This is the second feature in a four-part series. Click here to read the first article.
The next step in unraveling the mystery of where Gov. Ron DeSantis is on the narcissism spectrum was finding his patterns and modus operandi.
While it is widely reported that DeSantis loves data and reads a lot of reports, this is expected of an Ivy League lawyer. However, from everything I have seen him say and do with all those statistics and reports, he is not trying to learn or give useful information. He is shopping for evidence to serve his political narrative, as he buries the media in empty statistics, platitudes and clichés.
In fact, I saw zero indication that he has any interest in facts or data that don’t support his single-minded goal of authoritarian power. To my ear, most of what I heard from him was an arrogant, aggressive, verbally abusive prosecutor demanding his version of the truth is the only truth, and anyone who questions him needs to be “held accountable.”
If you have ever known anyone who responds to honest questions with toxic abuse to hide their guilt, or because the truth makes them look like a horrible human being, you now know the essence of every DeSantis Variant press conference I observed.
Listen closely and you will hear his pattern of using self-serving statistics and a lot of lawyerly clichés, assertions and accusations without anything of substance to back them up except more of his own selective data he defends as gospel. When his favorable statistics get questioned, his pattern is to hide behind more high-quality clichés.
Certainly as a lawyer and Fox News politician, DeSantis is well trained, practiced and skilled at spinning legalese and repeating the best political and evasive clichés. I suspect he has a long list of highly researched catchphrases that he and his TV host wife practice and workshop, for maximum normal-sounding manipulative effectiveness, and leading people to hear what they want to hear.
Clichés like: “As governor I will represent all the people and everyone will get a fair shake.” “It’s a totally false partisan narrative.” “I’m not going to bow to the altar of political correctness.” “We’re not shutting down.” “We’re going to go forward.” “Get those trends back in better direction.” “I would like to see some validity to what they say, not something I’m going to accept at face value.” “You know we work collaboratively with a bottom-up approach.” “Bottom-up from each community.”
Until delta, DeSantis has been easily getting by and riding high denying reality with his COVID-19 victory lap clichés like, “We’ve had tremendous success,” “Really good numbers,” and arrogantly declaring “The failure of so many places outside of Florida to open schools at the beginning of the school year will go down as one of the biggest policy blunders of our time.”
This “winning” attitude is the kind of red meat that conservative media and the Republican base cannot get enough of. Unfortunately, as many of us have learned the hard way, most trump conservatives would rather go further into denial than accept new facts or realities from outside their echo chambers.
Seen through this mindset, it is completely understandable that when the COVID-19 “doom and gloom” liberals predicted didn’t seem to materialize frustrated people were all too eager to throw off their masks. They believed it when some in the media declared, “DeSantis has won the pandemic.”
Day by day, DeSantis kept aggressively piling on his COVID-19 victory laps by repeatedly stating that Florida is an “Oasis of freedom” and “Open for business.” Who needs those pesky masks or vaccine passports in the libertarian “Free State of Florida,” where everyone is free to be as irresponsible and ignorant as they want to be with COVID-19?
Contrast this with DeSantis’ use of the law to try to force Florida schools to teach the white southern confederate view of American history (the opposite of critical race theory). Or with his response when Black Lives Matter wants to protest police killing unarmed Black men. He regularly threatens to bring out the goon squad and to look for any provocation to send Black protestors to Florida prisons, when they are just asking for fair and equal protection under the law.
No matter the reasonableness of the questions, he continues to belittle anyone discussing public safety, mask mandates, or vaccines passports or those who have valid questions and concerns about his unsafe opening of schools and the Florida economy. Again, no one could really pin him down before delta because Florida didn’t appear to be doing dramatically worse than states that tried to follow the science of safety from COVID-19 — so his image as trump’s smarter, stronger, successful and more popular heir-apparent kept building unabated until …
How quickly things can change in politics. And then the DeSantis Variant exposed holes in his empty stats, clichés and imaginary reality.
It was actually DeSantis himself who exposed his conservative ideology of a “bottom-up approach” as a total lie. He overruled local officials and school districts on basic public health measures when he issued an executive order banning schools from mandating masks, which is the only protection those under 12 years old have. This stance also exposed an uncaring person.
His own hypocrisy and tone-deafness reached the point of ridiculousness just recently when he called COVID-19 precautions “medical authoritarianism” but also took personal credit for ending lockdowns and school closures, and trying to ban cruise ships and other private businesses from having mask or vaccine mandates. His own medical authoritarianism repeatedly proves he will mercilessly endanger his constituents if he sees a political advantage.
Making masks a political issue has also exposed DeSantis’ shameless authoritarian nature, because if he has no moral problem risking the lives of children and teachers for the sake of following a delusional, right-wing, anti-science agenda to stay popular, he will sacrifice anyone, at any time, for anything. The hollowness of Casey DeSantis saying her focus as First Lady would be helping children has also been exposed as she claps along with her husband’s cruel policies, like withholding money from schools mandating masks.
Clearly to DeSantis, like most trump Republicans, reality doesn’t matter. All that seems to matter is to look like a tough guy standing up for some twisted far-right fever dream — where their fantasies are truth and science and facts are merely fictions — Satan tricks us non-conservatives with. Doesn’t sound all that far from QAnon, does it?
A simple reality to anyone with common sense is you cannot be anti-mask and anti-vaccine and be pro-business, or even pro-life. It just doesn’t add up in any way, no matter how much DeSatan demands it does.
Defunding education and educators because they won’t follow DeSatan’s anti-science leadership to the graveyard of so many Floridians, so he can talk tough, is yet another self-inflicted epic fail.
But thanks to enough Floridians voting for DeSantis’ empty “bottom-up,” “freedom and liberty” clichés, Floridians risk his vendetta as they try to protect their children, students, employees, and customers with mask or vaccine requirements.
With the DeSantis Variant form of government, everyone has the “freedom and liberty” to do whatever they want. But if you do get sick and need hospital care, COVID-19 has left few ICU beds open so hospitals will need to take liberties with your treatment. Some might even call these forced life and death choices of who gets an ICU bed a “death panel.”
Certainly some reality is catching up with DeSantis. Polls show his approval rating has dropped from 66% in March to the low 40s, likely because Floridians have been seeing a lot of COVID-19 deaths lately. Reality has made his whole utopian “freedom and liberty” anti-masks and vaccines tough guy routine seem all the more irresponsible, insane and evil. There is just no way to spin sick kids and worn-out parents getting zero help from DeSantis to keep their kids safe.
Delta has also exposed why DeSatan has been hiding in the right-wing media shadows. His devious idea was that voters only see the superficial image of an attractive family and an intelligent, articulate husband-and-wife team who complement each other and have amazing backstories. Instead, voters are getting a glimpse of DeSantis’ dark psychological rabbit hole. This rabbit hole hides behind a false image of wholesomeness, just like DeSantis hides behind statistics, clichés, his uniform, wife, children, or anything else that humanizes him as he pushes to implement more inhumane policies.
Indeed until the delta variant, for most of us ignorant of Florida politics, it sure seems like the plan to disguise the DeSantis Variant coming for our democracy was working. We can’t let that happen anymore.
Look for The Psychological Lens of “The Dangerous Case of the DeSantis Variant” coming soon.
Image by DonkeyHotey on Flickr.
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