Adventures in the DeSantis variant:
The Hillsborough County Republican Party alerted federal election regulators Tuesday that it may file its monthly campaign finance reports late because a key member of the organization died Saturday from COVID-19.
Prior to his death, Gregg Prentice developed and maintained software that electronically tracked donations to the Hillsborough County GOP and supplied data for the organization’s monthly finance reports. None of the other officers knew how to operate Prentice’s software, the party told the the Federal Elections Commission.
“We will be struggling to get all of this entered in the proper format by our deadline on September20, but we will try to do so with our best effort,” the party wrote.
The party Prentice devoted many hours to had actively mobilized local residents lately against coronavirus mitigation measures, such as masks in schools. On Aug. 27, the party featured Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a leading skeptic of coronavirus vaccines, at its annual fundraiser. Pictures posted on the party’s Facebook page showed attendees celebrated at a maskless, indoor affair.
In November, Prentice and Waurishuk appeared on a podcast during which the host referred to the country’s public health crisis as the “plandemic,” a term made famous by a conspiratorial, debunked film about the origins of the novel coronaivrus. The host said the virus was designed to “crush small businesses and consolidate power in the multinational corporations.”
And, of course, the anti-anti-anti-vaxx position DeSantis was able to pass off as not really anti-vaxx to particularly gullible members of the press was always going to collapse into outright anti-vaxxism in practice:
DeSantis had perfected the art of anti-anti-anti-vaxx politics. He had given the jab his official endorsement, yet day after day he sent signals that he would defend the rights of anti-vaxxers. If necessary, DeSantis would trample traditional conservative principles to do so. Conservative Republicans normally respect freedom of contract, but DeSantis used his power to prohibit cruise lines from requiring their passengers be vaccinated. Conservative Republicans also don’t generally treat government employment as a sacrosanct right, but here he was insisting, “We are gonna stand for the men and women who are serving us. We are gonna protect Florida jobs.” Nor do they generally approve of state authority overriding local control of schools, unless that authority is being used to prohibit mask requirements.
The gambit works in theory, as long as everybody can stay on message. The problem with the theory is that hardly anybody actually cares about the abstract principles that DeSantis is claiming to defend. The idea that bodily autonomy trumps personal responsibility, property rights, and local control is a hierarchy of values invented for this circumstance. (“My body, my choice” is not a notable Republican slogan.) The real point is to signal political solidarity with anti-vaxxers, to show that he believes their views are deserving of respect.
The trouble is that his message that anti-vaxxers have a legitimate point of view has the effect of legitimizing their message. What’s more, getting the anti-vaxxers to stick to the approved talking points is tricky, given the notorious difficulty kooks have with message discipline. Putting a kook in front of a microphone and asking him not to share with the world the evidence of the dubious conspiracy he’s uncovered is to demand an unrealistic level of impulse control.
Republicans understand DeSantis’s REAL message, and a lot of people will die as a result.