My family is scattered around Central and North Central Florida, and many family members like to write angry screeds to newspapers for publication, so I’ve been reading the The Orlando Sentinel since I was a kid. Until fairly recently, it was a conservative paper — left-of-center folks jokingly called it The Slantinel because it leaned so far right. Well, not anymore.
Today, The Orlando Sentinel published a withering editorial denouncing Ron DeSantis’s bid to outflank Trump on pandemic-denial kookery. In case you missed it, Florida’s angry little gov asked the state supreme court (which is helpfully stocked with DeSantis appointees) to empanel a grand jury to investigate “any and all wrongdoing in Florida with respect to Covid-19 vaccines.”
Ron Rage-Roid also set up his own public health committee to review recommendations from the CDC, NIH, FDA, etc., under the supervision of Florida’s (DeSantis appointed) crackpot surgeon general, Dr. Ladapo, a former associate of the “demon sperm” doc from Texas and sundry other snake oil-peddling quacks. Well, The Orlando Sentinel calls bullshit!
This is not an investigation, it’s a drama, and the script is already written, with a plot twist that recasts public-health heroes as villains and depicts DeSantis as a savior, outflanking his former mentor Donald Trump to the right. And it casts anyone who lines up behind him, up to and including the state’s Supreme Court, as supporting players who are eager to burn their own careers and credibility on the altar of his ambition. It’s an obvious second act to his successful campaign performance, rallying more gullible, COVID-weary people to his banner and boosting his bid to take his act to the national stage — with absolutely no regard to the wreckage he creates.
Up until now, DeSantis has gotten nearly everything he demanded ― from lawmakers, from state officials (who either complied with his outrageous demands or quit) and from voters who have stuck with him through outrage after stage-managed outrage.
But this is new ― more audacious than DeSantis has ever been. It’s bad. The implications for public health could resonate nationwide, and DeSantis would keep looking to weaponize tools like grand juries against his enemies. And it should change everything, starting with a firm “no” from the Supreme Court to this reckless, potentially deadly abuse of power.
Over the past six years or so, I’ve wondered many times over how (and if) the Republican Party can climb down from Trumpism, which is unpopular with the public and now a proven electoral loser. Even if the orange buffoon drops dead today, Trumpism will still be among us in the guise of many elected Republicans, including Ron DeSantis.
It seems like where Trumpism has foundered, e.g., in Arizona, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan, etc., it failed because normies finally paid enough attention to be horrified by deranged overreach from Republicans. Sadly, that didn’t happen in Florida in November, but maybe, just maybe, The Orlando Sentinel is a normie bellwether, an alarm ringing in America’s flooded basement.