Republicans scramble to ban ‘certain messages’ and ‘unsanctioned narratives’ from schools

President Joe Biden’s economic agenda is pretty darn popular, so Republicans are desperately looking to whip up a culture war. They’ve hit on Dr. Seuss, Mr. Potato Head, and a host of other ridiculous nontroversies. But a few of their culture war efforts have led to state-level legislation that could really cause damage. That includes the multistate campaign targeting trans kids—and it includes the big multistate move against critical race theory in schools.

Republicans have promoted bills banning critical race theory from schools in TexasArkansasOklahomaIdaho, and more. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis called for funding of curriculums that exclude “unsanctioned narratives like critical race theory.” But what do they mean by that? In short, the words “critical race theory” are being used as a fancy-sounding replacement for the lesson these Republicans really want to prohibit: that racism is real and that it’s structural and systemic.

Critical race theory is an intellectual movement that holds, broadly speaking (and with many strains of thought within it), that, as Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic explain in the introduction to Critical Race Theory: An Introduction, racism is “the usual way society does business, the common, everyday experience of most people of color in this country”; that “large segments of society have little incentive to eradicate it”; that race itself is socially constructed; that “the dominant society racializes different minority groups at different times, in response to shifting needs such as the labor market”; that “no person has a single, easily stated, unitary identity” (an idea often discussed as intersectionality); and that people of color know things about their own experiences that white people should listen to.

In the face of continuing disproportionate police violence against Black people and other people of color, and a pandemic that has disproportionately killed Black and Latino people, and economic inequality that has been exacerbated by the economic effects of the pandemic, Republican state legislators are insisting that the law should force teachers to teach essentially that racism ended after slavery, or maaaybe after something having to do with a watered-down account of segregation and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 

And some of them go even further when it comes to how we should talk about racism in U.S. history. During a debate of an anti-critical race theory bill in Tennessee, this happened:

Now on the Tennessee House floor, Rep. Justin Lafferty is yelling about how the three-fifths compromise was good. Republicans applaud. Members of the black caucus are huddling in groups.

— Natalie Allison (@natalie_allison) May 4, 2021

The sponsor of a bill that passed the Texas state Senate says his bill’s intention is to promote “traditional history.” You know, history that takes white supremacy for granted rather than challenging it even mildly.

By requiring that “a teacher may not be compelled to discuss current events or widely debated and currently controversial issues of public policy or social affairs,” that bill directly contradicts State Board of Education standards. “It’s essentially dumbing down our students and keeping them from thinking through real-world conversations and issues—things students are expected to navigate on an everyday basis,” state board member Marisa Pérez-Díaz said.

The Oklahoma bill will “prohibit Oklahoma public schools, colleges and universities from incorporating certain messages about sex and race into any course instruction.” Seriously, though, “certain messages.” The Idaho bill prohibits teaching that “any sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, or national origin is inherently superior or inferior” … A view that it attributes to critical race theory. Some real “anti-racism is the real racism” contortionism there.

Again and again, we see that what Republicans are taking aim at isn’t actually critical race theory as its scholars and practitioners frame it. They’re just mad that kids might learn racism did not magically disappear the moment Dr. King said he had a dream. They’re terrified kids might grow up believing things need to change in U.S. society and law. And in their anger and terror, they’re trying to ban the teaching of actual facts from the schools, and use it as a rallying cry not just the Republican base but for “color-blind” nice white liberals. If we can’t think critically about U.S. history and U.S. laws and structures of power, we can never move forward. That’s what this push against “critical race theory”—which is hardly even about the reality of critical race theory—is all about.

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Republicans purge their ranks of any lingering truth in preparation for their 2020 do-over in 2022

Rep. Liz Cheney is an unabashed conservative with a fervor for torture and anti-Muslim xenophobia and almost unmatched GOP pedigree. Not so long ago, her rise through the Republican ranks would have been of unstoppable. But none of that matters now. Cheney planted her flag on the wrong side of the Big Lie that is now central to Republican efforts to retake control of Congress in 2022 and the White House in 2024.

This week it became clear that the GOP’s entire electoral strategy is to sell the next two election cycles to aggrieved supporters of Donald Trump as a referendum on the 2020 election that roughly two-thirds of GOP voters think was stolen from them, depending on the question polled. Ever since he announced his candidacy in 2015, Trump has tirelessly devoted himself to priming the victimhood of his cultists until the politics of grievance defined them and enveloped the GOP base. Now Republicans plan to give that base the ultimate in grievance elections—a chance to roll back all the electoral wrongs they baselessly believe robbed them of their vote, their glorious leader, and their say in the future of the country.

Cheney, charged with carrying the message of House Republicans as their conference chair, became a one-person wrecking ball for that strategy. Her assertion in an op-ed this week that she stands with the rule of law and the U.S. Constitution and that “the electoral college has spoken” was a death knell for the GOP’s 2020 do-over in 2022.

“More than 60 state and federal courts, including multiple Trump-appointed judges, have rejected the former president’s arguments, and refused to overturn election results,” Cheney wrote. “That is the rule of law; that is our constitutional system for resolving claims of election fraud.”

Not only did Cheney blow their 2022 message to smithereens, she was a daily reminder to a substantial majority of her colleagues that they had cast bogus votes against certifying the election and were continuing to pump the American public full of toxic lies for political gain. Luckily for House Republicans, just as soon as they tired of Cheney refusing to toe the party line, a Trump sycophant who was both female and more than happy to trumpet the Big Lie in exchange for just a little more power showed up to elbow Cheney out of the way.

But the lesson here isn’t that Cheney is a hero or that her likely successor, Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York, is a conniving opportunist. It’s that Trump’s Big Lie that he didn’t actually lose the 2020 election is now official orthodoxy in a party that has traded its once-supposed big tent of competing ideas for a small tent, where blind devotion reigns supreme and cleansing oneself of any hint of integrity is the price of admission. 

More than ever before, this is the party of Trump, where allegiance supersedes competence, where truth is permanently arrested, and where anyone threatening the party’s disreality bubble is a threat who must be exterminated.

That includes insiders like Cheney, but it also includes outsiders with enough power and agency to challenge the entirely fictional narrative around which Trump cultists and party loyalists have chosen to organize their lives, their worldview, and indeed their political fortunes. That’s why Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, and her family have been the target of a new round of death threats from Trumpers for continually confronting the integrity of the sham audit of Maricopa County’s 2020 election results. 

What is perhaps most bizarre about the GOP’s full embrace of Trumpism and the Big Lie in this very moment is that it comes at a time when Trump himself is a significantly weakened figure who is living his most pathetic life.

