the better.
What we have to remember is that tyrants do not rise. They are lifted. They need a following. This following should not be understood as a mindless herd bent to the magical mass hypnosis of the Tyrant. The Cult has much more agency than we want to ascribe to them. We want there to be other explanations for why they so willingly abandon democracy and rights and justice and basic humanity. We don’t want to believe that the Cult lifts the Tyrant because he is doing what they want him to do. The Tyrant appeals to their vision of the world–a world in which “those people” are rendered impotent and the real citizens can make society great. By “great society” they mean one in which the Cult is the privileged, the first in line. They lift the tyrant because they believe he will lift them in turn.
Being lifted, when it comes to demagogic followers may only be a relative term. The followers themselves may not be better off. After all, how many of DeSantis’s followers would be better off with access to an expanded Medicaid? Hell, how many DeSantis supporters would be alive today if their Governor had advised them to wear masks and take the vaccine? But at least they are not constantly getting owned, like those liberal groomers. At least their kids are not being subject to Marxist indoctrination in the schools. As Milton Mayer describes in his book about Hitler supporters in Nazi Germany, They Thought they were Free, “You were sorry for the Jews…But–weren’t you glad you weren’t a Jew?…It might not have been the loftiest type of gladness, but you hugged it to yourself…”
That is what disturbs me about our current politics. Many years ago I observed that the Republican Party had mobilized its most monstrous elements, the far-right extremists, or as conservative founding father William F. Buckley called them, “the Kooks.” I feared what would happen should the monsters break their cages.
In retrospect it looks like I undershot in my predictions. I could imagine a scenario in which the far-right held disproportionate power in the Republican Party. That prediction was clearly valid. I did not, however, imagine a scenario in which being a monster became more attractive to those in the conservative movement…even among those against whom the far-right will certainly turn once they get those leftists under control.
I should have seen it coming. After all, nothing is more popular than success. The monsters have certainly been successful in taking over the party. This success can only further embolden existing monsters and attract others who may have been hesitant monsters in the making.
The extremists need these monsters. It is on the shoulders of such monsters that the tyrants rise. When it comes to tyranny, the fault lies not in stars like Ron DeSantis, Greg Abbott, or he who shall not be advertised on this blog.The fault in in ourselves.