The strange new doctrine of the Republican Party

With COVID-19, too, it’s doubtful how hard DeSantis truly intends to fight business interests. The Miami Heat NBA franchise announced that beginning April 1, special sections of American Airlines Arena will be open only to fully vaccinated attendees. Social-distancing rules will be relaxed in these sections. DeSantis is not stopping that. And if DeSantis will not force the Heat to drop its rules, how much less likely is he to battle mighty Disney if it decides that a vaccination policy will speed the recovery of its business?

But the point is not to win the fight, or even really to fight the fight. The point is to announce the fight, and to keep raging about it, even if you do not in fact fight it very hard. DeSantis surely does not agree with those Republicans who dismiss COVID-19 as a hoax, the COVID-19 vaccines as a menace, and vaccine certificates as the mark of the anti-Christ. He has repeatedly said that he will take the vaccine when it’s his turn. But he must reckon with a party in which anti-vaccination has joined pro-gun as an indispensable cultural marker—and as a potential veto bloc for anyone aspiring to a future Republican presidential nomination.

To appease those cultural blocs, Republican politicians must be willing to sacrifice everything, including what used to be the party’s foundational principles. To protect the gun, or to avoid contradicting the delusions of anti-vaccine paranoiacs, property rights must give way, freedom to operate a business must yield.