Trump’s favorability rating among Republicans has started to trail off ever since Election Day, falling in Civiqs from 90% last November to 87% now. He’s also lost his megaphone on Twitter and Facebook for the foreseeable future, which has had a profound impact on his ability to make himself the center of the social media universe. This week, Vox’s Recode wrote, “Mentions of Trump went down by 34 percent on Twitter and 23 percent on Facebook the week after he was banned from both platforms following the Capitol riot on January 6. Since then, Trump mentions have continued to decline around 90 percent on both platforms from where they were the week of the riots.”  

We get occasional glimpses of the sad empty shell of a man who once basked in the glow of unending media attention as the chief generator of content. They mostly come when Republican lawmakers seeking to burnish their fealty cred fly down to Mar-a-Lago to get a perfunctory photo next to Trump, whose symbolic value in a party desperate for meaning has risen even as his actual star has fallen. 

Good to see the President this morning at his home in Palm Beach…. 🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸 pic.twitter.com/bdH1ozEFvF

— Burt Jones (@burtjonesforga) May 3, 2021

Nothing epitomized this better than a 30-second video—likely taken in the weeks following the 2020 election—that escaped Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s personal Hotel California, like a prisoner gasping for life. In it, Trump appears to have commandeered the mic at some random event to rant about the supposed “rigged election.” Flanked by an empty band setup in the backdrop, Trump seems to have capitalized on a break in festivities to tell the crowd replenishing their drinks, “Let’s see what they find,” as he ticks through a series of battleground states where he fancifully imagines “thousands and thousands and thousands” of votes might turn up. A pathetic little smattering of yelps pipe forth here and there, breaking the awkward silence of the tepid audience.

Even though the video is likely months old, it captured perfectly the portrait many of us have imagined might emerge from the disorienting existential crisis of a narcissist who suffered one of the greatest popular vote losses in U.S. history on the biggest political stage in the world.

Trump, suspended in time, can’t let it go—and Republicans have very explicitly and deliberately chosen not to let it go. And even if Democrats ultimately save the nation from the fascist tyranny Republicans have embraced, the Big Lie they are propagating will surely haunt the nation for decades and even centuries to come just like the ghost of the Civil War has for generations. 

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Small-town bar owner faces big-time consequences after selling fake vaccine cards to undercover cops

Americans nationwide are being vaccinated in record numbers. To date, over 100 million Americans are considered fully vaccinated with the COVID-19 vaccine. As these individuals post pictures of their vaccination cards, experts are urging them to edit out not only personal information but the batch number of their dose. This is due to the increasing number of fraudulent vaccination cards being offered online and the risk of scammers stealing one’s identity.

In a recent incident, a California bar owner was arrested after officials found he sold fake COVID-19 vaccine cards for $20 per card, officials announced Wednesday. The bar owner, Todd Anderson, was arrested Tuesday after selling the counterfeit cards to undercover agents, CBS 13 reported. According to the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, at least eight cards were sold to customers from the bar, The Old Corner Saloon in Clements.

“We were able to purchase four, and then today we located 30 blank cards, laminating machines, laminate, cutters and things to manufacture the cards,” Luke Blehm, a spokesperson from the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, told the local news outlet KOVR. Investigators from the department took over after a local sheriff’s office got a tip that the fake vaccine cards were being manufactured, laminated, and sold out of the bar. They were able to buy the fake vaccine cards on multiple occasions in April, a press release said, noting that the act was “a violation of the California Penal Code.”

According to ABC News, 59-year-old Anderson was charged with falsifying a medical record, falsifying a seal, several counts of identity theft, and possession of a loaded, unregistered firearm, authorities said. Being in possession of a loaded, unregistered firearm is a felony in California, officials said.

In addition to his arrest, the department plans to “file disciplinary action” against the bar, which could cause its liquor license to be revoked. Officials are also investigating if an employee was involved with making and distributing the fake cards, the department told CBS 13.

While experts have warned of the risk of fraudulent cards being distributed, Blehm noted that this criminal case may be the first of its kind. “That we know of, this is the only case that’s ever been done — even nationwide possibly,” Blehm told KTXL. “We did some research to try to find similars. They may be out there, but we just don’t know and haven’t seen them.”

Warnings of fraudulent cards come amid the announcements of easing restrictions for those who get the COVID-19 vaccine nationwide. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, individuals who are vaccinated no longer need to observe the most stringent COVID-19 safety regulations, including wearing a mask.

Additionally, experts believe the cards may eventually be needed for traveling and other activities, thus increasing the demand for them. The vaccination cards are provided to all those who are vaccinated and include the date and location of each shot alongside one’s personal information. 

With the increasing demand for proof of the cards, those who refuse to get vaccinated are looking into fake cards. In March, the FBI issued a warning regarding this trend, noting that not only does it increase the risk of COVID-19 but it is illegal to both buy or sell the fraudulent cards, which could be charged under forgery. But like those who distribute fake IDs, those who wish to make and sell fake vaccine cards don’t seem to be afraid. Though in this case, a counterfeit vaccine card carries additional danger than a fake ID does, because of the risk of COVID-19 spread.

“It is disheartening to have members in our community show flagrant disregard for public health in the midst of a pandemic,” San Joaquin County District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar said in the statement.

“Distributing, falsifying or purchasing fake COVID-19 vaccine cards is against the law and endangers yourself and those around you,” she continued. “The San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office is grateful for the partnership with the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control for their work in this case.”

In efforts to decrease the rise in fraudulent cards, cybersecurity experts are urging individuals not to share images of their vaccination cards online. For those who want to still share their cards, experts suggest editing out not only your personal information but the batch number of your dose.  For those who would like to post on social media but do not want to share their card, stickers and other graphics are also being shared to encourage others to be vaccinated without risking public safety and threats of fake cards.

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Republican governors scoffed at COVID-19, but treat cutting unemployment insurance as an emergency

On Friday, the monthly jobs report showed an unexpectedly weak rate of job growth for the month of April. For economists, it was a something of a puzzle, but for Republicans on the hunt for a narrative, it was the answer to a prayer. Across the nation, Republicans declared that the problem was lazy Americans sitting at home, enjoying their fat unemployment checks, rather than looking for a job. As a result, governors in Montana and South Carolina announced that they were immediately ending the states’ expanded unemployment programs, treating the situation with the kind of emergency status they never showed when dealing with COVID-19.

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster said asking students to wear masks was “ridiculous,”  insisted that large events stay open, and said that there was “no cause for public alarm in South Carolina.” It’s the kind of leadership that propelled his state to a position near the top of the cases per capita chart with 113,300 cases per million South Carolinians. McMaster’s state also managed to come in above the national average when it comes to deaths per capita. Because he demonstrated that when it came to a threat that could take the lives of the people who depended on him … those people had made a serious mistake.

But when it came to seizing back $300 in the name of driving lazy people out of their homes and forcing them back to work, McMaster was all over it. But—and this isn’t shocking at all—the story that McMaster and other Republicans are selling is genuinely ridiculous.

Across the nation—and especially on right-wing media—Republicans are spreading a narrative of lazy workers who can’t be bothered to climb off their couches to get back to work. And some employers are happy to carry that message straight to their customers.

Is this the new thing now? Post a sign about how folks dont want to work your low paying job 😂🤦🏾‍♀️ pic.twitter.com/G0mtQEqsDi

— Wholesome Faithful Black Queen 👸🏾 (@A_Pretty_ChemE) May 6, 2021

When it comes to South Carolina, food service and hospitality workers were at the heart of the proclamation that it it was time to chop people’s unemployment pay and force them out the door. McMaster claimed that these industries were facing an “unprecedented labor shortage” and that getting more people back to work was an existential crisis for these industries. 

However, as former Chief Economist at the U.S. Department of Labor Heidi Shierholz makes clear, that’s not at all what the jobs report is showing. Not only were jobs in food service way up, the leisure and hospitality sector posted its sixth largest gain in the last 50 years. Both of these industries were up, despite offering low wages.

In fact, what the jobs reports shows is that wage growth, which usually marks a genuine labor shortage where employers are competing to attract workers, doesn’t reflect anything like a critical shortage. As Shierholz notes, the data suggests that, “the claims of labor shortages in restaurants are largely the result of frustration on the part of restaurants that they can’t find workers to fill jobs at relatively low wages.” That is a situation that existed before the pandemic, and before the increased unemployment insurance payments.

Another big indicator that should indicate a real worker shortage would be increasing hours for existing workers. But again, that’s not what the data shows. Instead, hours are right in line with pre-pandemic norms.

In fact, there is one factor in the jobs report that all on its own shows how silly the Republican claims of an emergency need to cut the UI payments really is. In April, the unemployment rate ticked up slightly to 6.1%. That didn’t happen because jobs went away. It happened because more people returned to the workforce and were actively seeking employment.

What should be happening at this moment, when workers are still in danger at many locations, especially those jobs that require them to be face to face with the public, or work in tight quarters with many others, is that employers should be fighting to get those workers by increasing wages, offering greater benefits, even paying immediate bonuses to fill openings. Instead, those employers are counting on Republicans like McMaster to push people to accept whatever they can find.

As Esquire noted back at the start of the pandemic in 2020, McMaster established himself as a “tough guy” when it came to COVID-19. He constantly downplayed the threat of the disease, refused to take actions even when other states were instituting restrictions on gatherings and businesses, and even sneered at the idea of supporting such simple actions as handwashing. McMaster insisted that schools and government offices remain open, that large events carry on as normal, and scoffed at providing public warnings. 

Over the course of the pandemic, McMaster called mask mandates “unreasonable,” threatened local officials who tried to institute city or county level restrictions, and repeatedly insisted it was time to “get back to normal.” Which is how his state ended up with a rate of cases per capita that’s 10% higher than neighboring Georgia and 22% higher than North Carolina.

When it comes to Montana, the situation is actually quite different. Though Republican governor (and man proud of his physical assaults) Greg Gianforte used much of the same rhetoric in ending the unemployment bonuses there, state officials moved to provide workers with a $1,200 bonus when signing up for a new job. Of course, since this is a one-time payment that comes at no expense to the employer, it essentially represents the state paying workers to accept what might be an otherwise unacceptable job in exchange for single check. 

And when it comes to signs, what the nation should be seeing is more signs like the one Maine Beacon noted on the door of a Dollar General store in Eliot, Maine. That sign reads: “Closed indefinitely because Dollar General doesn’t pay a living wage or treat their employees with respect.” Also on the door is another sign reading, “Capitalism will destroy this country. If you don’t pay people enough to live their lives, why should they slave away for you?”

Looks like the workers at the Dollar General in Eliot, Maine have had enough! #Solidarity pic.twitter.com/7JNDFcKwnc

— Andy “Pass the PRO Act” O’Brien (@aobrien2010) May 4, 2021

Why should people work for unreasonable pay? Apparently because Republican governors will declare an emergency if they don’t.

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How should living museums like Colonial Williamsburg depict Black history? It’s complicated

I grew up next to Colonial Williamsburg, which is an entire town preserved to resemble the 18th century. Started by John D. Rockefeller in the 1930s, it was created to immerse people during the founding era of our nation’s history—at least, the sanitized version. Although half the population was Black, their experience was entirely ignored. Slave quarters simply didn’t exist, and the white historical actors weren’t even allowed to mention slavery. By the early 1990s, this had changed drastically. Black history was featured much more prominently, although some argued this wasn’t necessarily a good thing.

In 1994, the museum’s all-Black Department of African American Interpretation and Presentations decided to showcase a horrible but true fact of life during this era: the slave auction. Colonial Williamsburg would be the first living history museum to re-create this type of event. It was based on historical research, and featured a freed Black farmer who tried to buy his wife’s freedom.

The portrayal received national media attention, and a crowd of more than 2,000 people showed up—many of them protesters. On one hand, critics such as the local NAACP called it crass entertainment; on the other hand, white conservatives were furious that this town would no longer just be a “celebratory” portrayal of American history.

Depicting the realities of Black history, which include many cruel chapters, clearly never crossed Rockefeller’s mind when he originally built this town. Yet it is a reality that museums across the U.S. still struggle with—especially living museums. The question of what history to present and how to present it is a challenge, and one that has, until relatively recently, been long ignored.

The challenge of integrating other people’s stories into the narrative, especially when those stories can be quite unpleasant, has led to different responses by different historical sites. 

Depiction of the arrival of the first slave ship at Fort Monroe, Virginia

Some have decided to only showcase positive stories of African Americans and other minorities, while ignoring the atrocities. Other museums, like the Whitney Plantation in Louisiana, decided to focus on the atrocities. Still others simply try to avoid the controversy all together.

Fort Monroe, Virginia, had clearly chosen the path of avoidance. This decommissioned base featured plenty of Confederate history, such as Robert E. Lee’s quarters and Confederate president Jefferson Davis’ jail cell.

Yet besides a small historical marker, the Black history at this site was ignored, and that decision wasn’t at all insignificant: in 1619, this was the site where America’s first enslaved Africans arrived.

This history was downplayed for a long time; however, a new African American superintendent, Terry Brown, was determined to change this. He started programs featuring the site’s critical history, and pushed for a large, permanent memorial at Fort Monroe, which is now in the planning stages. He also led the drive for a new exhibit at the nearby Hampton History Museum featuring the 1619 Landing.

1619 Arrival exhibit at the Hampton History Museum

Brown ensured some positive aspects of Black history at Ft. Monroe were also featured: Sergeant William Harvey Carney was stationed there, who became the first Black Medal of Honor recipient. The infamous Harriet Tubman, a trained nurse, treated wounded and sick African American soldiers at this historic site. (Tubman was also the first American female commander, of any race, to lead a U.S. military operation.)

Thirty minutes away from Ft. Monroe is Colonial Williamsburg. This living museum was emblematic of most historical sites that tended to paint prominent historical figures as unblemished heroes while whitewashing the past. By the 1990s, African American and American Indian historians were hired to give lectures and display exhibits on Black and Native American history during this time period. This helped to give a more honest and accurate portrayal of the full American story.

Very recently, Colonial Williamsburg also created a committee to explore the area’s queer history, since there were documented cases of prominent colonists who might have lived outside the norm of the time. There’s even a performance about a researched case of a relationship between two female colonists, although it isn’t featured on the museum’s website.

It’s relatively easy to do re-enactments depicting positive or neutral aspects of the history of people of color. For example, visitors can talk with free Black business owners of the time period, like Edith Cumbo.

Edith Cumbo, portrayed by historical interpreter Emily James

Visitors can also learn about Black heroic figures, like James Armistead Lafayette, the Black spy for George Washington who discovered that British Army General Cornwallis was at nearby Yorktown. This led to the Battle of Yorktown, which literally ended the Revolutionary War. Or they could listen to a re-enactment featuring Gowan Pamphlet, a Black preacher who risked everything to found one of America’s oldest Black churches.

However, it becomes more problematic depicting the more painful—and common—stories of enslaved people. Even Lafayette’s heroic story is greatly complicated by the fact that he was still a slave.

Daryl Dupree and Raven Ford were two of the few African American visitors touring the area, and they told me they were not interested at all in seeing representations of slavery. Dupree said he had no intention of watching re-enactments involving enslaved people because he didn’t need to be reminded of the horrors. “Racism is still alive and well.” Ford, his companion, didn’t object to the programming, but said she didn’t believe any performance could properly interpret the cruelty of slavery in a 30-minute play.

One of the maintenance workers who overheard our conversation had a very strong opinion against portrayals of slavery, although he declined to be named for this story since he was contracted to work for Colonial Williamsburg. He said he feared the portrayal of slavery might traumatize Black children, and added that he didn’t think that was worth the cost of “educating white children about racism.” Although he opposed most slavery re-enactments, he also said he wanted to see re-enactments of what he called “fighting Blacks,” like Nat Turner, Charles Deslondes, and others who literally fought for their freedom.

Stephen Seals, the senior manager of Colonial Williamsburg’s African American history program, explained how he would respond to what seemed to be a common sentiment against slavery re-enactments by African Americans. “First, I understand. I used to feel exactly the same way. Yet the plight of our ancestors is not about suffering, it’s about survival. These performances humanize people like me, and that helps … so I don’t get shot!

Stephen Seals, senior manager of Colonial Williamsburg’s African American history program: “These stories are about our resiliency.”

“The legacy of slavery is racism, until we understand what happened, we can’t fix what is happening.”

Seals admits it can be hard to find Black actors willing to play roles that depict slavery. Some leave, but others, like him, view it as a duty. “Why would we expect others to care about our history if we don’t care about our own history? These stories are about our resiliency, and we show why enslaving people was so very wrong.”

These kinds of re-enactments, however, can take a heavy toll on the actors. As a result, living museums like Colonial Williamsburg pay for therapy for their interpreters. Although the actors say most of their experiences are positive and help clear up some ridiculous misperceptions, and at least one has found success with a comedic web series that highlights the ignorance of some of the guests, there are hostile and downright bigoted interactions they must sometimes deal with. Cheyney McKnight, a historical interpreter and founder of Not Your Momma’s History, recounts being in tears over rude guests.

Black actors depicting slaves will get uncomfortable questions, sometimes coming from children. They are asked if they are whipped, why they get punished, or how much they cost. Although one Black actor said when he asked a child why she wanted to know about the price of a slave, the answer wasn’t what he thought. “She wanted to know so she could tell her parents to buy my freedom.”

Wetherburn’s Tavern in Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia. In 1994, this was the site of the re-enactment of a slave auction. Real slave auctions were held here in the late 18th century. 

Seals said that as a Black kid, he didn’t get any of his own history. He grew up in a nearby area, but admitted he never visited Colonial Williamsburg until he was hired here. Perhaps not surprisingly, Black families make up a very small percentage of the visitors. Many see it as a museum for the American mythology of our history, but Seals said one of the reasons he came here was to try and change that by integrating Black history. The one takeaway, he told me, was that he wants people like the ones I interviewed to see these performances, which always includes a question and answer session afterward. ”I want them to leave feeling a strong sense of pride about their heritage, rather than shame.”  

Some of the plays tackling the topic of slavery are metaphorical, like Thomas Jefferson having a discussion with Jupiter, his enslaved servant, over a chess game in a performance called “White Goes First.” Others, however, are much more intense. One that Seals wrote, based on a researched true story, is called “What Holds the Future?” It dramatizes the very real story of 50 African Americans who were abandoned by the last British royal governor and then sold as property by the new Patriot government.

In addition to uncomfortable interactions with the public, the actors also have to learn about the awful social dynamics of portraying their characters, such as averting their eyes when their overseers enter a room. Seals said it’s not for everyone. “We’re taught to be detached from your character. Doing these roles really tests that hypothesis.”  

Chetter Galloway, a storyteller of African and African American stories

Chetter Galloway was at the controversial slave auction back in 1994. He said the storytelling at Colonial Williamsburg helped inspire him to become a professional storyteller. He has worked as an historical interpreter at living museums such as nearby Carter’s Grove Plantation, which has had its own controversy when they rebuilt 18th-century slave quarters in the 1990s. Galloway said he also understands the uncomfortable nature of portraying enslaved individuals, but supports it if they rise to the challenge of being accurate and respectful. “The lives about the people who were enslaved are important to tell because their voices will be silenced and left unheard if no one shares their stories.”

However, people like Seals and Galloway still have their work cut out for them in changing minds. A longtime African American friend of mine, who declines to be named, still refuses to go to Colonial Williamsburg or the other nearby sites of Jamestown and Yorktown. Even after reading the passionate arguments for historical re-enactment and watching a play online, she remained unconvinced. “There is no one arguing you need to re-enact the Holocaust” she told me. She noted that the crowd in the video she watched seemed to primarily be white, bringing up the question of who these reenactments are really for.

