Parents will decide whether children get vaccinated against COVID.
That’s what he means, right?
Because that’s not what this clip posted by his office says.
In Florida, there will be no vaccine mandate for children in our schools.
This is a decision that belongs to parents. pic.twitter.com/EEu13HZ41c
— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) October 30, 2021
I’m a broken record on this but I’m going to ask once again that populist Republicans pandering for anti-vax cred with the base be more specific in defining their opposition to mandates. Based on his history, I’m sure Ron DeSantis doesn’t oppose all school vaccine mandates (yet). So instead of focusing on what makes the COVID vaccine different — it’s brand new, it hasn’t been fully approved yet, kids seldom experience severe illness from the disease — why does he insist on framing the debate in the most sweeping terms, as a matter of parental authority?
I know it’s good politics given that Glenn Youngkin is poised for a momentous upset in a blue state by championing parents’ rights over school policy. But once a broad anti-mandate position on vaccines becomes GOP dogma, the distinctions between the COVID jab and the many other jabs required for kids as a condition of attending school in Florida will begin to dissolve. And suddenly we’ll have full-spectrum opposition to school vaccine mandates as a populist rallying cry within the GOP.
To the extent we don’t already, I mean.
DeSantis’s language about vaccination and mandates has gotten more slippery lately. One notable distinction between him and Greg Abbott in their arms race to be the most anti-mandate Republican in the country as a proxy for being anti-vax is that DeSantis hasn’t banned private businesses in Florida from requiring their workers to get vaccinated. Abbott took that step a few weeks ago, casting off whatever conservative pretensions he’d made previously about respecting the rights of business owners, but DeSantis still takes those rights seriously enough that he hasn’t followed Abbott’s lead. Even so, given the nature of his attacks on Biden’s federal vaccine mandate, you wonder if his logic will lead him to it eventually:
“It’s important for us to take a stand,” DeSantis said at a press conference held at the Florida Air Museum in Lakeland. “Tossing people aside is just not something we can tolerate here in the state of Florida so we are going to do everything we can.”…
“We’ve gone from 15 days to slow the spread to three jabs to keep your job,” DeSantis said. “If you don’t give resistance to this, they’re going to absolutely do more.”
Again, it’s a matter of drawing distinctions to target the thing you truly object to. If the problem with the federal vaccine mandate is that it’s a case of federal overreach, with the White House trying to set rules for businesses that it has no constitutional or moral right to set, emphasize that. If the problem with the federal vaccine mandate is that it burdens workers by forcing them to choose between their job and a health decision, then why is a business owner’s private mandate any less oppressive than Biden’s federal one? They’re both cases of an authority coercing a citizen into getting a health treatment he doesn’t want. The distinction between state action and private action is immaterial to the core harm.
DeSantis has frequently framed the problem with mandates that second way. “Your right to earn a living should not be contingent upon COVID shots,” he said in a statement this weekend, announcing a special legislative session to counter Biden’s federal mandate. “In Florida, we believe that the decision whether or not to get a COVID shot is a choice based on individual circumstances.” Why should that logic apply only to the federal mandate, though? If “three jabs to keep your job” is imperious and unreasonable when the feds insist upon it, it’s also imperious when the private company you work for insists upon it. That’s what Greg Abbott would say, I take it, and so would most Republican voters. It’s a credit to DeSantis that he hasn’t let his own logic lead him to set bad policy the way Abbott did, but he’s still promoting that logic. So why shouldn’t Florida and every other state bar private business owners from mandating the vaccine for employees, especially given DeSantis’s frequent claims that the vaccines don’t do much to limit transmission?
And remember, Biden’s federal mandate for large companies doesn’t actually require “three jabs to keep your job” or even one jab. It provides for a weekly testing option. Strictly speaking, no one is forced to get the shot.
DeSantis got annoyed last week when the media misunderstood a point he made during an interview about wanting to offer cops in other states a $5,000 bonus to relocate to Florida and become an officer there. Some reporters thought he was offering that bonus only to unvaccinated cops, financially incentivizing law enforcement *not* to get the shot. Untrue, said an annoyed DeSantis, grumbling about the “corporate media.” The bonus would be offered to anyone who moves to Florida to become a police officer, vaccinated or unvaccinated. Fair enough, but it’s surely not a coincidence that he wants to dangle this offer at the very moment unvaxxed cops, specifically, are being forced out in other states due to their refusal to get vaccinated. And if the press is leaping to an unflattering conclusion about the intentions behind his policies, it may be not plain ol’ liberal bias that’s solely responsible. The fact that DeSantis has worked hard on different fronts to ingratiate himself to anti-vaxxers over the last few months makes the idea of him wanting to pay special bonuses to unvaxxed cops less absurd at first glance than it should have been:
Any time a member of the media writes about DeSantis’s approach to the vaccine, a member of his staff will huffily insist that the governor encouraged Floridians to get vaccinated. And he has. But he’s also been careful not to alienate the hard-right base on the subject. He’s not repeatedly insisting on the importance of vaccinations the way West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R) has. When the state was getting hammered by the virus, DeSantis put his energy into treatments targeting covid instead of increased vaccinations…
DeSantis also recently appointed a new state surgeon general who has actively tried to undermine confidence in vaccines. That official, Joseph Ladapo, visited the office of a state senator last week. When asked to wear a mask because the senator is being treated for cancer, he refused. At another point last month, DeSantis participated in a news conference where speakers implied that the vaccine could be deadly or that it could “change your RNA.” DeSantis later claimed not to have heard them.
He just named as the top public health official in his state a guy who, when asked about the importance of vaccination against COVID, took to rambling about focusing on general good health instead, including eating more fruits and vegetables. Reporters are uncharitable to DeSantis partly for the standard partisan reasons that they dislike Republicans, especially populist ones, and are eager to torpedo someone who might pose a national threat to Democrats. But on the subject of COVID, no one’s sure how far he and Abbott and other populists might go to virtue-signal to anti-vaxxers. Which is why we’re left to wonder if his failure to distinguish between the COVID vaccine and other childhood vaccines in the clip up top is simple carelessness at work or something more deliberately irresponsible.
By the way, speaking of Biden’s federal mandate, it really does exist and it really is coming. It took the administration six weeks to maneuver through the bureaucracy, but the OSHA mandate is almost here.