First, in case there’s any doubt: I really detest Ron DeSantis. He’s a slimy, sad excuse for a human being. And the thing that really bugs me about him is how unoriginal and derivative he is. Lacking a personality of his own, he copies everyone around him who he sees as successful.
The most obvious influence on DeSantis’ acquired personality is TFG. From the shoulder pads in his suits to the studied choreography of his hand motions during speeches, he’s a pathetic Xerox of that sack of garbage. But last week DeSantis decided he needed a cut of the busing migrants to northern cites racket and so he added another impression to his act: Texas governor Greg Abbott.
There was an immediate flaw in the plan: Florida isn’t a border state. So DeSantis imported some migrants from Texas, flew them through Florida, and then dumped them on Martha’s Vineyard where they were supposed to flummox and bedevil the rich liberals who inhabit the island.
Except Martha’s Vineyard is a summer destination, and the season had ended. So the people who were on the island were the year round residents: plumbers, carpenters, teachers—regular people. And regular people know what to do when people are in trouble and in need: they take care of them.
The Episcopal church on the island hosts a homeless shelter 4 nights a week, so they sprung into action with a place to sleep and clean clothes. But it wasn’t just that church. People who live on islands learn to take care of each other.
The Rev. Janet Newton, a minister at the Unitarian Universalist Society of Martha’s Vineyard, said that clergy, like other community leaders and residents of the island, had no idea the migrants were coming.Clergy, like other community leaders and residents of the island, had no idea the migrants were coming.
“Ironically,” she said, “we were prepared, even though we had no warning.”
The Vineyard, she said, is often seen as a playground for the rich and powerful. Former President Obama and other celebrities — television host David Letterman, journalist Diane Sawyer and film director Spike Lee — own homes on the island, she said, and that shapes how outsiders see the Vineyard.
That’s not the whole story. In the off-season, she said, many people struggle. Affordable housing is hard to come by, and at times, folks who work seasonal jobs can’t make ends meet. As a geographically isolated community, Newton said, year-round residents have learned to take care of each other.
“That’s probably a bit of a surprise to the people who sent the planes here,” she said. “They didn’t understand how our community operated or that we could be prepared for this. Hospitality matters here.”
Newton said clergy on the island and other community services had learned to work closely to solve long-term and short-term crises.
On the surface, it doesn’t make a lot of sense for DeSantis to use Venezuelans fleeing the Maduro government as a weapon against the Democrats at this time–he clearly did it to burnish his presidential bona fides–because he’s facing an election in November, and Florida is home to the largest Venezuelan immigrant community in the nation. His stunt has upset Venezuelans who are living in Florida:
As a Venezuelan American, Vegas, the deputy state director of the bipartisan American Business Immigration Coalition, said she’s heartbroken on the first day of Hispanic Heritage Month by the governor’s actions.
“The governor likes to pander to communities like mine, traumatized by political persecution and violence,” she said. “This is a new low, even for this governor.” The economy needs immigrants now more than ever, Vegas said. Key sectors of Florida’s economy, like agriculture and hospitality, are in dire need of workers.
It’s another misstep on immigration by the DeSantis administration following on the heels of Lt. Governor Jeanette Nunez’s suggesting that recently arrived undocumented Cuban migrants should be moved from Florida to Delaware.
As the Martha’s Vineyard migrants got legal counsel and began to tell their stories, we learned that a lot of planning had gone into this stunt. For example, the migrants were given a brochure with fraudulent information about what they could expect in Boston:
!!! a fake brochure promising eight months cash assistance, food, job training/placement, help with housing + more was given to migrants who were lured by @GovRonDeSantis into boarding a flight to martha’s vineyard. @JuddLegum obtained a copy: https://t.co/nSIwWOE6Zh pic.twitter.com/RLtqoeLPC8
— Marisa Kabas (@MarisaKabas) September 19, 2022
In addition, and unknown to the migrants, the Department of Homeland Security had assigned each of them to a homeless center around the United States and scheduled hearings the migrants could not make. The people who recruited them for the flight lied about the purpose of the flight and deliberately gave them false information on which agency to register with when they arrived in Boston, which would immediately put them at odds with the law. (On Monday evening we learned that the sheriff of Bexar County has opened an investigation into all of this, so we’ll see what happens.)
It wasn’t enough to use vulnerable people in a political stunt—DeSantis took the extra step to put all of them in immediate legal jeopardy. If that sounds familiar, it’s because he pulled a similar stunt with some felons that he had the state approve voting applications for so he could later claim fraud and prosecute them.
And here’s where we see how DeSantis differentiates himself from the people he is copying: he’s pulling stunts that are deliberately designed to hurt people in the long term, and not just in the present. There was no reason to assign migrants without their knowledge to addresses where they could not meet their legal responsibilities.
Adam Sewer wrote an essay about the dynamics of the MAGA movement titled “The Cruelty Is The Point“. Here’s an excerpt:
It is not just that the perpetrators of this cruelty enjoy it; it is that they enjoy it with one another. Their shared laughter at the suffering of others is an adhesive that binds them to one another, and to Trump.
This isn’t incoherent. It reflects a clear principle: Only the president and his allies, his supporters, and their anointed are entitled to the rights and protections of the law, and if necessary, immunity from it. The rest of us are entitled only to cruelty, by their whim. This is how the powerful have ever kept the powerless divided and in their place, and enriched themselves in the process.
I truly worry about what the next step is going to be. If setting people up for jail or deportations is already on the table to push a message, then physically hurting or killing them is a possibility. As it turns out, DeSantis does have something that makes him unique: his unbounded cruelty.
This feels appropriate: