I’m going to start with something that I don’t do very often and commend Donald Trump for telling his supporters to get vaccinated. The former president did the right thing and hopefully, his words will help to convince some Republican fence-sitters to get vaccinated.
The former president told a crowd in Alabama, “ I recommend take [sic] the vaccines, I did it. It’s good. Take the vaccines.”
At that point, some members of the crowd started to boo and the former president responded, “ Naw, that’s okay. That’s alright. You got your freedoms, but I happened to take the vaccine.”
Mr. Trump’s endorsement of the Coronavirus vaccines comes a little more than a month after I called upon him to tell his followers to get vaccinated and seven months after then-President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump received their vaccines at the White House in January. An operative phrase is “better late than never,” but in this case, I have to wonder if it is too late.
I suspect that Donald Trump may be losing control of his movement. In part, this would be because of his forced departure from social media and the difficulty of getting his message out without Twitter. Another aspect is the fact that there are many rivals and grifters who are now trying to out-Trump Trump by pushing conspiracy theories and extreme ideas.
The movement seems to have taken on a life of its own. The Trump base has been trained to disbelieve almost everything they hear with the exception of fearmongering conspiracy theories. At this point, the mob is leaderless but a great many politicians are trying to get out in front of it, or in Trump’s case, stay in front.
How likely is it that the Trump base will even reject a call from the head of the movement? I’d have to say that a large part of the base won’t respond to Trump’s endorsement of the vaccines.
I can imagine it now: “Oh my God, they’ve even got to Trump! This thing is bigger than we thought.”
But I do give Trump credit for trying. I hope that he keeps up the message and that other Republicans take up the call to get vaccinated especially now that the Pfizer vaccine has full FDA approval. In a perfect world, people would be as accepting of vaccines that have about 5 billion doses administered as they are of using veterinary drugs to treat COVID-19.
Seriously, in an echo of last year’s fad cures of drinking bleach and ingesting pool cleaners, the FDA had to issue a warning against using ivermectin to treat COVID-19. The drug is used to treat parasitic worms and can be dangerous, especially in doses intended for horses and cows. Don’t use ivermectin. Get the vaccine instead and do it before you get infected.
The GOP really does need to correct its messaging on the pandemic, but that is going to be difficult to do given how long and how intense opposition to mitigations and vaccines has been. It will be difficult to reverse the course of the past year and a half, but a spate of deaths over the past few days among prominent state and local Republican pandemic skeptics underscores the problem. The deaths of party officials and talk show hosts who have mocked masks and vaccines have been news in Texas, South Carolina, Florida, and Tennessee.
When I saw a Daily Beast piece that noted that Florida’s death toll now exceeds Ron DeSantis’s margin of victory (32,000 votes versus 39,000 deaths), I was already wondering about the electoral implications of the pandemic. The Florida pandemic would not necessarily change the outcome of the election since not all COVID victims are Republicans, but a virus that has shortened the average life span of the average American by more than a year could possibly shift the outcome of elections in tossup states.
It’s tough to find a good, comprehensive demographic breakdown of Coronavirus victims, probably due to the fact that the pandemic is still unfolding. There is CDC data on race, ethnicity, and age from last spring and summer that tells us that the majority of Coronavirus victims are white, male, and over 65. Coincidentally, these are the demographics that are most likely to vote Republican.
In the 2020 presidential election, three states were decided by less than one percent of the vote. Another four states were decided by less than three points. It would have only taken about three of these states changing to change the outcome of the election, but the deaths of large numbers of the GOP’s most dependable voters could move the needle in the other direction for Republicans.
It’s impossible to predict the ultimate effect of the pandemic on elections for several reasons. Not old senior white men are Republicans, for one thing. For another, mortality reports don’t list partisan affiliation. For that matter, partisan affiliation isn’t permanent, a fact which may hint at more pandemic changes.
Ultimately, we’ll have to wait to see how the next few elections shape up to gauge the impact. If a partisan divide develops further on vaccines, however, we could find that Republicans bear the brunt of the latter stages of the pandemic.
Even without the potential electoral problems of losing large numbers of voters, encouraging people to protect themselves by telling them the truth, that COVID-19 is very dangerous and that vaccines are an effective way to protect yourself, is the right thing to do. I hope that the boos will not deter Donald Trump from repeating his call for vaccinations, hopefully in stronger terms, and that other Republicans will take up the message as well.