Let’s give DeSantis the Bolsonaro treatment
Now that a Brazilian congressional panel has voted to recommend that President Jair Bolsonaro – whom Donald Trump approved for re-election – be charged with incitement to crime, violation of social rights and crimes against humanity for his response abysmal and deadly to the pandemic, perhaps it is time we looked at similar accusations against America’s political leaders for their non-action and negligent policies during the pandemic.
Too many elected officials here, most of them following the lead of former President Donald Trump, play quickly and freely with the lives and well-being of their constituents. America is the only country with a higher death toll than Brazil – we have already passed 730,000 deaths and are on track to lose another 30,000 by the end of November.
And many of those deaths were preventable. A study from my center at Columbia University last year found that of the 217,000 deaths from Covid at that time, 200,000 could have been avoided had we simply emulated the policies that countries like Korea South, Australia and Japan had implemented. If only Trump had been honest with Americans about the dangers we faced. If only he wasn’t a deliberate purveyor of disinformation and anti-science nonsense. What if only he hadn’t promoted unproven or dangerous treatments with injections of hydroxychloroquine or bleach for those who had been infected with the deadly SARS-CoV-2 virus …
Although Trump was removed from office in 2020, state and local authorities across the country have picked up where he left off, embracing his legacy of flawed and negligent policies. What reading of political tea leaves enables a person to exercise or maintain a higher position by shamelessly rejecting scientific strategies that could – and still could – help control the pandemic and save lives?
One perspective exploited by politicians opposed to mandates reinforces the idea that demanding public health measures is an affront to personal freedom. In fact, among vaccine-resistant Americans, estimated by the Kaiser Family Foundation to be around 15-20% of the adult population, there are many who claim that their civil liberties are violated by imposing public health measures such as vaccines or drug abuse. wearing masks. Politicians who exploit these sentiments not only score cheap political points among these voters, but, more importantly, they undermine public support for essential and effective public health measures like wearing masks and vaccination campaigns.
Whatever buttons politicians choose to press, government officials in positions of authority who promote false information about the pandemic or knowingly support policies that thwart evidence-based and life-saving pandemic strategies must take responsibility for excessive and preventable deaths from Covid-19.
So what can we do to hold governors and other policymakers who deny evidence-based pandemic control measures and continually sabotage state and local efforts to control Covid-19 to account?
It is believed that elected officials are somewhat protected from civil suits or even certain categories of criminal charges through a principle known as sovereign immunity.
But is it immutable? How many unnecessary COVID-19 deaths attributable to a governor’s deliberate actions or willful inaction are okay before prosecutors think it’s time to bring in Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis or Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on criminal charges or appropriate civil litigation?
“Winning an election cannot be a release card from prison for negligence, dereliction of duty and overt acts that endanger lives and compromise the well-being of their constituents.“
Citizens should be able to bypass sovereign immunity and sue state officials for willful and negligent disregard of the right of local jurisdictions to protect the health and safety of schoolchildren in Florida, where Gov. Ron DeSantis has banned the use of masks and mandatory vaccinations, actions that probably led pediatric services to overflow with children positive for Covid. Official CDC studies have even shown that schools without a mask requirement see rates of Covid-19 cases of children that are 50% higher than those requiring masks. Other avenues of accountability for elected officials also exist through violations of specific state constitutions or through the Federal Tort Claims Act, among others.
Winning an election cannot be a release card from prison for negligence, dereliction of duty and overt acts that endanger lives and compromise the well-being of their constituents. What is clear is that selfish political leaders who knowingly put the lives of their constituents at risk are not qualified to lead in times of deadly public health crisis.
Trump has been impeached by voters before, but for those still in executive positions, we look forward to eliminating them at the polls when their neglect and mischief costs lives. We need lawyers, critical media and concerned citizens to lift the veil of “sovereign immunity” that has for too long protected those who have abused their power and exacerbated the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Without short-term legal, civil and criminal liability, we could needlessly lose thousands of additional American lives by the next election cycle.