Yet depicting slavery is just one challenge. Another point of contention among many African Americans is the fact that so much emphasis is put on slavery. Most people think of Black history as being composed of a few major events, like slavery and the 1960s civil rights movement. However, African American history is a rich tapestry that has influenced every major event in our nation’s history and every facet of American culture.

The Harlem Renaissance marked the first time that mainstream publishers and critics turned their attention seriously to African American literature, music, art, and politics. There are beautiful exhibits at several museums, like this one at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, but unfortunately, they are normally showcased only during Black History month in February.

Tulsa, Oklahoma’s Greenwood District, known as Black Wall Street

There were great historic successes, such as Black Wall Street in the early 20th century, which featured an affluent Black community with hundreds of businesses. It was destroyed by a two-day race riot from an angry white mob. It has a small memorial in Tulsa, and many people weren’t even aware that this community existed until HBO’s Watchmen series debuted in 2019.

There are multiple Black heroes in every single American war that most people haven’t heard of, including Colonel Tye, Abraham Galloway, Henry Johnson, Doris Miller, and my hometown Medal of Honor hero, Alwyn Cashe, just to name a few. Most people couldn’t name several prominent African Americans, such as the cardiologist who performed the first successful open heart surgery (Daniel Hale Williams); or the first female millionaire of any race in the U.S. (Madame C.J. Walker); or Robert Smalls, who is just awesome:

How is this not a movie yet?  There’s a movement to do just that.

One teacher, Nikki Clarke, said after her elementary students tell her what they know about Black history, which is usually slavery and civil rights, she passes out potato chips (invented by renowned chef George Crum) and lets them play with super-soakers (invented by NASA engineer Lonnie G. Johnson) so they can associate Black history with things they love.

One of the big issues discussed with Seals is the fact that Black history is treated as just that: Black history. For centuries, history has been Eurocentric, and when movements started to include other kinds of histories, they were pigeonholed as separate. There will be a month, or a chapter in a book, or a separate event that showcases “other” history. Yet in reality, all history is integrated. The African American spy who ended the Revolutionary War is an American hero story, not just a Black hero story. There might hopefully be a time soon when historical events are treated that way.

Museums have to do a lot of soul-searching. One positive example comes from a different kind of museum: an art museum. The Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, Connecticut, has 60,000 square feet of art; almost all of it was composed of stodgy paintings or sculptures of old, white Europeans.

Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, Connecticut

The local community, now largely people of color, weren’t visiting. William R. Peelle Jr., chairman of the board of trustees, did something pretty radical. He made it his mission to connect with the local, minority residents, and he did this by replacing the entire board of the museum to be more reflective of the local community. He decided he couldn’t change the museum to connect with the locals without people of color on the board.

He said that decision came after a lot of his own “soul-searching”:

What do we need to do to be a better board? That’s not a negative. It’s an opportunity to look at governance and what we should be in our role in Hartford. Museums have to begin to have that discussion.

I wish all museums would. People want to go to places that represent them, and museums can’t connect visitors to the past if they ignore their past. Putting people of color on museum boards is critical and very beneficial.

In Richmond, Virginia, I used to visit the Museum of the Confederacy (now the American Civil War Museum). This museum celebrated the Confederate States, which shouldn’t have been too surprising as Richmond used to be the Confederate capitol. That museum went through an entire transformation thanks to its first Black and first female CEO, Christy Coleman, who was named by Time magazine one of “31 People Changing the South.”

Christy Coleman, executive director of the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation and former president and CEO of the American Civil War Center

She started at Colonial Williamsburg as an historical interpreter when she was only 17 years old, portraying a young slave named Rebecca. After completing her graduate degree in museum studies at Hampton University, she returned to Colonial Williamsburg as director for Interpretive Programs Development. She was later named CEO of the American Civil War Center in 2008 after six years as CEO of the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit. 

At the American Civil War Museum, Coleman integrated the exhibits to tell a more complete story of the Civil War from all sides: Union and Confederate, soldiers and civilians, enslaved and free African Americans. It’s a more comprehensive experience, and one that has proven very popular with the local community.  

She admitted to being exasperated at times at people who wouldn’t acknowledge historical fact. “Coming into this job, I don’t think I fully appreciated just how much heritage memory had usurped forensic history. I mean the records are right there!” Although she said she makes herself stop and take a less exasperated approach in order to try and “help people where they are.”

Coleman was so successful she was asked to take over the Jamestown/Yorktown Foundation, which is one of the most prominent historical foundations in Virginia. She oversees both the Jamestown Settlement and the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown. Coleman has promised to do for these museums what she did in Richmond, and tell a more complete story about our nation’s early beginnings.

Many of America’s stories are painful and difficult, but so is our history. Unfortunately, there are those who don’t want these stories to be told. Many Republican lawmakers are determined to keep whitewashing Black history. In fact, conservative southern states have enacted legislation that punish schools that focus on slavery and the legacy of white supremacism, such as presented in the “1619 Project,” claiming efforts to teach that history is “racially divisive.”

Trump responded to the 1619 Project by appointing an 18-member commission of conservatives—none of whom were historians—to present a fictional, alternative history that painted the Founding Fathers as heroes for setting “the stage for abolition.” Their report also criticized current efforts to address racial discrimination because that somehow “hurts” equality and our social fabric.

This kind of willful ignorance is why a Republican legislator fiercely defended the Three-Fifths Compromise using a completely inaccurate alternate history that it was really about ending slavery. It’s also why this legislator in Louisiana wondered out loud why schools can’t teach the “good” of slavery: 

The low point of session undoubtedly came today when Rep. Ray Garofalo said Louisiana schools need to teach the good of slavery. #Lalege pic.twitter.com/OPbRq98ifx

— Louisiana Democrats (@LaDemos) April 27, 2021

Martha Huckabay, a Republican official in New Orleans who served as a Trump delegate, responded to this by doubling-down on the fiction of “good slavery” and fiercely defended the institution by falsely declaring “many of the slaves loved their masters.” This false mindset is not uncommon, and proves the need for another difficult and necessary discussion on what to do with education beyond museums. We must integrate the resilient histories of minority populations into America’s school curriculums.

Most public schools aren’t even mandated to teach Native American history at all. Japanese internment camps aren’t covered in history classes. Slavery is taught, but there are textbooks being used right now that encourage children to come up with “positive” aspects of slavery. A Colorado school board taken over by conservatives wants to focus on “patriotism” while curtailing teaching about the civil rights movement because it condones ”civil disorder.” This is why school board elections are so important. 

It is possible to learn to appreciate the American experiment without the bizarre hero-worship of our founders, just as it’s possible to learn about America’s mistakes without succumbing to cynicism. Giving the complete story isn’t just good history, and it isn’t just a popular idea, it also gives people a foundation to forge a shared historical inheritance that can inspire civic responsibility. To put it another way: it makes for a better society.

I don’t pretend to know the answer of how to best engage with some of these difficult narratives, but I do know they deserve to be told; and making that effort would be better for everyone. Having minority representation on museum boards is a good step toward doing that, and better integration of their history will bring in much-needed new visitors from communities whose heritage we have ignored for far too long.

I know these changes are painful, but the hard work and emotional labor of telling these stories are already being done by people of color. The very least the rest of us could do is listen.

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Norwegian Cruise Lines will pull ships out of Florida if required to take unvaccinated passengers

In April, Republican presidential hopeful and Trump imitator Ron DeSantis made a dramatic public gesture of issuing an executive order prohibiting Florida businesses from requiring the state’s citizens to show proof of vaccination from COVID-19. In a self-laudatory speech this week, DeSantis explained that for those Floridians who choose to remain unvaccinated, “no business or government entity will be able to deny you services based on your decision.” The intended effect of this EO was to affirm to DeSantis’ voter base his commitment to vaccine denialism, a necessary byproduct of the same “hoax” mentality regarding the COVID-19 virus employed by Donald Trump in his failed attempt to get reelected.

But the practical ramifications and actual legality of the order (and of the codifying legislation produced by an equally Trump-rabid Florida state legislature earlier this week) were never really explained. What if a business, for example, found that its bottom line—or worse—its very existence were threatened by being forced to provide services to unvaccinated people?

Nowhere does this unforeseen collision between an anti-science ideology and business reality come into focus quite as sharply as on a cruise ship.

As reported by Hannah Sampson for The Washington Post:

Miami-based Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings has said it intends to require 100 percent of passengers and crew to be fully vaccinated to sail. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) issued an executive order in March barring businesses from requiring proof of vaccinations. He signed that order into state law on Monday.

Norwegian CEO Frank Del Rio said that the company is “in talks” with the governor’s office, and believes that its requirement of full vaccination for customers on its cruise ships falls under federal, as opposed to state law, with the implicit assumption that federal law would preempt any state legislation to the contrary. Del Rio is adamant that the company will not be allowing unvaccinated passengers on its ships.

Nor should it. Cruise ships typically stop at various international ports-of call, allowing passengers to disembark and mingle with the local population. That fact alone should end the discussion right there. But in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, cruise ships were also horrific early examples of mass spread of the virus, attaining a highly visible and highly negative perception at the outset of the pandemic. As noted by AARP:

The industry suffered a public relations calamity when the virus exploded last February on big ships like the Diamond Princess, spurring ports to turn others away out of fear that passengers might transmit it.

Between March 1 and July 10, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) discovered nearly 3,000 cases of COVID-19 or suspected COVID-19 and 34 deaths across 123 ships.

And while it’s frankly curious that anyone would want to get aboard such a ship now, given their record of inadequate medical preparation and treatment to handle COVID-19, apparently there is a subset of the population eager to once again set sail on them, even as the pandemic continues unabated in many areas of the country.

It seems clear, however, that the cruise industry is aware it’s facing a potential extinction moment if another publicized outbreak occurs on even one of their ships. Which is why you have corporate CEO’s making statements like this:

“[A]t the end of the day, cruise ships have motors, propellers and rudders, and god forbid we can’t operate in the state of Florida for whatever reason, then there are other states that we do operate from,” (Del Rio) said. “And we can operate from the Caribbean for ships that otherwise would’ve gone to Florida.”

It isn’t just Norwegian, either. As Sampson points out, DeSantis’ order and the Florida legislation actually undermines Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines for cruise ships preparing to operate out of the U.S. as early as July of this year.

But he has sought to undermine one of the key safety measures that many cruise lines have embraced: guarantees that the thousands of fellow passengers will be inoculated. As part of their plans to start cruising again, either from the United States when permitted or from other countries, cruise lines including Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Virgin, Crystal and Norwegian’s brands have said they will require everyone on board or every adult on board to be fully vaccinated.

What isn’t exactly clear is why cruise ships should have any greater standing than an ordinary business concerned about protecting its customers, employees, and of course, its bottom line. Airlines, bus companies, taxis, and other modes of transportation face similar risks, at least to some degree. So do hotels, and for that matter, bars and restaurants. The list of work environments possibly subject to rapidly spreading COVID-19 infections among unvaccinated people is effectively unlimited. How long will it be before companies realize that, particularly in a state famous for catering to its elderly, it might be much better for business to have everyone vaccinated?

This is what happens when ad hoc ideology and reckless political pandering meets scientific, medical—and in this case, economic—reality. Although it may take a while to sink in, reality doesn’t care. Unlike politicians looking towards the next election, it has all the time in the world.

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New Jersey landlord sues to end lease with private prison company that jails immigrants at property

A property owner that leases a crowded, windowless warehouse in New Jersey to private prison company CoreCivic has sued to end its contract, alleging the private prison profiteer has failed to protect immigrants detained at the Elizabeth Detention Center (EDC) amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, NorthJersey.com reports.

Portview Properties says CoreCivic, which holds a federal contract to detain up to 145 people for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), has failed to meet basic safety standards inside, resulting in more than 50 cases of COVID-19. The report said that during one nine-day period last month, a dozen detained people tested positive.

“The company alleges that CoreCivic failed to meet the basic safety, health care, sanitation and hygiene needs of all those detained,” NorthJersey.com reports. “Furthermore, the lawsuit states, the company does not permit individuals to maintain social distancing, and that detainees sleep in dorms with 40 beds or cots in one room, clustered closely together, and must share a restroom.”

“Defendant’s failure to implement these required measures represents not only a threat to the health, safety, and wellbeing of those individuals detained within the EDC, but also, a breach of the ICE Contract and, therefore, its lease agreement with Plaintiff,” the report said the lawsuit the states. “The physical threat to these individuals, which has been exacerbated by Defendant’s inaction, has become even more dire in light of the spread of new variants of the virus causing COVID-19.” 

The allegations against CoreCivic are in no way shocking. Carlos Ernesto Escobar Mejia, the first detained person to die from the virus while in ICE custody, had been detained at a California facility operated by CoreCivic. EDC itself made headlines in the first days of the pandemic, when a staffer went into self-quarantine after testing positive for the virus. The Marshall Project reported at the time that it was “the first case confirmed by Immigration and Customs Enforcement of an employee contracting the virus.”

“How long has @CoreCivic ‘s ICE detention center in Elizabeth, NJ, been a problem?” tweeted reported Matt Katz. “In 1995 detainees attempted to take over the facility, making same allegations that continue today: inedible food, lack of fresh air, bugs, filth & crowded sleeping quarters.”

“Given the grave concerns expressed by those individuals who have experienced first-hand the dangerous conditions within the EDC, Plaintiff demanded assurances from Defendant that it is operating the EDC in accordance with its contractual obligation to adhere to and implement federal COVD-19 safety guidelines, regulations and requirements,” Gothamist reports, as stated in the lawsuit. “In response, Defendant offered only a naked statement that it is in compliance with its obligations under the ICE Contract.”

Interesting, because when members of Congress last year questioned private prison executives, including some from CoreCivic, about allegations of abuse against detainees, the executives feigned ignorance about what was going on inside their facilities. “In reality, people at CoreCivic facilities have been pepper-sprayed on at least four occasions” for protesting dangerous conditions amid the pandemic, Mother Jones reported at the time.

Should Portview succeed in its lawsuit, its contract with CoreCivic would be terminated more than a year early. NorthJersey.com reports the company had expressed interest in renewing its lease until 2027 (highlighting the ongoing need for the Biden administration to take steps to cancel ICE’s contracts altogether). “Edafe Okporo, a public health and gay rights activist who was detained at Elizabeth after fleeing Nigeria in 2016, said he wished the detention center could be turned into housing for asylum seekers,” Gothamist reported.

“The news of a potential possibility of closing the center came with a relief that no one would have to go through the horrible system as I did,” Okporo said in that report. “It’s coming late, but slow progress is better than no progress.”

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Abbreviated Pundit Roundup: Vaccinations are slowly building, helping us turn a corner

Brian Karem/Bulwark:

Anti-Vaccine and Anti-Democracy

Two big national problems rolled into one.
 Share on TwitterShare via emailPrintIt appears we face two large crises in the United States. We actually are facing only one.

The first is the public health crisis. As more of us get our coronavirus vaccinations, it is becoming increasingly apparent that tens of millions of people are refusing to get a shot. So although COVID cases will likely drop significantly, we may not reach the vaccination level necessary for herd immunity—and therefore COVID could dangerously linger in some form for years to come.

The second crisis is the anti-democratic movement. We’ve been dealing with this for years, but it reached a dangerous new peak this year. Tens of millions of people believe lies about the 2020 election and continue to support the former president who instigated the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol.

These are not two separate problems.

In each case, public persuasion, using vetted facts, seems to be having very little effect. The public health challenge of the next few months can’t be disentangled from the political problem of the next few years.

Folks, if you’re following Arizona audit coverage, keep in mind: The AZ fight against the 11/3 results has been on blast for six months. Six months. And it is far from over.

— Brahm Resnik (@brahmresnik) May 7, 2021

NY Times:

Marooned at Mar-a-Lago, Trump Still Has Iron Grip on Republicans

The vilification of Liz Cheney and a bizarre vote recount in Arizona showed the damage from his assault on a bedrock of democracy: election integrity.

The churning dramas cast into sharp relief the extent to which the nation, six months after the election, is still struggling with the consequences of an unprecedented assault by a losing presidential candidate on a bedrock principle of American democracy: that the nation’s elections are legitimate.

https://t.co/r7k5E7tiTo

— Greg Dworkin (@DemFromCT) May 7, 2021

Molly Jong-Fast/Daily Beast:

Tucker Carlson May Be America’s Biggest Public Health Problem

Carlson knows anti-vaxxers have become a big part of Trump’s Republican Party and that they are easy marks as he hustles to up the ante and amp up the outrage.

One of the biggest problems for public health in America is that newly promoted and horribly ubiquitous Fox News host Tucker Carlson is smart, much smarter than his peers in Rupert Murdoch’s personal propaganda network. And Carlson keeps telling his vast viewership just how dangerous he suspects not the coronavirus, but the vaccine against it, is to their health.

I dug up the textbooks used by Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham, and some of the worst critics of teaching America’s true history. Also, you’ll be surprised how many Senators attended segregated schools On second thought, no you won’t. https://t.co/rIlpPSSwjK

— Michael Harriot (@michaelharriot) May 6, 2021

Pradheep J. Shanker/NRO:

Tucker Carlson’s Faulty Complaint about Coronavirus Vaccines

Social media have been a source of fabulous exchanges of data, ideas, and suggestions during this coronavirus pandemic, which otherwise has prevented us from communicating directly with other experts in the medical field. Early on in the pandemic, the ability to exchange ideas on a minute-to-minute basis likely saved many lives, especially as medical professionals struggled with dealing with this previously unseen and unpredictable disease.

But data, like social media, can be and often are misused. There are those in the media who have either failed to understand what the evidence and data meant, and then those who appear to be purposefully distorting the evidence for their own questionable ends.

Fox News host Tucker Carlson falls into this latter group.

In 2014 she presented herself as a moderate and her past career suggested as much – including her writings at Harvard and her work with Democrats like @SenatorShaheen https://t.co/HSuw50n0YO

— Brian Mann (@BrianMannADK) May 5, 2021

Andrew Joseph/STAT:

As the Covid-19 crisis ebbs in the U.S., experts brace for some to experience psychological fallout

As the pandemic set in last March, the percentage of people reporting they felt anxious or depressed spiked and has remained elevated since, according to survey data. Experts have also highlighted increases in sleeping problems and alcohol and other substance misuse, and point to clear causes: Uncertainty and fear about the coronavirus itself; job loss and housing and food insecurity; juggling working from home while dealing with cooped-up kids; grief and a loss of social cohesion as a result of restrictions.

The question is what comes next. During emergencies, some people take on the mentality of just needing to get through it. When they have, though, the full weight of what they’ve been through can hit.

The story of the GOP: @RuthMarcus traces Elise Stefanik’s transformation from Trump critic to Trump acolyte. Includes great examples of her previous criticism of him. Via @PostOpinions:https://t.co/mMZMAtXUqA

— Greg Sargent (@ThePlumLineGS) May 7, 2021

NY Times:

The virus is an airborne threat, the C.D.C. acknowledges.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now states explicitly — in large, bold lettering — that airborne virus can be inhaled even when one is more than six feet away from an infected individual. The new language, posted online, is a change from the agency’s previous position that most infections were acquired through “close contact, not airborne transmission.”

They’ve been wrong about that for a long time.

Zeynep Tufekci/NY Times:

Why Did It Take So Long to Accept the Facts About Covid?

