Texas Rep captures the nation’s division on vaccines
“You know,” Rep. Chip Roy tells RealClearPolitics after opposing the administration’s latest COVID vaccine push and, after all, but telling President Biden to hit sand, “my dad had polio.”
It’s a surprising start to the interview given that, about an hour before, the congressman tweeted a black and white image of a syringe. Federal health officials continue to struggle to get all Americans vaccinated against the coronavirus, and Biden had promised to send people “door-to-door” to deliver doses to the vulnerable. For Roy, that’s when the president went too far. Hence, the cartoon syringe, a game of the famous “Come and get it” banner, this time with an updated title: “Come, inject it.”
Merchandise branded with that slogan will be available soon on his campaign website, but as the second-term Republican explains while driving down Interstate 10 somewhere in South Texas, he knows the importance of vaccination. He saw what can happen without them. “I grew up and watched him live a life devastated by that disease,” Roy says of his father. “I am very much in favor of vaccines.”
The congressman calls the vaccine that eliminated polio “a great blessing.” He is “delighted” that children no longer have to worry about this debilitating disease. “Similarly,” adds Roy, “I am delighted that there are millions of people who can take advantage of a [coronavirus] vaccine that they believe, in their calculations, is good for them and their well-being. That’s great “.
He is upset anyway. “I’m just sick and fucking tired of the left, and this government, telling me, frankly, anything,” he says. “Back off the F. That’s my message to the White House.”
Roy predicted that “the left is going to lose its ever loving collective mind” because of its criticism of the White House. “They are going to call me anti-vaccines.” He says they are wrong, that it is intellectually consistent to support a vaccine, but also to oppose a federal campaign to convince the public to take it because, “What I really am is a believer in freedom.”
Who are you talking to and how do you know? Are you going ‘door to door’ to the 330 million Americans, or are you going to go through some lists you have about who is vaccinated and who is not vaccinated? ” he said.
When asked for a response from the congressman, a White House official replied, “lol no.” Roy’s sentiments are still indicative of the kind of vacillation among conservatives about vaccines that the White House is trying to address. TO New Washington Post-ABC News Poll showed that while 93% of Democrats report that they have received the vaccine or plan to do so, only 49% of Republicans say the same. This comes as vaccination rates are stabilizing nationally and a new, easily spreading variant of the virus, native to India, has established itself in the United States.
Federal officials are now shifting their focus from mass vaccination sites to localized vaccination efforts. This means setting up workplace clinics, urging employers to give employees paid time off to visit their doctor, and yes, going door-to-door. “Now we have to go community by community,” the president said Tuesday, “neighborhood by neighborhood, and many times from door to door, literally knocking on doors, to help the remaining people, protected from the virus.”
Biden has stuck to the route of persuasion, and his administration, after considering but ultimately abandoning the idea of vaccine passports, has moved away from anything close to a vaccination mandate. He refused to require that active duty members of the military receive the vaccine, and the White House issued guidance for federal agencies. directing them to no Require your employees to be immunized. When asked about public schools and private companies that require vaccination, White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters: “We are going to let them make these decisions.”
Some public health experts want the president to be more aggressive, as the New York Times reports, and they encourage states and employers to require vaccines. “I’m trying to hold back, but I’ve had it,” said former Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius. told the Times. “You know, we’re going to tiptoe around mandates. It’s like, come on. I’m a bit above that. I want to make sure the people I deal with don’t have it so I don’t pass it on to my granddaughter. ”
A former Obama administration official who strikes the forehead is not going to convince die-hard Republicans. Someone like Tom Frieden, the former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, could do it.
That was a finding from a focus group organized by Republican pollster Frank Luntz. More than one Zoom call, Luntz introduced Frieden to self-identified and suspicious Trump voters, deliberately omitting the part about him spearheading the CDC during the Obama administration. Frieden then recited “five facts,” including that the vaccine will not stay in your body and that “more than 95% of the doctors who have been offered this vaccine have received it as soon as they can.”
Many of the participants seemed open to Frieden and some said he changed his mind. The group felt overwhelmingly, as one man in the focus group explained, that, “We want to be educated, not indoctrinated.” Luntz’s takeout? Politicians will probably not be able to sell the vaccine to the part of the public that already doubts. But doctors could do it. When asked about Biden’s door-to-door vote, the Republican pollster told RCP: “I’m not sure if I like the strategy, but I certainly appreciate the passion and commitment.”
