What kind of guy would put a bunch of vulnerable people on a plane under false pretenses and dump them on some island off the coast of Massachusetts?
The next Republican nominee for president, that’s who.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who’s been itching to supplant Donald Trump as the GOP’s standard-bearer, made Trump’s border wall stunt look like child’s play by putting about 50 undocumented Venezuelan migrants on charter flights and depositing them on Martha’s Vineyard, summer playground of the liberal elite.
The migrants were told by the flight’s organizers they were going to Boston. NPR reported they were told they would receive work papers.
It’s an outrageous ploy, an episode of “House of Cards” written for Fox News. Instead of Kevin Spacey pushing someone in front of a train on a fictional TV show, DeSantis lured a bunch of poor people onto a plane in real life.
To right-wingers, the Vineyard is Sodom and Gomorrah with lobster rolls and soft serve.
Hell, the Obamas own a mansion there. What could be better?
Maybe Nantucket, but then there’s a lot of Republicans who own second, third, and fourth homes on that island, and DeSantis held a fund-raiser there last month, so maybe not.
The Vineyard, where the Birkenstock-wearing lefties have shunned Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz because even though he’s a liberal he’s defended Trump, checked every box.
You’ve got to give DeSantis credit. The only way his fellow immigration huckster Governor Greg Abbott of Texas can one-up him at this point would be to parachute a bunch of undocumented Hondurans onto Harvard Yard.
As right-wing political theater, the DeSantis move is a hit, a blockbuster, pure conservative gold. As his spokesman told state media, aka Fox News, Florida gladly picked up the tab to fly the migrants to the Vineyard because Massachusetts is a sanctuary state.
Fox ran a story crowing about dumping the migrants on “ritzy” Martha’s Vineyard.
Oak Bluffs is ritzy? Who knew?
According to DeSantis, liberals in the People’s Republic of Massachusetts talk a good game, sticking up for undocumented immigrants with virtue-signaling rhetoric, while red states like his bear the cost and burden of taking care of them. Kind of like how every state, including Massachusetts, regularly picks up the tab to repair Florida when it gets wrecked by a hurricane.
Cynical? You bet. And it plays well with the crowd. At least to those who get their information from right-wing outlets that scare the hell out of their viewers by claiming the southern border is a free-for-all that has gotten out of control since Joe Biden was elected.
This was literally political theater: a videographer who just happened to be there when the migrants arrived on the Vineyard shot video that appeared almost immediately on Fox News.
If you think it’s in poor taste, or even morally reprehensible, to use desperate people to score political points and make a propaganda film, then you haven’t been paying attention.
This is all about owning the libs. Scoring points is the point. Using vulnerable people is, for craven politicians like DeSantis, just a case of the ends justifying the means. While most people will see this as shameless and shameful, the DeSantis crowd considers it a justifiable exercise that showcases liberal hypocrisy.
Unfortunately for DeSantis, the good people on the Vineyard messed up his script. They pulled out all the stops to welcome, feed, and accommodate their unexpected visitors. Their compassion was as spontaneous and generous as DeSantis’ act was calculated and cruel.
State Representative Dylan Fernandes and state Senator Julian Cyr, who represent the Vineyard, were as proud of their constituents as they were disgusted by the political game that forced them into humanitarian mode.
“What better rebuke to this shameless political stunt than a community actually rallying to help people and recognizing and appreciating their humanity and dignity,” Cyr said.
Dignity? You won’t find any in the corner office of the shady state of sunny Florida.
Kevin Cullen is a Globe reporter and columnist who roams New England. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.