More than 9 in 10 self-identified Democrats (92%) report that they have had at least one dose of one of the three vaccines for Covid-19. That number among Republicans? Just 56%. That’s a stunning data point that tells a very clear story: there are Republicans who are getting seriously ill — and even dying — as some sort of distorted political stance.
How did we get here? There’s no single person to blame, but in my mind it’s quite clear that former President Donald Trump and Fox News bear the lion’s share of the responsibility. Meanwhile, Fox News served as a sort of force multiplier for the politicization of the virus. That charge was led by prime-time hosts Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham, both of whom sought to cast the vaccine debate in terms of freedom abridged rather than a public health good. “We’re not saying there is no benefit to the vaccine — there may well be profound benefits to the vaccine,” Carlson said over the summer, ignoring the scads of evidence that all three vaccines available for Covid-19 are not only safe but hugely effective in preventing serious illness and death from the virus. Carlson also regularly features anecdotal evidence of a person — or persons — with an adverse reaction to the Covid-19 vaccine, absent the context that the vaccine is, in the main, perfectly safe.The result of all of this misinformation and politicization of Covid-19 is stark. The 12 states with the highest case rate for every 100,000 people are all run by Republican governors. The 13 states with the highest hospitalization rate per 100,000 residents are all run by Republican governors. The 15 states with the highest percentage of deaths per 100,000 are all run by Republican governors.
(That Trump was booed when he told a crowd earlier this year to get vaccinated tells you everything you need to know about the danger of fomenting distrust and feeding people lies.) This isn’t complicated. We are not just divided along political lines now. Our political divisions have created two entirely different Americas: One in which the vast majority of people are vaccinated and hospitalizations and deaths are low, and the other where the coronavirus continues to ravage the population.
Trump also worked to make the debate about masking — and steps to mitigate Covid-19 more generally — about attempts by Democratic leaders to limit your freedoms. Lockdown orders were an abrogation of your rights — as opposed to short-term attempts to slow community spread of the virus. Masks were nanny government trying to tell you what to do. Respected experts — most notably Dr. Anthony Fauci — were shills for the Democratic Party. Everything, in short, that people other than Donald Trump was telling you about the virus was bunk. Trump spent the first 16 months of the pandemic doing everything he could to downplay it. He insisted that the virus was “going to disappear.” He was openly dismissive of mask-wearing; on the day he announced CDC guidance that people should wear masks indoors, Trump said that he had no plans to do so. “I just don’t want to be doing — I don’t know, somehow sitting in the Oval Office behind that beautiful Resolute Desk, the great Resolute Desk,” Trump explained. “I think wearing a face mask as I greet presidents, prime ministers, dictators, kings, queens — I don’t know, somehow I don’t see it for myself. I just, I just don’t.”
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