The Midterm Elections, less than two months away, could be the most consequential ones in years, maybe decades.
They are always significant, of course, but this time the outcome could either persuade Republicans to make a course correction or send them further to the lunatic fringe of their party.
It’s a coin flip now, but polls show a discernable tilt by independent voters away from culture wars that target everyone outside the GOP base.
The latest stunt by Gov. Ron DeSantis could have been the last straw. Sending two planeloads of undocumented migrants to Martha’s Vineyard made his political point in an oafish way.
Not everyone agrees, however, that sending human beings to a faraway state that wasn’t expecting them was a civil thing.
That led POLITICO writer Jack Shafer to pen a savage column that asked an important question.
“Daring to exploit exhausted and traumatized immigrants — children among them — as human pawns in a political game would terrify a normal politician. No matter your views on immigration policy, imagine being treated as political refuse that’s dumped to own the libs. Pulling a stunt like this required the heart of a reptile and the ambition of a Genghis Khan, although the comparison might be unfair to skinks and geckos, which feed primarily on insects, fruit, and the occasional mouse,” he wrote.
“That DeSantis performed his cruelty on migrants not even residing in his state tells you all you need to gauge his status as a scoundrel. It’s hard to decide which horrifies most, that DeSantis, Yale undergraduate, Harvard law, U.S. Navy, would squat this low or that he thought it would charm his followers.”
I’m sure he did believe his followers — many of them evangelical Christians — would not only approve but would also stand and applaud. Holy scripture tells believers that what they do to the least of people, they also do to Jesus.
Maybe they need a refresher course on that.
But Florida is more than just the GOP base. Many people reside in the middle, taking a little from both major parties. And if they turn on DeSantis after this, it could flip the election.
If they don’t, though, it will green light Republicans to push the envelope farther.
Now, it’s on to our weekly game of winners and losers.
Honorable mention: Ray Rodrigues. Say hello to the new Chancellor of Florida’s university system.
He received unanimous approval from the Board of Governors to succeed Marshall Criser. Rodrigues, a Republican state Senator from Estero, will oversee the state’s system of 12 universities.
“Our Board is fortunate to have Ray become our next chancellor, bringing his passion about higher education in Florida to build upon the exceptional foundation Marshall Criser has established and to lead the System to the next level,” Board Chair Brian Lamb said.
“Ray is an experienced and dedicated leader in our state. The Board of Governors and State University System is excited to work with him in this new role.”
Rodrigues announced in June that he wouldn’t seek another term in the Senate. There was immediate speculation that he wanted the job as Chancellor.
“I firmly believe the success of our students is the heartbeat of Florida’s higher education system, and I applaud the excellent work Marshall and the Board of Governors has done over the years to get us here,” he said.
“I look forward to the challenge of leading this team to even greater heights of success.”
Almost (but not quite) biggest winner: Florida’s first responders. DeSantis made it rain for some of Florida’s finest, handing out $1,000 bonus checks at an event in Jacksonville.
About 100,000 people — including law enforcement, fire rescue and emergency medical technicians — will receive the money.
Hey, wait a minute, where did the Governor find that kind of money?
Why it came from Florida’s share of the COVID-19 relief package championed by President Joe Biden, DeSantis repeatedly blamed the more than $1 trillion package for increasing inflation and has called it “Washington at its worst.”
In passing out the bonus checks, DeSantis doesn’t mention the money came from the feds.
The good news is that none of the recipients would care anyway.
The biggest winner: Martha’s Vineyard. Sure, DeSantis trolled residents of the affluent island when he sent 50 undocumented migrant men, women and children there on two chartered planes.
However, the joke could be on him.
While some Republicans were having a knee-slapping good time at the stunt, officials and residents of nearby Cape Cod sprang into action. Rather than embrace DeSantis’ attitude that the migrants aren’t welcome in Florida, residents treated the visitors as human beings, not nuisances.
The Cape Cod Times reported, “Community members had come to help, as did students from an advanced placement Spanish class from the high school. The students came with their teacher, Justine DeOliviera, to help with translation.”
A local parish opened its doors to give the migrants a safe place to stay while the issue sorts itself out.
“On behalf of the Commonwealth, I thank everyone on the ground who quickly came together to provide assistance on the Vineyard,” Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said in a statement.
Baker said his staff is working with state and relief agencies to help the newcomers get settled.
“These people need immigration services, immigration attorneys, and resources,” Rep. Dylan Fernandes said. “These people were sent here on a lie. They were told people would meet them with jobs, housing, and resources. We got no heads up. Gov. (Greg) Abbott and Ron DeSantis wanted to create as much chaos as possible.”
It might have been chaotic at first, but it also was compassionate.
Dishonorable mention: Lee County Republicans. These folks need to cut down on the caffeine.
They passed a series of wackadoodle resolutions, including a demand that DeSantis use his executive power to ban the use of electronic voting machines.
They also want DeSantis to call a Special Session to ban any federal agent from operating in Florida. That’s a reaction to the FBI search at Mar-a-Lago, where Dear Leader had boxes of classified documents.
The ban would also include IRS agents.
Good luck with that one.
But wait, there’s more.
They wanted the World Economic Forum (WEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) labeled as “terrorist organizations and a national security threat.”
The final language of that resolution eliminated the terrorist reference, but still passed.
C’mon, folks, how about a resolution to consider a time of yoga before your meetings? It lowers blood pressure.
Almost (but not quite) biggest loser: Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony. The Florida Commission on Ethics blasted Tony for lies and omissions on his official background forms.
DeSantis relied on those forms in 2019 when appointing Tony to Broward’s top cop job.
Last year, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported on Tony’s lies that fueled his rise to the job he now holds (for the moment).
“Tony landed his first job as a police officer in 2005 with the Coral Springs Police Department. He was 26,” the paper wrote.
“The city job application asked many questions seeking to discover if he’d been in any trouble with the law, even as a juvenile. Tony answered that he’d never been a suspect in a criminal investigation, never been arrested, never been charged. They were all lies.”
There were several documented examples. The most egregious one was that Tony didn’t disclose he shot a man to death when he was 14.
That led to the ethics hearing, where members found probable cause to pursue a case against Tony. It could lead to his removal.
If Tony had disclosed his past details, the Coral Springs Police Department would not have hired him.
One board member called Tony’s behavior “despicable.”
The biggest loser: Florida hate groups. The Anti-Defamation League published a report that should concern everyone.
It said, “The past two years have seen a significant increase in extremist-related incidents both nationwide and in the state of Florida.”
It also noted, “Florida is home to an extensive, interconnected network of White supremacists and other far-right extremists.”
In the last two years, the ADL Center on Extremism detailed more than 400 instances of White supremacist propaganda distribution in Florida.
In 2021, there were 190 reported antisemitic incidents, a 50% increase over 2020.