At least 10,000 times during this Republican-prolonged pandemic, I’ve been grateful that fortunate timing meant my child was already finished with Florida public schools by the time the plague rolled around. So how’s it going for Florida parents and students who aren’t as lucky? Not so well, according to an article published in today’s Tampa Bay Times:
Many parents are incredulous at what seems like a retreat from a year ago, when schools offered multiple learning platforms and touted their COVID-19 safety measures. In hindsight, some say, this would have been the better year to keep their kids home, because it feels less safe.
For those like Sophia [a kid who tried in-person classes this year but was concerned about her own and her mother’s health due to unmasked teachers and fellow students] who seek out virtual arrangements instead, the options are limited. Last year, the state allowed students to attend their regular classes online. This year, distance learners must sign up for standalone online programs not connected to their schools. That means they can lose their place in magnet and choice programs, which is another way they are punished.
Emphasis mine, and kudos to TBT for using the word “punished” there, because that’s exactly what this technique is designed to do. About half of Florida public school students are in districts that defied DeSantis and mandated masks, but the political hacks Ron DeSantis installed to run the FL Department of Education will find ways to punish them too.
Just about everyone — including, emphatically, Joe Biden — wants full-time, in-person public school instruction, and there are relatively safe ways to do that. But having thoroughly politicized mitigation measures, DeSantis is determined to herd kids into facilities that he and his lackeys actively make less safe. Mitigation measures are a reminder of how badly DeSantis bungled this public health crisis, and he knows that acknowledging the severity of the situation now won’t win headlines like Politico’s now infamous “How Ron DeSantis won the pandemic” from last March.
One parent interviewed in the linked article (whose district is “masks optional”) said she and other parents who are concerned about their kids catching COVID are running up against a mask-eschewing elementary school principal who they say is resistant to suggestions like better ventilation and volunteer supervised outdoor lunches to keep the kids safer. I looked it up via public records, and shocker, that school’s principal is a fucking Republican because of course she is.
I don’t need to tell you how this same dynamic is playing out nationwide. Over the weekend, I read a round-up at CNN of analyses from various pundits. It presents a fairly accurate (IMO) representation of where we are as a country right now. At first, I was irritated by the framing, which presented a series of grave existential crises as a political problem for Joe Biden, much as pandemic fluctuations are portrayed as political plusses or minuses for DeSantis here in Florida:
America’s extreme level of partisanship has complicated the [pandemic] picture. “The United States is hardly the only place where some people are afraid of vaccines, angry at pandemic restrictions, open to wild conspiracy theories, and distrustful of experts,” wrote Frida Ghitis. “But there’s one key reason why the world’s wealthiest nation, home to many of the planet’s top public health experts, is the red-hot bubbling epicenter of a pandemic that just won’t quit. The US is one of a few major countries where the people pushing against common sense measures hold positions of power, where they can shape policy, influence large swaths of the population, and weaponize the pandemic for their own political benefit.”
Some red-state governors, eager to win the support of former President Donald Trump’s base and damage Biden, are standing in the way of the steps needed to fight the pandemic, Ghitis noted, and voices in conservative media are spreading misinformation that can prove deadly. “Those who are promoting false cures and pushing against vaccines and masks to improve their political prospects are contributing to thousands of new deaths, destabilizing the economy, and keeping the rest of us from getting back our lives…”
Citing weakening economic forecasts, Jill Filipovic wrote, “We know who is responsible… As businesses shutter, parents are forced out of work, Americans have fewer dollars to spend and fewer places to spend them, and life as we used to know drifts ever further out of our reach, let’s be clear about who is responsible: the anti-vaxxers, anti-maskers and their proponents in conservative media and in the Republican Party.”
All of this is a political problem for Joe Biden, in the same way that the 1883 eruption of Krakatoa was an auditory nerve problem for people within a 50-mile radius of the explosion. In other words, it’s a serious fucking problem for every single one of us.
Dog help us, much more than the political fate of Joe Biden and Ron DeSantis is in the hands of the people who will be allowed to vote in 2022 and 2024. Sufficient numbers of those voters will either reject the Death Eaters next year and reject them again two years later, or we’re fucked. I wish I were more confident in what choice they’ll make.
It’s possible that being ostentatiously pro-virus to curry favor with worshipers of a twice-impeached, two-time popular vote loser won’t redound to Republican officials’ electoral benefit, but who knows? This I do know: there’s nothing to be done about it except keep fighting.