Truth and Consequences
Truth and Consequences
Bad Politicians Doing Bad Things And Getting Support From Bad People

Paid episode

The full episode is only available to paid subscribers of Truth and Consequences

Bad Politicians Doing Bad Things And Getting Support From Bad People

It's bad enough that Ron DeSantis sent migrants to Martha's Vineyard. It's far worse that so many of his supporters are cheering it.

I’m Michael A. Cohen, and this is Truth and Consequences: A no-holds-barred look at the absurdities, hypocrisies, and surreality of American politics. If you received this email - or you are a free subscriber - and you’d like to subscribe: you can sign up below.

I had a fascinating chat with Elliott Morris on Friday about the midterm elections. We talked about what the polls are telling us, why neither of us would be surprised if Democrats hold the House and Senate, and why we might be in the midst of a genuine political realignment. Check out the audio above.

Depraved Indifference

Ray Ewing/Vineyard Gazette

Last week, fifty asylum-seeking migrants showed up in Martha’s Vineyard, courtesy of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. Several days later, about one hundred migrants from Texas arrived at Vice President Kamala Harris’s official residence in Washington DC (another 50 came two days later). These stunts have become all too familiar. Republican governors from border states like Texas and Arizona are shipping migrants to liberal enclaves like Washington DC, Chicago, New York City, and now Martha’s Vineyard in order (they claim) to dramatize the challenges their states are facing from the increased flow of migrants at America’s Southern border.

Much has already been written about DeSantis’s Martha’s Vineyard gambit, but a few additional thoughts.

  1. It’s evident that DeSantis and Texas Governor Greg Abbott are using migrants as political props and don’t care what happens to them. I’m not sure this is even a controversial argument. But it’s something else altogether to send them to a place where a) they knew no one, b) there is little infrastructure for taking care of them, including even an immigration office and c) Florida officials didn’t even bother to tell anyone in Martha’s Vineyard what was happening. It’s the last one that is perhaps the most depraved. It’s also not unusual. While some states, like Arizona, provide a heads up to northern locales where they are sending migrants, that appears to be the exception. According to a recent report in the Washington Post, one contractor in Texas responsible for transporting migrants “signed an agreement that prohibits them from talking to New York officials.” According to Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker, his administration has reached out to Texas officials but generally gets no response.

    If DeSantis and other Republican governors wanted to claim that liberal enclaves like Martha’s Vineyard cheer migrants and undocumented immigrants crossing the border but then recoil when they arrive in their community, that’s one thing (though the migrants were welcomed with open arms by Martha’s Vineyard residents). It’s hardly defensible, but if one wants to be exceedingly generous, they could argue that Republican governors are trying to raise attention to the border issue — and their limitations in caring for the migrants. But not telling anyone they’re coming magnifies the fact that you literally don’t care if something bad happens to them. In fact, by not alerting anyone, DeSantis is seemingly hoping that it does. The level of depraved indifference to people who have escaped economic and political deprivation, made a harrowing trek across thousands of miles and are merely seeking to care for their families is difficult to comprehend.

  2. One of the other parts of this story that perhaps merits more attention is the migrants who DeSantis’s administration sent to Martha’s Vineyard were not even in Florida. They were picked up outside a detention facility in San Antonio, told that jobs and housing awaited them in Massachusetts, and traveled via charter plane to Martha’s Vineyard. Except for a refueling stop in Florida, they were never in the Sunshine State. In defending (or perhaps more accurately, promoting his actions), DeSantis’s office issued a statement that said the flights were a “part of the state’s relocation program to transport illegal immigrants to sanctuary destinations.” It further claimed that “States like Massachusetts, New York, and California will better facilitate the care of these individuals who they have invited into our country by incentivizing illegal immigration through their designation as ‘sanctuary states’ and support for the Biden Administration’s open border policies.”

    A few clarifications are necessary. First, the migrants in question were not “illegal immigrants.” They are asylum-seeking migrants and have the right, under US law, to seek asylum in the United States and have their asylum requests adjudicated. Second, there’s no evidence that these migrants came to America because of alleged incentives provided by blue state America. Rather, Venezuela has a migrant population of nearly seven million, who are fleeing the country’s economic devastation. That migrants are coming to America to find work so they can care for their family never seems to enter into Republican discussions of immigration (perhaps that is because many Republican politicians don’t see them as people but as props and punching bags). Third, the Biden Administration does not support “open border” policies. This is a lie that Republicans continue to repeat over and over again. Now it’s true that Democrats support less restrictive immigration policies and criticism of that position is certainly fair game for Republicans. But Democrats are not advocating for open borders.

    But there’s still the question of why DeSantis is sending migrants from another state to Martha’s Vineyard. In defending the state’s actions, DeSantis told reporters, “our view is that you’ve got to deal with it at the source, and if they’re intending to come to Florida or many of them are intending to come to Florida, that’s our best way to make sure they end up in a sanctuary.” He also said, “We’re continuing to … use every tool at our disposal to insulate the state of Florida from the negative ramifications.”

    Yet, from all accounts, the migrants who arrived in Martha’s Vineyard were not planning to come to Florida and were coaxed into traveling to Massachusetts. How is this insulating Florida from the “negative ramifications” of migrant flows if these individuals weren’t in the state? How DeSantis or his representatives were able to peer inside the minds of these migrants and determine that they eventually would relocate to Florida is a hazy mystery.

    Of course, there’s a simple explanation for all of this: DeSantis was envious of the media attention that other Republican governors were receiving for his efforts to ship migrants to liberal locales and wanted in on the action. What better way for DeSantis to burnish his conservative bonafides than sending a planeload of migrants to the lefty vacation spot of Martha’s Vineyard? And if he couldn’t find enough of them in Florida — why not go to Texas to get them? The fact that Florida officials had to travel thousands of miles to find migrants for their stunt tells you all you need to know about their post facto claims that this was about protecting the interest of the state of Florida. This was all about furthering DeSantis’s political interests.

  3. That DeSantis is a garbage human is not up for much debate. But at the same time, he isn’t necessarily dumb. He understands that this stunt — no matter how depraved and disgusting it might be — will win the approval of conservative voters. In fact, he is almost certainly operating under the assumption that it will increase his support. There is little reason to think that assumption is wrong. After all, when the Trump administration separated migrant children from their parents, it did nothing to dent the president’s support with conservatives. So DeSantis, Abbott, et al. are cynical and immoral. What should truly scare us is the people cheering their actions — who see nothing wrong with treating human beings (including children) as political props.

Listen to this episode with a 7-day free trial

Subscribe to Truth and Consequences to listen to this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.

Truth and Consequences
Truth and Consequences
Weekly discussions with some of the smartest historians, journalists, and pundits on the latest doing in American politics.