Ron DeSantis Says He’ll Double Down on Martha’s Vineyard Stunt

Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images via AP

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, having dominated the past several news cycles by flying Venezuelan migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard without notice—a move his critics depict as a particularly cruel attempt to “own the libs” for political gain—has announced that he’s doubling down.
“We’ve got an infrastructure in place now. There’s going to be a lot more that’s happening,” DeSantis said Friday, according to CNN.
He noted that he plans to use “every penny” of the $12 million that Florida legislators had allocated to relocate migrants. Further flights are “likely,” and he is considering sending migrant buses like those Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey have used to shuttle thousands of asylum seekers to DC, New York City, and other urban Democratic strongholds, leaving officials and nonprofit workers scrambling to accommodate the newcomers.
He might even try and collaborate with Abbott, DeSantis said.
He denied reports, however, that some migrants had been misled about where they were headed and/or what awaited them on the other end—reports that have sparked Twitter accusations of “human trafficking.”

Ron DeSantis and Greg Abbott belong in prison for human trafficking.
— BrooklynDad_Defiant!☮️ (@mmpadellan) September 17, 2022

It is unclear, as yet, whether the governors have violated any laws, but their behavior certainly has a sordid history. My colleague Isabela Dias posted a new article today detailing how southern white supremacists used remarkably similar tactics 60 years ago in an attempt to flummox northern liberals. Under false pretenses, they recruited and bused Black southerners and their families north. In that case, the stunt backfired.

To embarrass Northern liberals and humiliate Black people, southern White Citizens Councils started their so-called “Reverse Freedom Rides,” giving Black people one-way tickets to northern cities with false promises of jobs, housing, and better lives.
— JFK Library (@JFKLibrary) September 15, 2022

The use of low-status groups as political pawns and scapegoats to drum up regionalist and nationalist sentiment has an even longer history, of course, here in the United States and elsewhere. Black Americans have been used as political scapegoats since well before Emancipation. Anti-immigrant scapegoating has fueled the rise of right-wing and authoritarian leaders in Europe in recent decades, and it also was a key ingredient of European fascism between the world wars.
In his new book “Slouching Towards Utopia,” which covers this history, economist Brad DeLong identifies six elements common to regimes that have self-identified as fascist: “a leadership commanding rather than representing; a unified community based on ties of blood and soil (and rejecting and degrading those who are not of the community); coordination and propaganda; support for at least some traditional hierarchies; hatred of socialists and liberals and—almost always—hatred of ‘rootless cosmopolites’ which, in their antisemitic worldview, meant Jews and people who acted like Jews, in some form or another.”
Sound familiar?