The worst place to be in politics is between Ron DeSantis and a camera. Yesterday, after weeks of teasing it, the Florida Governor signed legislation banning “vaccine passports” in his home state.
Throughout the entire COVID-19 pandemic, DeSantis has entered the spotlight as the governor least concerned about the effects of the illness. This is the same man who arrested a nurse with data on COVID-19 deaths that contradicted his narrative, banned local governments from issuing mask mandates (where he got the power to do that I still remain unsure), to comparing those who wanted schools to remain closed to “modern-day flat-earthers” (while also giving parents a fully remote option for their children’s education). Throughout the entire pandemic, DeSantis has gone beyond not taking COVID-19 into actively attempting to ban any government from taking it seriously.
Before we continue, I should note that calling what some businesses are doing “vaccine passports” is slightly misleading. Basically, some businesses that require a negative COVID-19 test before a customer is allowed to use their services (a practice which DeSantis will no doubt also ban very soon) are allowing evidence of vaccination as a substitution. Other companies are allowing vaccinated people to not have to wear masks or to forego distancing requirements in their establishment, although this is much rarer. The idea that businesses are demanding either evidence of vaccination or no service —what people like DeSantis want you to think “vaccine passports” are — is an utter fiction made up by Republican populists. For that matter, it should be noted that despite DeSantis’s talk about “participating in life” no essential service is requiring a vaccine to get service, only a handful of non-essential ones are doing such a thing — and again, all they are doing is allowing it to be a substitute for a negative COVID-19 test.
It should be noted that, even if the “vaccine passport” myth were real, there would not be anything inherently wrong with that. If a child wishes to enter a public school in Florida, they must already take a number of vaccines for illnesses that are both less common and less contagious than COVID-19. In 2015, it was a national story when 131 kids at Disneyland, California were infected with Measles, an illness against which all Florida schoolchildren must be vaccinated against. When L.A. County got 313 cases of COVID-19 on 5/2/2021, the website Gizmodo gave that day the headline “L.A. Records No New Covid Deaths for First Time in Over a Year as Life Gets More Normal.” Why is Ron DeSantis not demanding that unvaccinated children be allowed to enter public schools in Flordia?
The answer is simple: Because he can’t get the public behind it yet. Late last month, the Montana Legislature passed a bill that would ban employers from requiring a worker to take any vaccination. No exception exists for hospital workers nor does one exist for people who work around children, meaning your child could catch a dangerous illness from an anti-vaccination teacher.
One cannot help but notice the priority of Republicans regarding what discrimination should and should not be legal. Jack Philips, a Christian baker from the state of Colorado who became famous for refusing to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple, became a martyr for Republicans after the gay couple in question sued him for discrimination. Personally, as an LGBT man who spent half a year in a same-sex relationship, I felt it was well within Philips’s right to refuse service because of his religion; albeit it was also in my right to call him a bigot and say that I would never allow him to get within one-hundred feet of my wedding, straight, gay, or otherwise. With that said, while Philips’s right to religious freedom is important, I would argue my right to not be around those who have an illness that could lead to my death is at least equally important, if not more so.
In 2017, Republicans did everything from have a good laugh to warn of the end of civilization when California lowered the penalty for intentionally spreading HIV. Ignoring the fact that intentionally spreading HIV was still illegal in California, and that most states never had laws which banned spreading it in the first place, we were warned that this illness would run wild all across the country. Mind you, HIV is much more treatable, much harder to catch, and much harder to spread than COVID-19 currently is, but this whole controversy happened almost four years ago so it’s already expected that you forgot it — as all Republicans already have.
Freedom of association does not just exist for the sake of freedom, it also exists for the sake of safety. Freedom of association means that if someone is genuinely harming you, you do no have to be around them. DeSantis is taking your freedom of association away at what might be the most important for it, because DeSantis is a power-hungry insane person and he wants to demand that you not take COVID-19 seriously. DeSantis wishes to take away your basic human desire to stay alive because he thinks not allowing unvaccinated people into your establishment is tyranny (“no shirt, no shoes, no service” was a slippery slope!), meanwhile, DeSantis wishes to take control of you in another way, the same way the ruling class in Brave New World took control over you — which is another thing he and Trump have in common.
DeSantis wants to control you, make no mistake. However, while government typically limits itself into controlling your actions, DeSantis goes one step farther and wants to control your feelings. DeSantis is the most dangerous authoritarian in the country, and it’s no coincidence he’s the man many Trump supporters — including men like Jesse Kelly, who has actively advocated for fascism — want to be President after Joe Biden. This man is dangerous, and the people of Florida should be doing everything possible to reject his nonsense instead of encouraging it.