If the importance of aerosol transmission had been accepted early, we would have been told from the beginning that it was much safer outdoors, where these small particles disperse more easily, as long as you avoid close, prolonged contact with others. We would have tried to make sure indoor spaces were well ventilated, with air filtered as necessary. Instead of blanket rules on gatherings, we would have targeted conditions that can produce superspreading events: people in poorly ventilated indoor spaces, especially if engaged over time in activities that increase aerosol production, like shouting and singing. We would have started using masks more quickly, and we would have paid more attention to their fit, too. And we would have been less obsessed with cleaning surfaces.

Our mitigations would have been much more effective, sparing us a great deal of suffering and anxiety.

Since the pandemic is far from over, with countries like India facing devastating surges, we need to understand both why this took so long to come about and what it will mean.

“Cheney’s courageous stand against the party of Trump is a stand against a party she helped build, a monster she helped create … Her latter-day epiphany is welcome, but it also comes far too late.” https://t.co/kyCfHWahQZ

— Eugene Scott (@Eugene_Scott) May 7, 2021

Marcy Wheeler:

FOUR WAYS BILLY BARR OBSTRUCTED THE INVESTIGATION INTO RUDY GIULIANI

Eventually, I want to do a post quantifying all the damage to national security Billy Barr did by thwarting an influence-peddling investigation into Rudy Giuliani in 2019. But first, I want to quantify four ways that Barr is known to have obstructed the investigation into Rudy, effectively stalling the investigation for over 500 days.

The effort is helped by Rudy lawyer Robert Costello’s public claim that DOJ obtained a search warrant on Rudy’s iCloud account sometime in late 2019. That indicates that the investigation into Rudy’s ties to Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman (whether Rudy was the primary target or their business, Fraud Guarantee) already showed probable cause that a crime had been committed before Barr took repeated steps to undermine the investigation.

3/ Although conservatives, White Evangelicals, and rural Americans are less enthusiastic about getting vaccinated, they’re coming around:https://t.co/5TjcfFYVuDhttps://t.co/g6eKBbsV7s pic.twitter.com/aQqGqd1kNZ

— Céline Gounder, MD, ScM, FIDSA (@celinegounder) May 7, 2021

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News Roundup: GOP feeds conspiracy theories; Psaki does her job; Liz Cheney meets roosting chickens

It’s Friday, again! The good news is that it feels like Fridays come every seven days or so. That being said, one year ago at this time it felt like Fridays came once every few weeks, and always with bad news. There is hope! Here’s some of today’s stories you may have missed:

From the community:

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According to former DeSantis staffers, the governor is an awful person in private, too

In case you didn’t already know that Ron DeSantis is an awful, Hardee’s grease trap of a human being, the following eye-opening revelations about the country’s foremost COVID-19 superspreader are bound to disabuse you of any notion that he’s got a soft spot—unless you’re talking about his wee cartilaginous skull.

Seems he’s not simply awful to state employees who think COVID-19 is a serious problem that needs to be honestly confronted. He’s pretty much a dick all the time. If, during his next press conference, he squeaked up to the podium in a pair of big, hairy, novelty scrotum shoes, I would not be surprised. (Pro tip: Do not Google “scrotum shoes.” It won’t end well, as I’ve only recently discovered.)

So this guy appears to have presidential aspirations, assuming Donald Trump realizes that he’s just a cacophonous panic yam who has no business in politics or, more likely, spontaneously sluices through a sewer grate after the vaccine he took turns him into the powerful X-Men mutant Languid Goop Puddle. (I really don’t think Trump will run again. He will, however, sop up lots of money and attention, leaving mini-Trumps like DeSantis in an indefinite holding pattern.)

In Friday’s edition of Politico’s Playbook, the curtain is pulled back a bit more on the inner workings of Team DeathSantis, and what we’re treated to is an unnerving glimpse at Prince Dick himself. The news outlet spoke with “a dozen or so” former DeSantis aides and consultants who all agreed: “DeSantis treats staff like expendable widgets.” 

From Politico:

— A “support group” of former DeSantis staffers meets regularly to trade war stories about their hardship working for the governor. The turnover in his office and among his campaign advisers is well known among Republicans: In three of his five full years in Congress, he ranked in at least the 70th percentile in terms of highest turnover in a House office, according to data compiled by Legistorm. In the governor’s office, he has only two staffers who started with him when he was a junior member of Congress.

— Within six months of taking office as governor in 2019, DeSantis fired five staffers. One was a 23-year-old scheduler who’d been with him since the beginning of his gubernatorial race. Shortly after she was sent packing, an unnamed member of DeSantis’ administration was quoted in a Florida blog trashing her performance. A month later, his deputy chief of staff left, prompting Florida reporters to press him about the rapid churn in his operation.

— Another story relayed to us by five former staffers: At the beginning of his administration, DeSantis directed the Florida Republican Party leader to fire a party official who had cancer — on that person’s first week back from surgery.

Hmm. That staffer wasn’t Newt Gingrich’s ex-wife, was it? Because that would really be a story. 

Politico also notes that DeSantis frequently blames staff for his own mistakes. For instance, after DeSantis went on Fox News to beg Floridians not to “monkey this up” by voting for his Black Democratic opponent, Andrew Gillum, he and his wife allegedly “chewed out his campaign staff for not cleaning up the mess” before “DeSantis brought in a whole new group of advisers.”

Politico also reports that aides were forced to bring cupcakes to meetings just to get DeSantis to show up; so rare were his visits to his own campaign headquarters, that on the night he won the gubernatorial primary, he allegedly said, “Wow, I didn’t know this many people worked for me.”

Another former staffer was particularly blunt about DeSantis: “Loyalty and trust, that is not a currency he deals in.” 

None of this is a surprise. This is the same guy who basically sneezed in the rest of the country’s face by giving the green light to out-of-state disease vectors spring breakers earlier this year. And when vaccines were still in short supply, guess who got first dibs? Oh, yes. Rich people! It’s nice to see them finally catch a break, huh?

It’s no secret that DeSantis appears to have his eye on the White House. It’s not a pie-in-the-sky aspiration, because apparently being an enormous yawning asshole is now a prerequisite for securing the GOP nomination.

But that doesn’t make it any less scary.

It made comedian Sarah Silverman say “THIS IS FUCKING BRILLIANT” and prompted author Stephen King to shout “Pulitzer Prize!!!” (on Twitter, that is). What is it? The viral letter that launched four hilarious Trump-trolling books. Get them all, including the finale, Goodbye, Asshat: 101 Farewell Letters to Donald Trump, at this link. Just $12.96 for the pack of 4! Or if you prefer a test drive, you can download the epilogue to Goodbye, Asshat for the low, low price of FREE.

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