Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Florida Gov Ron DeSantis goes beyond petty in using his office to personally bully trans athlete Lia Thomas

Florida Gov Ron DeSantis is using his office to personally bully trans athlete Lia Thomas.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is so eager to emulate Donald Trump as a presidential candidate that he's already making the mistakes which cost Trump the White House.

He's being belligerently petty.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an official proclamation Tuesday declaring a Florida resident the “rightful winner” of an NCAA women’s swimming championship race over transgender swimmer Lia Thomas. Thomas — the University of Pennsylvania swimmer whose record-breaking season has sparked national debate over whether trans women should compete on female sports teams — became the first transgender athlete to win an NCAA championship last week, placing first in the 500-yard freestyle race at the Division I finals in Atlanta on Thursday. DeSantis said he would "reject these lies and recognize" University of Virginia swimmer and Florida resident Emma Weyant, who came in second place, as the winner. 

The false narrative of trans female athletes having an unfair advantage over cisgender female athletes (strange how trans males athletes are made conveniently absent from this discussion) has been a somewhat successful wedge issue for conservatives and others on the far right. Just as in the issue of marriage equality, they have zoomed in on and amplified false assumptions about a complicated issue which takes more explaining than a sound byte.

And just like the issue of marriage equality, accuracy will eventually rule the day. Meanwhile, folks like DeSantis are embarrassingly eager to squeeze out whatever political capital they can, even if they target innocent people.

In other words, Governor Ron DeSantis is personally bullying Lia Thomas. There is should be no sugarcoating, no deceptions, and no lies about what this man is doing right now, DeSantis is exposing Ms. Thomas to ridicule and death threats and she doesn't have the same capital or political power to fight him as he punches down at her while making speeches, appearing on Fox News, and being interviewed at various other media outlets - all of which are sure to come from his latest stunt.

Technically, DeSantis is not leading a charge of hateful students to follow her in the restroom. He's not leading a gang of transphobic fools chasing her down the street while pelting her with rocks and abuse. No, what DeSantis is doing is simultaneously equally disgusting and even worse. He's crafting excuses for those who would want to do those awful things to Thomas. In his capacity as an authority figure and a political leader, he is sending a message that to treat Ms. Thomas as less than human is perfectly okay - something that a true Christian would do, even. 

People are supposed to look to him for some sort of guidance, but he would rather pass out the torches while directing the mob.

And keep in mind that DeSantis's attack on Thomas  comes on the heels of  his enthusiastic support of the 'Don't Say Gay' bill passed by the Florida legislature. DeSantis should take a step back and consider his political future. It's one thing to push an issue, even distort it, for political points. But it's quite another to eagerly target any one person or a group of people and use your political power to make life hell for them. Granted, DeSantis is probably doing it to fire up his base, a tactic that Trump perfected  while in office. But he should be aware of the other side of the coin with that technique.

Trump may have fired up his base during his years in the White House with his petty attacks and targeting, but he also fired up an opposition who came out on election day simply to vote against him. There is some truth to the belief that Biden partly won in 2020 because more people absolutely despised Trump than liked him.

In the long run, people don't like presidential candidates  or any politician who take perverse pleasure in dividing and targeting people. And DeSantis is getting way past that point.

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