An Actual Party of Death, Now
Bluntly, I blame this on (of course) Donald Trump. The GOP has been a mess for years — decades, really — but allow me to suggest that had any other Republican been president when COVID hit, that person would likely have been reasonably sensible about things like masks and vaccines and taking advice from the CDC and its scientists. They would have acknowledged that the way back to a roaring economy (which always advantages the GOP for some unfathomable reason, given how terrible they are at even basic economic policy) was squashing the COVID virus as as soon as possible. But Trump was (and is) a smugly ignorant poltroon, so of course the rest of the GOP, craven and spineless as it is, fell into line.
The result is that now it’s murdering its own constituency, and dragging this out for the rest of us. Let’s be clear that the vast majority of people who are currently dying of COVID aren’t Democrats and liberals, all of whom vaxxed up as soon as possible. The majority of the people hospitalized and dying are the unvaccinated, and the people who are willfully unvaccinated are the people who have been lied to by the GOP and their media outlets about vaccines and masks and “personal freedom” and so on. When GOP politicians in Florida or Texas (or Ohio!) block a local masking or vaccination policy, the people most at risk for that policy (aside from, you know, children and those who actually have a legit medical reason not to be vaccinated) are Republicans and conservatives. When the GOP says it will fight for your freedoms with regard to vaccinations and masks, it’s basically saying to its base “We want you to die.” And how does the base respond? By cheering, and taking another shot of horse dewormer, and literally shitting itself.
It’s genuinely astounding to me. The GOP messaging machine has for decades done a fine job at making poor and middle-class white people vote against their own economic interests through the clever use of aspirational messaging and veiled racism, but the fact it is now actively working to kill off its base by extending a pandemic — and the base is loving it — really feels like a floor. What else can you do, once you’ve killed off your base? The phrase “eating your seed corn” is made for moments like this.
Now, I’m aware that the GOP is simultaneously trying to blame Joe Biden for trying to contain the pandemic, and trying to blame him for when its constituents die, and some of the most committed constituents are with their dying breaths denying that what they have is actually COVID at all (metaphorically; their dying breaths are usually under a respirator and they are in a medically-induced coma to keep them from clawing the tubes out of their own throats, but you get what I’m saying). At the end of the day, however, some others of these folks are saying “I should have gotten the damn vaccine” before they die, and their friends and loved ones are hearing them say it. It will be interesting to see how many of these folks still keep to the path that the GOP has put them on.
I live out here in GOP country; Darke County, Ohio, the small, conservative county where I live, is one of the bottom ten counties in Ohio in terms of vaccination rates (34%, 79th out of 88 counties). People here have heard the GOP and conservative messaging on vaccines and masks and “personal liberty” loud and clear and they are making their choices because of it. A fair number of them will actively resent Biden’s plans to more aggressively get people vaccinated, for no other reason than that Trump was a stubborn dimwit about COVID, and a bunch of ambitious GOPers decided to keep doing that even after Trump lost the presidency, the House and the Senate for them.
I’ve talked before about how badly the rest of us should feel when someone who is willfully unvaccinated dies of COVID. My position on this hasn’t changed much, but I really want to emphasize just how much culpability the Republican party and conservative media and propogandists have for their constituency refusing to get vaccinated and wear masks. Yes, people make their own choices and they are responsible for them. But when the people and organizations they trust to tell them about the world (and have been told to trust only) intentionally lie and actively put them in the way of a virus that can, does and will hospitalize and kill a non-trivial number of them, at the very least, those people and organizations share in that responsibility. Everyone at the GOP headquarters and Fox News is vaccinated. No one there is shitting their guts out thanks to livestock medicine. They know what the virus is, how it works, and how to keep it in check. And they keep lying to their people about it anyway.
I’m going to leave you with this: An article on the CNN site, about a conservative county in Missouri, where the vaccination rate is 27% and if you wear a mask, you’re branded as a Democrat. Are people dying there? Oh, yes, they are, and still people are hesitant to get a simple, free and effective vaccine because now it’s been made political, and because they’re told, in so many ways, not to.
Here’s a quote from the piece:
“I had both shots of the vaccine, and people just acted like, ‘Oh, it doesn’t help,'” Cheryl Wetton said. “It bothers me sometimes that people act like Covid is a big joke. I always want to say, ‘Well, why don’t you just come right up here to the cemetery, and I’ll show you my husband’s grave? And I can show you it’s no joke.'”
Wetton actually did say that to a guy in town, she later confirmed. “He just got real quiet.”
They’re killing their own people because of politics. Not anyone else. Not any more. And they’ll keep doing it. For as long as it takes. Because this is how they think they will win.