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Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis gave us a sneak preview of how Republican leaders will challenge the Biden Administration’s proposed mandate that would require private sector employers with 100 or more employees to either vaccinate their staff or impose weekly COVID tests. The mandate would affect nearly two-thirds of the private sector workforce, and judging from the success of other recent mandates, it would be a major step towards trying to flatten the COVID-19 curve and “reopen” America by 2022.
But on Thursday, DeSantis called for a special session of the state legislature, which will cost Florida taxpayers $1 million, to oppose the federal mandate and punish businesses with vaccine mandates, recommending they be held liable if a worker has an “adverse reaction.” He also said these businesses will no longer qualify for COVID-19 liability protection. One might think that “death” is the worst “adverse reaction” to a pandemic that has killed more than 700,000 Americans, but GOP leaders won’t let the Grim Reaper deter their endless culture war to rally their radicalized base and take back political power in 2022.
DeSantis tweeted that “no one should lose their job over a COVID shot,” but he seems less concerned with Floridians losing their lives over COVID. His state had more deaths than any other during the Delta variant spike this summer, and altogether over 58,000 people in his state have died so far from the virus. Unfortunately, it seems DeSantis, who is allegedly “pro-life,” cares more about his political future, softball interviews on Fox News, and the supposed rights of selfish and reckless pro-death GOP voters to spread the virus and kill the elderly and immunocompromised before Christmas.
DeSantis, who is vaccinated, is also apparently fine with anti-vax disinformation. Florida’s dangerous new surgeon general, Dr. Joseph Ladapo, whom the Orlando Sentinel’s editorial board described as a “well educated COVID crank,” joined DeSantis at his press conference where he questioned the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines. He also denounced all workplace mandates. Instead, the governor now urges that people simply “stick with ther intuition and their sensibilities.” Those “intuition” and “sensibilities” have led to a shortage of ivermectin, a deworming drug that hasn’t been proven to help cure COVID but has now poisoned many Republicans.
This madness is just a sneak preview of the all-out obstruction by the GOP and its base once the FDA approves vaccines for children ages 5 to 12. The Biden Administration’s plan to vaccinate 28 million children includes making the shots available at doctor’s offices, local pharmacies, and potentially even schools, which have become ground zero for an aggressively anti-democratic GOP base culture war attacking CRT, transgender rights, and masks.
What happens if schools follow California’s lead and require vaccines? In normal times, this wouldn’t be a controversy considering schools already require children to be vaccinated against smallpox, polio, measles and rubella. But thanks to a radicalized GOP base, the National School Board Association, which represents more than 90,000 school board members in 14,000 public school districts across the nation, was forced to ask President Biden for help and protection. In a September letter, the association cited more than 20 detailed instances of threats, harassment and initmidation from this “angry mob” and said these incidents are “the equivalent to a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes.”
Attorney General Merrick Garland responded by ordering the FBI to work with local leaders to look into a “disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence” against teachers and school board members simply trying their best to protect children during a deadly pandemic. Republicans, however, have lost interest in law and order—and have also lost their minds. On Thursday, Garland defended his decision in front of the House Judiciary Committee Oversight Hearing where he was grilled by Rep. Jim Jordan, who accused Garland and the Justice Department of creating a “snitch line on parents.” Jordan, of course, never snitches, especially when it comes to Trump or sexual abusers.
Not to be outdone, DeSantis defied the order, and earlier this week tweeted that Garland is “weaponizing the Department of Justice against everyday parents trying to raise their kids.” Without a trace of self-awareness, DeSantis also tweeted, “we should encourage parental engagement in a child’s education—not use intimidation tactics to try and prevent it.” This is coming from the same man who just called for a special session to punish businesses that implement private vaccine mandates. Earlier in the summer, DeSantis threatened to withhold the salary of superintendents who didn’t obey his mask bans. The Florida Health Department this week just fined Leon County over $3.5 million. Why? Because the Florida county violated the state’s insane new anti vax passports law that DeSantis signed in May, which bans local governments from requiring any person to provide proof of vaccination and levies fines of $5,000 for each violation. Hypocrisy and projection, thy name is DeSantis.
As I’ve written before, we cannot win over a pro-death cult. I’m tired of bending the knee to violent, ideological extremists and being hijacked by their white rage, economic anxiety, delusional conspiracy theories, and perpetual sense of victimhood. Their selfish actions are jeopardizing our children’s lives during an ongoing pandemic.
President Biden and Democrats, who represent the majority in this country, need to hold the line and continue promoting vaccine mandates, which have proven to be both successful and popular. According to legal experts, President Biden has the authority to impose vaccine requirements on the private sector “through laws that require businesses to comply with evidence-based federal health safety standards.” Specifically, the Labor Secretary has the authority to issue an emergency temporary standard if it is determined workers “face grave danger from exposure to substances or agents determined to be toxic or physically harmful or from hazards.” COVID, which has killed over 700,000, seems to fit the definition of a “toxic” substance.
Biden must continue using the presidential pulpit to call out Republican governors like DeSantis and Abbott of Texas by name for their failed leadership that has resulted in thousands of preventable deaths. I know Republicans are impervious to shame, but Biden’s audience is the majority that wants Democratic leadership to flex their powers and hold these agents of chaos publicly accountable for their misdeeds.
If it’s litigation GOP wants, then two can play at that game. Businesses and school districts need to fight back in court to protect their rights from Republican intimidation and overreach. Vincent Long, an Administrator from Leon County, which was just fined by Florida, responded by saying his county believes its vaccination requirement is “legally justifiable.” Earlier this week, a trial began in which six Florida school districts challenged the Florida Department of Health’s ban on masks in schools. It’s possible the court finds that DeSantis’ measures violated the Florida Constitution by endangering the health of school children, staff and workers.
Finally, Garland needs to unleash The Department of Justice and consider criminal investigations if Republican anti-mask and anti-vaccine policies have misrepresented information in a way that actively led to deaths across the nation. Prosecutorial authorities at the federal, state and local levels should be encouraged to hold elected individuals accountable.
At the very least, Garland defending his call to mobilize the FBI to protect school boards and teachers against the threat of violence is an excellent indication that he won’t be swayed by Republican pressure. Now, the Justice Department needs to drop the hammer. Whether it’s a Republican governor or a right-wing activist, people who threaten and harm the public, especially our teachers and school children, should be prosecuted and stopped. Enough is enough. No one is above the law.
In Florida, all you have to do is follow the facts. It will take you to the graveyard where you’ll find 58,000 tombstones—and counting.