Reprinted with permission from Press Run
Florida has become a Covid-19 debacle, again.
Now accounting for one-in-every five new cases nationwide, the Sunshine State under Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has emerged as a beacon of irresponsibility. Not that he seems to care.
Off visiting Texas recently to take part in more GOP photo-ops at the border, DeSantis often brushes off the pandemic bad news. "It's a seasonal virus and this is the seasonal pattern it follows in the Sun Belt states," he said this week. (He blamed "quote-unquote 'experts'" for criticizing the unvaccinated.) The governor is busy though, selling anti-vaccine merchandise, like "Don't Fauci My Florida" t-shirts.
Question: Does the Beltway press care about the state's drastic Covid U-turn? This spring, journalists lionized DeSantis' supposed virus leadership— it was Politico that announced, "How Ron DeSantis Won the Pandemic." This, after 30,000 Floridians had already died from the virus.
This is the same DeSantis who spent last year trying to silence scientists, covering up data, rescinding mask ordinances, playing down the virus' threat, fighting with the Florida press, and portraying himself as a maverick under attack. He even foolishly placed one million orders of hydroxychloroquine in tribute to Trump.
The irony is that DeSantis is now facing a Covid crisis specifically because his supporters — Republicans — aren't getting vaccinated at the same rate as others in the state. If they were, Florida, and the rest of the country, would be approaching herd immunity. Instead, the proudly unvaccinated MAGA's are driving the Florida meltdown, with some counties reporting that new cases are coming 100 percent from those who refused to get the shot. Still, DeSantis won't act. He won't lead.
The Orlando Sentinel editorial page recently read the governor the riot act over his dereliction of duty:
At the moment, it's as if DeSantis has washed his hands of the matter and moved on to elections, borders, critical race theory, mocking Fauci or whatever else will get him a headline.
And every few days, nearly as many people are dying from COVID as died in the recent collapse of a condominium in South Florida.
Please, governor, we're begging you, handle the COVID problem. Be a leader.
How bad is Florida?
• New Covid cases are up nearly 200 percent over the past two weeks.
• Florida is third in the nation in per capita increases, accounting for nearly 20 perecent of the entire nation's new infections.
•The rate of positive tests is now well above 10 percent.
• Florida now boasts the fourth-highest rate of hospitalizations and the nation's highest average for daily deaths.
•The state's vaccination rate, 57 percent, remains a mediocre embarrassment.
• The Sunshine State has the second lowest rate of vaccinated nursing home workers in the country.
All of this makes the media's torrent of DeSantis valentines earlier this year look inexcusable. Beltway scribes lined up to tell the same story over and over: Democratic critics were wrong about DeSantis, Covid, and Florida, and now he's riding high within the GOP. They eagerly held him up as a rare Republican Covid star, pushing GOP talking points about how DeSantis had steered the Sunshine State into "boom" times.
"After a year of criticism by health experts, mockery from comedians and blistering critiques from political rivals, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is standing unabashedly tall among the nation's governors on the front lines of the coronavirus fight," CNN cheered, adding that DeSantis remained "defiant and combative."
"Vindication for Ron DeSantis," the Wall Street Journal announced.
Politico applauded the "wonky" Florida governor and his Covid-fueled rise in Republican politics: "Conservatives are relishing the contrast and holding up DeSantis as an example of effective governance." In a report about Florida's supposed Covid success story, the New York Times quoted DeSantis bragging, "If you look at South Florida right now, this place is booming." (No Democratic officials were quoted in the Times piece to offer a counter perspective.)
I understand why DeSantis' communications teams wanted to get those stories placed in the national press — he clearly has his eyes on a White House run. But why did Beltway journalists play along and type up a series of extended press releases, pretending that DeSantis alone had figured out how to defeat a global pandemic by battling health officials urging caution and common sense?
As the Delta variant runs wild, will journalists who lauded DeSantis in the spring admit they got the story wrong, and tell the truth about the Covid disaster that Florida has become?
