Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) thought his plan for dealing with COVID-19 in the Sunshine State had been a perfect balancing of public health and opposition to vaccines.
And then the Delta variant arrived, and suddenly DeSantis realized the tightrope he’d been walking was swaying dangerously, making him and his state one of the main hotspots for a resurgence of the disease, as the Wall Street Journal recently reported:
“The state accounts for one in five new infections in the U.S. and logged 73,181 cases over the past week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Florida had 341 cases per 100,000 people over the past week, second only to Louisiana. The weekly total of new cases reported by Florida jumped more than fourfold between July 1 and July 22, reaching its highest point since mid-January.”
DeSantis realized he had no choice but to address the numbers coming from his state, so he spoke in favor of vaccines, admitting “vaccines are saving lives.”
And that’s when the blowback started, with many of DeSantis’ once loyal supporters accusing him of being a sellout, Politico notes, and possibly destroying the governor’s chances of being a legitimate presidential contender in 2024:
“’Don’t let political correctness get in the way of health choices,’ former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn said recently of DeSantis’ comments, speaking on ‘The Right Side with Doug Billings,’ a conservative radio host and podcaster.
Another conservative radio host, Stew Peters, last week called DeSantis a ‘sellout’ and suggested the governor was taking bribes, though didn’t specify from whom.”
Of course, none of this should surprise anyone because the Republican Party has become a cult of death and conspiracy theories, refusing to accept facts, science, or medical advice. Their refusal to do the right thing and get vaccinated is causing many GOP-controlled states to see a surge in hospitalizations and deaths.
What happens next for DeSantis? Will he back away and let COVID have its way, or is he finally ready to be a responsible leader? According to CNN’s Chris Cillizza, the answer to that question will decide if the Florida governor has a political future, especially since he’s facing a shaky bid for reelection as governor next year:
“Depending on what you think of DeSantis, he has either been good or lucky to date in the pandemic. But the rising number of cases in Florida – coupled with the increased transmissibility of the Delta variant – poses a challenge that he hasn’t had to deal with yet.
“DeSantis seems likely to be faced with a clear challenge sometime soon: Do what’s right for the state of Florida or continue to play to his 2024 ambitions by refusing to acknowledge that mitigation practices – masks, social distancing, etc. – are necessary.”
Based on DeSantis’ past statements and actions, don’t be surprised if COVID gets significantly worse in Florida and DeSantis winds up losing badly in 2022. And once that happens, he’ll be nothing but a failed has-been, just like his hero, Donald Trump.