Like hurricanes, political malefactors and their movements start with a small circulation of disturbed weather, then grow by absorbing the energy around them until they become dangerous, spreading their destruction far beyond the central core. History is replete with such examples, creating empires and sending out crusades and missionaries bent on conquering by coercion, temptation with promises of great wealth and power, and if that fails, then by murderous means.
One of their most effective methods is the tried and true Blame the Others. It has worked since the dawn of time, and like the robocalls that promise to extend your car’s warranty, keep coming because there is always someone who will buy it.
We have seen it work in this country before, and as Charles M. Blow in The New York Times articulates, we are seeing now.
Republican politics have become oppositional politics: Deny the science, demean the media, own the libs. Conservatives are less defined by what they are for than by what they are against.
Donald Trump put this concept on steroids because it was beneficial to him as a strategy. He framed himself as the antithesis of Barack Obama. He was against immigrants and Muslims. He was against cultural conciliation. He was against the rapidly approaching future of America, one in which white people would lose not only their numerical advantage but also their societal primacy.
Furthermore, very few facts helped Trump, so he waged war against facts themselves. He denied, diminished and dismissed them.
And as a result, at the peak of their intransigence and callousness, his party catastrophically mishandled the pandemic. They refused to follow the science or act with caution. And, because of their reflexive opposition to the facts, untold numbers of people who didn’t have to die did.
The relationship between leader and followers in the religion of resistance was cyclical: Trump reflected the base, and they reflected him. The base began to have certain expectations from their politicians, expectations they made clear: The base must not only be followed, but also affirmed. The mob is the master.
Perhaps no politician has taken the reins from Trump with more vigor — and disastrous effects — than Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, a man who thinks he could be the next Republican president. But to supplant the last leader of his party, he has to out-Trump Trump.
To accomplish this meteoric rise, he needed to do two things. First, become the darling of the Trump freedom fighters, fighting for the right to get sick and die. And second, he has to be the opposite of the establishment, in this case Joe Biden and his administration. If Biden swerves left, DeSantis must swerve right, even if the hospitals in his state are overrun and the funeral parlors reach capacity.
Some bodies must be sacrificed to appease the gods of partisan resistance.
To keep the spotlight, DeSantis is employing many of the same tricks as Trump: fighting with the media about coverage, deflecting blame onto Biden and convincing his followers that folding to facts is the same as forfeiting freedoms.
As DeSantis said in early August, “We can either have a free society, or we can have a biomedical security state.” He continued, “And I can tell you: Florida, we’re a free state. People are going to be free to choose to make their own decisions.”
Yes, Florida, DeSantis is allowing you to choose death so that he can have a greater political life.
The question becomes then: How many of my fellow Floridians are willing to sacrifice their lives or those of their families, friends, co-workers, or the rest so that Ron DeSantis can win an election?