What he cannot bear is that partisanship infects public health: “It is essential to keep politics out of the vaccine effort,” he added. “Unfortunately, that has proven to be impossible. It is a tragedy that some people refuse to act responsibly just because they want to make a political statement. ”
Pandemic politics was a feature of 2020, whether President Trump called a Democrat criticism of their handling of the virus “A hoax”, or Kamala Harris on the stage of the debate with Mike Pence questioning the safety of a future vaccine. Pandemic politics, unsurprisingly, will continue to be present in 2021.
“Please get vaccinated now. Works. It’s free “, Biden said in the white house Tuesday. “It has never been easier and it has never been more important. Do it now for yourself and the people you care about, for your neighborhood, for your country. It sounds corny, but it’s kind of patriotic. ”
And that’s where Roy objects. He compared Biden’s red, white and blue routine to “wrapping an alleged duty in the name of public health in the flag,” and provides an in-kind rebuttal: “Freedom to choose what is best for you and your family. – that’s the most patriotic thing we can do. ”
Relating how the CDC changed the use of the mask and then recounting how critics insisted on a vaccine would not be developed before the end of the yearRoy also said that the Democratic obsession with vaccination is like “a religion.”
“They live and die for the political moment and the power of the government versus trying to live as a free people respecting each other, taking care of each other,” he said. Well then, what is the correct government provision during a health emergency? “The answer is always freedom,” replies Roy. “That is the answer to all things. And sadly, our country is moving away from that and until we get back to that, our country will be divided. ”
He raises questions about the possible long-term side effects of the vaccine, especially the rare inflammation of the heart that has occurred in teens and young men under the age of 30. that the CDC is now investigating. But he won’t say whether the shot hit his arm or not. And the congressman, who even urged the Biden administration to establish a vaccine “super site” in San Antonio, argues that the federal government should leave the issue alone.
Roy is not the only one who feels this way. Biden stepped on a real rake of Republican reaction when he suggested that the federal government would go “door to door” to vaccinate people. But Roy is becoming increasingly prominent on the right. The Associated Press I recently dedicated an entire story to a secretly recorded video of the congressman speaking to his constituents on a Southwest Airlines flight. Roy was not wearing a mask, the AP reported, “an apparent violation of federal law.” It lasted less than three minutes.
“The AP believes it has done a great service to humanity by exposing the great crime of the century, ‘Congressman Roy removed his mask,'” he jokes. After the story was published, Roy tells RCP that people wrote to him just to thank him. The report “was very well received in my district,” he says, estimating that it was “probably the equivalent of a $ 500,000 ad for me running in my district.”
There’s an appetite for the curmudgeonly Texan kind of politics, says Jessica Anderson, a former Trump White House alum and executive director of Heritage Action for America. “He is the best type of legislator, because he stands firm in his principles and does not worry about whether he will return,” he said. He certainly he does not care about the controversy.
Another video, this one also secretly recorded, showed Roy telling conservative activists that Republicans would benefit from obstructing the president’s agenda, specifically creating “18 more months of chaos and an inability to get things done.”
“Well yeah, I mean, that’s our job. I totally disagree with everything the Democrats are trying to do with my country, so of course I am opposed, ”he said blankly when asked about the online outrage his leaked comments sparked. He opposes Biden on everything from the president’s gender identity executive order to the administration’s proposed energy policy.
“I am an equal opportunity attacker of practically everything that happens in Congress, on both sides of the aisle,” says the congressman. That is sometimes true, even if it is not politically expedient. Roy was one of the few House Republicans who broke away from his own party and voted to certify the 2020 election results. Citing his many political differences with Biden, the Conservative says: sorry, I’m generally against what you fools are doing. I want to try to prevent you from doing more harm to my country and the people I represent. ”
Roy, a former Texas deputy attorney general, sees his constitutional duty as a co-equal member of the legislative branch to balance the executive – and that civic obligation doesn’t stop during a pandemic. For him, the role of the federal government is simple. Make it easy to drop doses, sure, but don’t knock on any doors. Let the individual get vaccinated or not. So it’s about prudence, weighing risks versus rewards. It’s the conversation he had with his own father.
“My parents said, ‘Well, Chip, what do you think?’” Roy recalls. “I said, ‘Dad, you’re 78 years old. Mom, you are 72 years old. I think it is probably in your best interest to get the vaccine, even if it has not been relatively tested, because the virus is not good if you are 78. ”