The first duty of any state governor is to protect the health and safety of the citizenry. In that sense, the incredibly cynical and dangerous performative politics against pandemic safety being undertaken by some (though not all) Republican governors around America is nothing less than the abdication of their duty.
This list includes Missouri Gov. Mike Parson, whose uneven messaging on masking and whose abetting of anti-vaccine paranoia (he falsely accused President Joe Biden of seeking to “compel” vaccinations) have helped give his state among the worst coronavirus resurgences in America.
But the poster child for gubernatorial irresponsibility is Florida’s Ron DeSantis, who is showily blocking local governments and private businesses from addressing the raging caseloads there with an eye on building his standing among the Trumpian base for a potential presidential run. DeSantis’ ambition, like that of too many of his fellow GOP governors, is literally killing people.
Florida has become the national epicenter of the new viral surge, accounting for almost 1 of every 5 new cases in the U.S. and breaking its own daily record repeatedly in recent weeks — most recently on Tuesday, when the state logged 24,753 new cases.
And how has DeSantis responded to this unprecedented public health emergency in his state?
When local Florida school districts sought mask requirements for students, citing the higher rates of child infections involving the delta variant, DeSantis threatened the funding of those districts. When private businesses required that their employees and patrons be vaccinated, he signed a law prohibiting such requirements.
When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sought to require that people show proof of vaccination before boarding cruise ships, DeSantis sued to stop the requirement. And after Norwegian Cruise Lines on Sunday won a court battle to be allowed to impose its own such vaccination requirement, DeSantis’ office vowed to appeal.
Like most Republicans, DeSantis says he supports private-sector autonomy. Except, it seems, when the private sector wants to do something socially responsible, complicating the task of those who seek to inherit former President Donald Trump’s base by appealing to its anti-science irrationality.
He’s not alone. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott also seeks the mantle of most-irresponsible chief executive, imposing bans on mask and vaccine mandates — then, without apparent irony or regret, appealing Monday for help from other states with Texas’ overflowing hospitals. South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem last week welcomed the massive annual Sturgis motorcycle rally, despite its superspreader status last year and despite the current coronavirus surge in her state. “There’s risk associated with everything that we do in life,” she tweet-shrugged.
We can’t know, of course, if the DeSantises of the world honestly ponder the fact — and it is a fact — that in their zeal to win over the Trumpers by pursuing reckless policies, they are costing lives.
All we can do is hope they fail.
— St. Louis Post-Dispatch