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Beware the “Desantis Variant” Dangerous COVID Scapegoating Strain Circulating Among GOP

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Washington, DC – The new Republican variant of COVID-19 is a toxic mix of racism, xenophobia and the scapegoating of immigrants. And it is spreading rapidly among the GOP. 

Starting in Texas, where it was incubated by Governor Greg Abbott, the variant has mutated into a new strain, the DeSantis Variant, now spreading in Florida where it is increasingly deadly to Floridians. It is spreading so rapidly it has infected Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, who recently accused Democrats of “plucking” migrant children with COVID who have crossed the border into the U.S. and using them to “seed” new coronavirus variants across the country. It has also spread to states with Republican governors such as having previously infected South Dakota and Iowa. The virus so addles the brains of these so-called leaders, they prefer to endanger their own citizens and scapegoat immigrants rather than protect their states.

The spread of this scapegoating virus is ringing alarm bells among those more concerned with human survival than political gamesmanship:

  • Fabiola Santiago column in Miami Herald: “Incredibly, DeSantis blames Florida COVID surge on Biden, immigrants. Scapegoat much?”: “Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has failed to protect Floridians from COVID-19. That fact alone is grounds for condemnation, but this week he’s throwing into the mix a little xenophobia for political effect … Blaming immigrants instead of owning his mistakes is inherited political theater. But it’s par for the course for a dog-whistling governor whose top priority isn’t COVID, but scoring points on the campaign trail with fellow xenophobes.”
  • Josh Marshall in TPM, “New GOP Message on Surging COVID: It’s Juan’s Fault!: “As Delta COVID surges cases across the country and fills hospitals in low-vaccine Red States, Republicans have been test-driving a range of messages to maneuver out of accountability for their reckless policies on vaccines. They’ve tried a belated effort to push vaccines, deny they were ever against them and then sidled back to opposing various kinds of vaccine mandates. But over the last couple days they’ve started pushing a new message: the problem is undocumented immigrants ‘pouring’ over the US-Mexico border … The absurd claim that largely Hispanic immigrants at the border are driving the country’s spiking COVID numbers is just their latest effort to dodge accountability for their own actions.”
  • Philip Bump fact check in Washington PostWhy we can be confident that the surge in coronavirus cases isn’t the fault of immigrants: “Part of the reason that immigrants are being targeted as vectors for the spread of the coronavirus is that public health experts are identifying a more obvious cause: a lack of vaccinations. Since opposition to vaccination overlaps with opposition to preventive measures like wearing masks — and since wearing masks has been politicized by Republican elected officials as an infringement on personal freedom — there’s a motivation to find some other scapegoat for the surge in cases … It’s much easier for them to say that the increase is a function of immigrants than it is to blame Republican voters and Fox News viewers. But it’s obviously not true.”
  • Eugene Robinson column in Washington Post: “Too many Republicans are taking covid-19’s side in the fight against the pandemic”: “This is the GOP’s pandemic now. Cynical and irresponsible Republican politicians have created an environment that is killing Americans who shouldn’t have to die, swamping hospital systems with desperately ill patients, and generally ensuring that the pain and disruption of covid-19 are with us longer than they need be or should be. And they’ve done so in their own self-interest.”
  • Gabe Ortiz of Daily Kos, “Facing a statewide public health disaster, DeSantis joins the ‘immigrants bring disease’ trope train”: “1 in 5 of all U.S. COVID-19 cases are now in DeSantis’ jurisdiction; hospitals and other health resources are warning that they are facing crisis conditions; and the state continues to lag behind in vaccinations in large part because of DeSantis’ own sneering political attacks on health officials … None of that is because of immigrants or the southern border; I mean, even the geography doesn’t square up. Yet that’s not stopping Ron and gang from spewing this racist ‘immigrants bring disease’ trope. I feel like I’ve been repeating that last thing ad nauseam, but maybe it’s because Republicans have been racist ad nauseam. I mean, it’s also really no surprise that as soon as they start feeling the heat, they blame immigrants. It’s a tale as old as time.”

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, “The new Republican variant of COVID-19 is a virulent strain of racism and xenophobia. Abbott spread it, Florida is accelerating it, and the GOP is getting infected by it even as they deny it. This is dangerous, reckless and could well lead to violence against Latinos and immigrants. 

The only known vaccine is common sense and the truth, both in short supply in the Republican Party. This all encapsulates the clear strategy of the modern Republican party: when all you care about is power and not policy, blame immigrants, consequences be damned.”