The COVID-19 vaccines are saving lives, but watch Newsmax, and you’d never be able to tell. “I’m not a doctor,” host Rob Schmitt recently warned, before adding, “I feel like a vaccination in a weird way is just generally kind of going against nature.” Perhaps “there’s just an ebb and flow to life where something’s supposed to wipe out a certain amount of people, and that’s just kind of the way evolution goes. Vaccines kind of stand in the way of that.”
There’s nothing inherently conservative about anti-vaccine sentiment. The false claim that childhood vaccines cause autism attracted adherents of various political stripes, from typical right-wingers to crunchy liberals. COVID, however, has become an intensely partisan affair, with the pandemic doubling as a referendum on the Trump presidency. On the right, listening to Joe Biden and Anthony Fauci on vaccines means rejecting Donald Trump, which is heresy.
At a CPAC event over the weekend, audience members even applauded low national vaccination rates. “They were hoping, the government was hoping, that they could sort of sucker 90 percent of the population into getting vaccinated. And it isn’t happening,” a panelist bragged. Also at CPAC, Madison Cawthorn told a right-wing news site that a door-to-door vaccine push would build “mechanisms” that could someday infringe on dearly held personal liberties. “Think about what those mechanisms could be used for. They could then go door-to-door to take your guns. They could go door-to-door to take your Bibles,” he claimed, without evidence.
As the vaccine becomes a partisan dividing line, the right-wing martyrdom complex also swings into effect. Marjorie Taylor Greene has repeatedly linked the Biden administration’s pandemic guidance to Nazi practices, as though the unvaccinated and unmasked are at risk of genocide. If colleges require vaccinations, they’re enforcing “medical apartheid,” Turning Point USA’s Charlie Kirk claimed. Now Republicans in several states have either introduced or passed legislation prohibiting “discrimination” on the basis of vaccination status, hampering businesses, schools, and employers from implementing common-sense pandemic-safety requirements. On Fox News, Tucker Carlson recently discouraged college students from getting the vaccine altogether. “It’s not good for them. There’s a risk involved, much higher than of COVID, but colleges are forcing them anyway,” he complained.
The unvaccinated skew young, poor, and Republican, a trend that could have serious national repercussions. Axios reported on Sunday that “more than half” of people who aren’t vaccinated “live in households that make less than $50,000 annually,” an indication that the myriad constraints imposed by poverty and low-wage work may prevent people from getting their shots. Fearmongering isn’t a display of solidarity with the working poor or a special concern for civil rights, however. The GOP wants to own the libs to death — who dies doesn’t matter. The priority is fealty to Trump above all.