Deliberate cruelty as a philosophy of government is now the mainstream Republican position, as the party has completely surrendered to the so-called MAGA movement. The latest proof of this came this week in the political stunt engineered by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who seeks to challenge Donald Trump for the Republican crown, of shanghaiing fifty refugees from Texas and flying them without notice to Martha’s Vineyard. If Trump were to die, go to prison, or otherwise be removed from the political equation, the kidnapper and fraudster DeSantis would be the frontrunner for the Republican nomination.
As readers probably know, agents of Governor DeSantis approached a group of mostly Venezuelan refugees in Texas and tricked them into boarding a flight to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts, which has a reputation as a playground of rich “liberal” elites such as former President Obama. I listened to a clip of the fascist gasbags on “Fox and Friends” talking about this crime to see how right-wing propaganda outlets are framing it. They began by making callous “jokes” about how these refugees, whom they call illegal immigrants, are not going to be in the market for very expensive resort realty in Martha’s Vineyard. Their substantive “point” was thundering along with DeSantis that it’s unfair to states like Florida and Texas to bear the burden of absorbing these refugees, so it’s only right for DeSantis to abduct them from another Red State and dump them in a Blue State.
If DeSantis’s aim was to provoke residents of Martha’s Vineyard into acting like him and his MAGA followers and start screaming about how illegal immigrants are horrible and awful and they bring disease and crime, well, the world now sees that the opposite happened. The islanders welcomed these refugees, gave them shelter, fed them, and arranged for them to travel onward in Massachusetts to get further aid.
But DeSantis still got what he wanted, which was more free national attention and “red meat for the base” from this act of cruel deception against refugees as young as three years old. According to news reports, the agents of DeSantis misrepresented themselves as people who wanted to help the refugees find housing and work to entice them onto the plane. Some of the refugees told these people they had court dates coming up in Texas, and were told by DeSantis’s agents not to worry about it. How many laws did these people break? Aren’t they liable to prosecution for fraud, kidnapping, and possibly human trafficking?
Of course, it is most unlikely that DeSantis will face any consequences for this action. As with DeSantis’s supposed move to strip Disney Corporation of its special tax status for Disney World in punishment for the Disney chief executive speaking out against the governor’s anti-gay legislation, which is not really going to happen thanks to back-room deals, there can be far less red meat than meets the eye, and it still redounds to his political benefit. That’s because his constituency, the permanently enraged MAGAs, will never hear on Fox News that neither Disney, nor the refugees, nor the residents of Martha’s Vineyard are really going to suffer. They will only ever hear that DeSantis is sticking it to a bunch of rich liberals. They won’t even hear about the inconvenient fact that these refugees were fleeing the dictatorial “socialist” government that has wrecked Venezuela, which MAGA Republican politicians are only too happy to rail against in every other context.
But even with his short-term political goals achieved in this sorry exercise in cruelty, deception, and arbitrary and illegal government action, one senses that DeSantis, like his model Trump, has acquired a taste for sadism that has now been frustrated by the warm welcome the refugees received in Massachusetts. When DeSantis, Texas Governor Greg Abbott, and other MAGA politicians notice that shipping migrants up north only helps them, they will resort instead to more direct and cruel action in their own states.