The title co-opts the motto of New Hampshire as seen on their license plates — Live Free or Die — because Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida has adopted the campaign meme of his state being the state where freedom really lives if you don’t mind dying for it. And the way he dealt with Covid-19 proves that.
Presumably, they all sat witness at hospitals and bedsides. Presumably, they all made the arrangements and attended the funerals and laughed over the cold cuts and bulky rolls, and the beer and whiskey afterwards. Presumably, they all still mourn. But did any of them learn anything? Did any of them learn anything that they subsequently put into practice? Who were these people anyway, and what kind of monster did you have to be to lead them on? Who lives through a pandemic and makes war on the cures?
In September, the National Bureau of Economic Research attempted to answer all of these questions. And the answers remain, well, baffling even as Florida Gov. Ronald DeSantis (to name only one example) runs for president on the basis of his “highly successful” COVID policies, which held the butcher’s bill in that state to a mere 82,875.
We estimate substantially higher excess death rates for registered Republicans when compared to registered Democrats, with almost all of the difference concentrated in the period after vaccines were widely available in our study states. Overall, the excess death rate for Republicans was 5.4 percentage points (pp), or 76%, higher than the excess death rate for Democrats. Post-vaccines, the excess death rate gap between Republicans and Democrats widened from 1.6 pp (22% of the Democrat excess death rate) to 10.4 pp (153% of the Democrat excess death rate). The gap in excess death rates between Republicans and Democrats is concentrated in counties with low vaccination rates and only materializes after vaccines became widely available.
Then there was this finding, which was both predictable and utterly bizarre:
Overall, our results suggest that political party affiliation only became a substantial risk factor in Ohio and Florida after vaccines were widely available.
In other words, within this particular demographic slice of our fellow citizens, after the arrival of the vaccines that protected us from the pandemic, the pandemic got…worse, and political affiliation was a contributing factor. I’m not sure I ever want to meet anyone whose mind is not blown by this fact. But I’m damn sure not voting for a guy whose platform is built on pride in his “I was brave enough to do nothing” performance in the face of a once-a-century public health emergency.
As Philip Bump noted in the Washington Post last year:
Nearly 1.2 million residents of the Sunshine State contracted the coronavirus over those three months, nearly a third of the total the state has seen since the pandemic began in February 2020. More than 13,000 Floridians died as the virus whipped across the state, more than 17 percent of the deaths the country saw during that period despite Florida having only 6.5 percent of the country’s population. The good news is that the surge has abated. And for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), that somehow means that it’s time to boast about what a good job the state has done. “We’ve seen huge declines,” DeSantis said at a news conference Thursday. “Right now, Florida has the lowest covid-infection rate — case rate and infection rate of covidestim — in the country.” Obviously “right now” is doing a lot of work there.
And it’s going to have a rough couple of years, too.
It’s pretty clear that Ron DeSantis would literally crawl over dead bodies to win an election.