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Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos
Back in March, the Associated Press' Mark Thiessen speculated on a number of potential primary challengers for Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski in 2022. The biggest name on the list was perhaps the third most-famous living member of the Alaska GOP (after Murkowski and Rep. Don Young), former Governor and 2008 vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin.
Well, on Friday, People for the American Way's Right Wing Watch revealed that Palin is taking a very long and very hard look at the race—and is willing to run if God gives the okay and if Christians get behind her more than they did in 2008. More telling, though, is where she did it—a conference hosted by leading members of the overtly fascist religious right offshoot where Palin has spent a good chunk of her life. This same offshoot played a key role in what can only be described as a sustained campaign to bully this country into supporting Palin's male counterpart—The Messiah, Lord Donald Trump, The Most Merciful.
Two Sundays ago, Palin was a featured guest at "Leading With Conviction: Truth That Stands," a conference hosted by Che Ahn of Harvest International Ministry. Ahn is one of the top leaders in the New Apostolic Reformation, an overtly fascist offshoot of the religious right that believes it can actually bring about the Second Coming by taking over the world. Ahn is counted as an "apostle" in this constituency; NAR believers are of the mind that if Christians under submission to "apostles" and "prophets" like Ahn take over the forces that influence society, it will pave the way for Jesus to come back—and they can hand him the world on a platter. You may also know this network as the same outfit that produced Becky Fischer of "Jesus Camp" fame.
During the afternoon session, Palin sat down for an on-stage interview with Ahn. Watch it here.
This interview was vintage Palin—that is, red meat by the barrelful. She railed that this country was "dedicated to God"—indeed, "our charters of liberty were written to and about God." She openly wondered when Americans would wake up and ask why our leaders want to "strip from our Creator what our founders had dedicated to him" and repurpose it for "for some kind of secular use, secular enjoyment."
Later, Palin asked the audience, "Are we gonna let them fundamentally transform the nation that does belong to God? How dare we take from God what is his and say we're going to do what we want to do with it?"
Ahn was intrigued—enough that later on, he asked Palin if she would take a run at Murkowski's seat. Palin said she was praying about it, saying that "if God wants me to do it, I will." However, she said that if she did run, "you guys better be there for me this time." She believed that she got pummeled in the press in 2008 because her brothers and sisters didn't have her back. Later, she sounded the alarm about "potentially forced immunizations," and urged Christians to not be afraid to "infiltrate and influence the culture."
Palin was speaking in a code most of the audience at that conference recognized. Indeed, she was actually in her element. For those who don't know, Palin is a devout charismatic Christian, though she herself eschews the label, preferring to call herself just a Christian (as do many charismatics).
During the 2008 campaign, our friends at Talk2Action revealed that Palin has moved in NAR circles for much of her politically active life. For instance, Bruce Wilson reported Mary Glazier, the leader of an NAR-aligned group of Alaska-based intercessors, revealed that Palin had been part of her group since the 1990s—and that around that time, "God began to speak to her about entering into politics." When Palin joined John McCain's ticket, a number of NAR leaders skipped and danced. For instance, a Norwegian pastor noted that she was a longstanding member of Glazier's prayer group. Glazier, in turn, was under the covering of one of the NAR's founders, Peter Wagner.
Russ Bellant revealed that the church Palin attended in Juneau during much of her tenure as governor was up to its eyeballs in the "Toronto Blessing," which many of us know for scenes of people laughing, barking and howling during church services But that same movement also believes in turning the cities where they're based into "citadels for the righteous." One speaker brought the flock to its feet with a claim that they were in a movement that would "shake America like a tsunami." According to Bellant, Palin almost certainly believes wholeheartedly in this line—otherwise, she wouldn't have been "in good stead and be upheld" as she was in 2008.
This context is needed to understand how another NAR "apostle," Cindy Jacobs—a woman who once claimed birds fell dead with the repeal of "Don't Ask Don't Tell," and who called for Christians to "lay siege" to their cities—prayed over Palin at the end of the interview. Jacobs said that she'd gotten a message from God that "an army of intercessors" and "an army of pastors and leaders" would be all in for Palin if she ran for Senate, and it would be enough for her to go "all the way to the top" if she did run for Senate.
