Speaking of Florida…
Ron DeSantis–the delusional and dangerous governor of Florida–is evidently doubling down on his insistence that government has no business protecting the public health via vaccine mandates.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) on Thursday stepped up his fight against the White House over COVID-19 restrictions, calling for a special legislative session so the state’s Republican-dominated Legislature can block President Biden’s vaccine mandates. “We have an opportunity here to take additional action, and I think we have to do it,” said DeSantis, who also has vowed to challenge Biden’s mandates in court. “I think we have got to stand up for people’s jobs and their livelihoods.” Florida House Speaker Chris Sprowls said his office had not received details on the plan for a special session. Biden in September said his administration would impose vaccine mandates on federal workers and businesses with more than 100 employees, prompting criticism from Republicans who said getting vaccinated should be a personal choice.
I don’t have any special insight into whether DeSantis is really as stupid as he sounds, or whether he has decided that his political future rests with the delusional Trumpian base of the GOP, but this latest bit of theater is driving rational observers over the edge.
The hypocrisy is bad enough. This sudden libertarianism is jarring, coming as it does from Republicans who have waged culture war on behalf of government’s right to dictate everything from citizens’ right to smoke weed to who they can marry and and how they must reproduce.
What is especially infuriating, however, is the insistence that protecting others from serious illness and possible death should be a matter of “personal choice.”
As most readers of this blog are aware, I spent six years as the Executive Director of Indiana’s ACLU. I came to that position as a libertarian Republican (a category that no longer exists in the GOP, despite these sudden dishonest exhortations about “personal choice.”) I was–and am–a believer in what is called the libertarian premise, the Enlightenment construct that says citizens are entitled to pursue their own telos, their own life goals–in today’s jargon, entitled to “do their own thing” and make their own “personal choices”–so long as they do not thereby harm the person or property of a non-consenting other, and so long as they are willing to accord an equal liberty to others.
The legitimacy of government action rests on those caveats.
There can certainly be arguments about what constitutes sufficient harm to justify government rules and regulations. Those arguments have been especially relevant to so-called “victimless crimes.” We distinguish, for example, between the guy who gets drunk in the privacy of his own home and the guy who gets drunk and takes to the road in his car. People who smoke in their own homes and cars are free to do so, but we have regulated smoking in public places ever since medical science discovered that passive smoke endangers others. We argue whether the gambler who sustains losses poses a threat to others sufficient to legitimize laws against gambling, and whether the driver who doesn’t “buckle up” endangers anyone but himself.
The argument that vaccination is a “personal choice” doesn’t fall into that category.
Previous epidemics have not spawned similar, widespread debates about government’s right–actually, government’s duty–to protect public health. American courts, including the Supreme Court, have upheld both vaccination and quarantine mandates, because they are most definitely not matters of personal choice. A decision to forego vaccination for a non-medical reason is a declaration of disregard for ones fellow-citizens. Period.
If today’s insane Republicans want to risk their own lives in order to make a political statement, I’m fine with that. When they want to risk the lives of other people, not so much.
In Florida, a large percentage of the population is composed of elderly folks who are particularly vulnerable to the pandemic, That makes DeSantis’ opposition to vaccination especially heinous. He isn’t protecting “personal choice;” he’s signaling his willingness to add to the 59,000+ deaths the state has already suffered from COVID.
He has made a “personal choice” to elevate politics over morality.He’s despicable.