America finally facing politician who has Mussolini’s guile, ruthlessness and willingness to see people die
Benito Mussolini used fascist film propaganda to create the myth of his Blackshirts' famous entry into Rome AFP
Rosaline is a 60-year-old Floridian who hopes she doesn’t get seriously ill because she’d be wiped out by the increase in her already burdensome medical debt. She has no insurance, and won’t qualify for Medicare for another 5 years.

Ron DeSantis is just fine with this. Cruelty is his trademark.

During the pandemic, Congress appropriated billions to help states expand their Medicaid programs. That money is coming to an end this year, meaning Florida — which refused to expand Medicaid with the federal subsides offered by the Affordable Care Act — is set to throw another 2 million or so residents off their only possible source of health insurance.

Still, Ron DeSantis refuses to expand Medicaid, even though 93 percent of the cost is covered with money from Washington, DC. It’s the principle of the thing, apparently: he’s one of 11 red state governors who believes that working poor people simply shouldn’t get health coverage. After all, they didn’t have the good sense to be born into a wealthy family!

Michael, 30, lives in Orlando and has asthma, but running his little business buying and selling used furniture hasn’t earned him enough to cover his medical bills and to pay rent. He recently got an eviction notice, telling the Florida Health Justice Project:

“I was given a list of homeless shelters to choose from but I hope it doesn’t come to that.”

Ron DeSantis is just fine with this. Cruelty is his trademark.

Violence, hate, bigotry, and cruelty are the four cardinal points of fascism. Compassion and concern for the greater good, for the poor and weak, for the victims of fate and accident have no place in the fascist world.

Historians and political observers have been predicting that America would get our very own Mussolini ever since the days of Barry Goldwater. And there’s been no shortage of candidates: bribe-taking Nixon; Central American fascist-loving Reagan; Gitmo torturing and war-lying Bush; and, of course, Trump.

But with Ron DeSantis, we may finally be facing an all-American politician who has Mussolini’s guile, ruthlessness, and willingness to see people die to advance his political career, all while being smart and educated enough to avoid the easily satirized buffoonishness of Trump.

Mussolini was a famously short man who strutted with his muscular chest pushed out and his chin jutted forward, just like DeSantis, who Trump says is musclebound, likes to do.

Both men were socially awkward, craved power, lacked empathy, displayed casual cruelty, sucked up to the wealthiest men in the nation, and demonized opposition politicians — literally calling or implying their fellow citizens are “the enemy” (a favorite trick of Hitler and Orbán, as well) — to encourage their followers to support them or entertain the rhetoric of violence and threats of violence to achieve political ends.

Miriam, a single parent of two young children, discovered a lump in her breast but postponed visiting the doctor for months because she had no health insurance with her job as a housekeeper.

Finally, she realized the potential gravity of her situation.

“I needed to live to be there for my children,” she said.

She got treatment through the charity ward of a hospital, but even that treatment came with a cost of $2,183. She slipped behind in the $200 monthly payments when her job vanished with the pandemic and now she’s struggling to pay the $1783 she still owes in co-payments from her treatments. She’s been sent to collection and is living in fear of what’s next when the court finally comes after her.

Ron DeSantis is just fine with this. Cruelty is his trademark.

George Washington, in his Farewell Address, warned us of the possible rise of politicians like DeSantis who would suggest other Americans are enemies of the nation’s values, who would exaggerate policy differences in war-like terms, and who would ascribe the most evil of motives and intentions to simple political opponents.

“The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism.”

But it wasn’t just that calling other politicians enemies or attributing evil motivations to them produced dissension and could tear a society apart, although those concerns were at the top of Washington’s mind.

He also knew that such rhetoric was the platform from which a literal strongman could arise in America, destroying the democracy he’d fought the Revolutionary War to create:

“But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism,” he told the nation. “The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty.”

Such a warlike approach to politics, Washington said, could only lead in one direction:

“It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection.”

Such rhetoric, Washington argued, produces:

“A fire not to be quenched, it demands a uniform vigilance to prevent its bursting into a flame, lest, instead of warming, it should consume.”

It’s been 225 years since George Washington uttered those words. And now we’re here.

Hipolito, the father of four, is worried about his life’s partner, the mother of their children.

“My wife has been in pain for weeks now but we can’t afford to find out why,” Hipolito told the Florida Health Justice Project. “I swear, I’m very afraid. She is pale and suffering every day.”

He notes that his wife hasn’t visited the doctor because their family can’t afford the expense when they must also house, feed, and clothe their kids on his job as a cook.

Ron DeSantis is just fine with this. Cruelty is his trademark.

Arresting black men for voting, terrifying them and ruining their lives while making sure they all get paraded in chains before the cameras.

Threatening public school teachers with prison for simply teaching history.

Lying about medical science regarding vaccines to suck up to the Trump base, resulting in fewer Floridians being protected from a disease that is killing literally hundreds of Americans every day.

Using rhetoric that feeds bigotry and hate against gay, lesbian, and trans people.

Intimidating the college board so they strip the Black Lives Matter movement out of their advanced placement African-American Studies curriculum.

Lying to asylum-seekers to get them on a plane to Martha’s Vineyard as a stunt to elevate his own political fortunes.

Ron DeSantis is just fine with all of this. Cruelty is his trademark.

Ignoring the health and safety of his state’s citizens, DeSantis led Florida into a veritable Covid Armageddon, letting (as of January 16th) 84,176 of his citizens die from the disease. As former FDA commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb told CBS’ Face The Nation:

“They let the virus spread largely unchecked in terms of personal mitigation. People weren't wearing masks. They weren't encouraged to wear masks. Vaccination was encouraged for the elderly population, but not widely… So they made policy choices, and the consequence was an infection that largely engulfed most parts of the state.”

After this orgy of death and disease, at the end of 2021 about 12 percent of Florida’s population — almost 2.6 million — still lacked any form of medical insurance because of DeSantis’ refusal to expand Medicaid for low-income people.

And now as many as 2 million more Floridians will join the ranks of the uninsured in the coming months.

Ron DeSantis is just fine with this. Cruelty is his trademark.