Palin's path, however, could be muddied by recent changes to elections in Alaska. Back in November, voters scrapped partisan primaries, instead instituting a blanket primary in which the top four finishers would advance to the general election. That general election, in turn, would be conducted via Australian-style ranked-choice voting. Speculation has abounded that such a system could actually protect Murkowski, especially if she makes it to the general election.
Whatever the case, if the Democrats are serious about running in this seat in 2022, the prospect of Palin being on the ballot is even more reason for them to be about it.
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Someday, the past year or so may be remembered as a bout of temporary insanity among a large share of the American people. This group refused to take basic precautions against a devastating pandemic, swallowed the lies of a president who had lost an election, and excused a violent mob that attacked the Capitol to prevent Congress from doing its constitutional duty.
Or maybe not. Maybe it will come to seem perfectly normal. Maybe this period will be known as the time when we lost our bearings for good, dooming us to a catastrophic national unravelling.
The rise in insanity is hard to overstate. A recent poll found that 20 percent of Americans — including half of those who are unvaccinated against COVID-19 — believe the inoculation implants a microchip that the government can use to track them. Nearly half of Republicans don't plan to get vaccinated.
Even as the Delta variant fuels a surge in infection, governors in some red states have rejected mask requirements in public schools, with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis vowing to "provide protections for parents and kids who just want to breathe freely."
Right-wing politicians and their media allies have spread the preposterous claim that massive fraud deprived Donald Trump of reelection. A May Reuters-Ipsos poll showed that 61 percent of Republicans believe it. An April Reuters-Ipsos poll found that a majority of them agree that "the January 6 riot at the Capitol was led by violent left-wing protestors trying to make Trump look bad."
It gets worse. A poll sponsored by the Public Religion Research Institute found that the lunatic QAnon movement has gained a significant following, with 23 percent of Republicans affirming that "the government, media and financial worlds in the U.S. are controlled by a group of Satan-worshipping pedophiles who run a global child sex trafficking operation." GOP Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Lauren Boebert of Colorado have praised QAnon.
This week's hearings on the Capitol insurrection were another reminder of the alarming radicalization of the Republican Party, something exploited and encouraged by Trump.
The mob set up a gallows, chanted "Hang Mike Pence," forced both Republican and Democratic members to flee for their lives and savagely beat police officers. But congressional Republicans now want to move on, treating it as a minor incident grossly exaggerated by Democrats and the media — rather than an extremist effort to block a legitimate transfer of power.
GOP senators blocked the creation of an independent commission to investigate the attack. House Republicans tried in vain to stock a House committee with Trump henchmen who could be counted on to disrupt the inquiry.
Many Republican politicians are too infatuated with Trump — or too afraid of him — to admit the terrifying scope of the danger the insurrection represents. The party's elected officials have become a coalition of crazies and cowards.
It fell to a lonely pair of GOP conservatives, Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, to join the House investigative committee and decry the events of January 6 as a horrific attack on the nation and the Constitution.
Kinzinger did something else, debunking the pernicious claim that the Capitol attack was not as bad as the riots that erupted in cities last summer over the police murder of George Floyd.
"I was called on to serve during the summer riots as an Air National Guardsman," he said. "I condemned those riots and the destruction of property that resulted. But not once did I ever feel that the future of self-government was threatened like I did on January 6. There is a difference between breaking the law and rejecting the rule of law, between a crime — even grave crimes — and a coup."
In Tuesday's hearing, Kinzinger struck a hopeful note: "Democracies are not defined by our bad days. We're defined by how we come back from bad days."
But the response of Republicans to the attack is even more ominous than the attack itself. The aftermath offered a moment for them to confront the cancer that has embedded itself in the party and act to cut it out. They refused.
The majority of GOP voters have insisted on rationalizing or defending the insurrection while staying loyal to the defeated president who did so much to incite it. By indulging them, Republican leaders are inviting more of the same — and worse.
What kind of democracy is defined by its bad days? A dying one.
Follow Steve Chapman on Twitter @SteveChapman13 or at https://www.facebook.com/stevechapman13. To find out more about Steve Chapman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com
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