• July 31, 2021

Vaccine Policy Could Cost Republicans Midterm Elections

It seems almost obscene to consider the politics of vaccines given the serious danger posed by the ongoing COVID pandemic to public health. The Delta variant is crossing the country at an alarming rate, especially posing a serious threat to the unvaccinated, but with a eerily high breakout rate also among those vaccinated. Florida has reported 21,683 new cases of COVID just today, a devastating indictment of Governor DeSantis’s refusal to take the pandemic seriously.

But we must address politics, because much of the country’s failure to control the COVID pandemic from the start has been due to Republican political calculations. Then-President Donald Trump did not want to take the necessary steps to control the pandemic because he feared they could scare the stock market and cost him re-election. They also cynically and democratically calculated that COVID would hit people the hardest in blue cities and states, and that both demographic devastation and electoral pain from the pandemic would come from Democratic constituencies and blue state governors. The pullout against California Governor Gavin Newsom was fueled by conservative outrage over school closings and lockdowns.

The toxic stew of nonadjacent conspiracy theories and white supremacist beliefs permeating the Republican base has made things easier for large numbers of Republicans and many converts from the world of courtship and left libertarian crystals– Falsely believing that COVID is a hoax or that Anthony Fauci intentionally built in a Chinese lab, that Democrats are using masking mandates as a pretext for broader authoritarian crackdowns of some kind, that vaccines are part of a “Great Reboot conspiracy” “to kill the world’s population, and that the immune system of whites and Crossfit enthusiasts will somehow protect them from the virus. It is easier for Republican politicians to indulge and exploit these beliefs than it is to educate their own voters.

But there is also another darker political calculus at work. Since Biden’s election, the Republican strategy has been simple: sabotage the Biden administration’s goal of vaccine-based herd immunity, thereby damaging the economy and forcing more unpopular measures to control the spread of the Delta variant. Either pandemic-depleted voters will rebel at the prospect of a new round of controls and masked mandates, or the virus will overwhelm ICUs and kill a million Americans in the midterm elections, with Republicans blaming Biden and Democrats. (as Trump did yesterday.)

But there are reasons to believe that this strategy may be not only sociopathic but also half-smart. Most Americans have been vaccinated now, and it is very clear that the Delta variant is primarily a plague of the unvaccinated. The unvaccinated less capable of persuasion are mainly grassroots Republicans, and partisanship is one of the strongest single predictors the vaccination status.

And vaccinated Americans are Fed up with being put at risk and potentially forced to take more restrictive measures by the politically hostile and belligerent unvaccinated. Republicans (and their useful tools like Green Greenwald) have been howling over the prospect of vaccine and passport mandates, soulless comparing them to the Nazi Holocaust. Many red states have preemptively prohibited any public or private measure to implement restrictions based on vaccination status.

But it turns out that passports and vaccination mandates are extremely popular:

Nearly two-thirds of Americans say they would support federal, state or local governments that require everyone to get vaccinated against the coronavirus, according to a new survey conducted by The COVID States Project …

By the numbers: 64% of those surveyed said in June or July that they would support the government’s vaccine requirements, a slight increase from 62% who said the same in April or May.

  • 70% said they would support the vaccine requirements to get on an airplane; 61% support requiring that children get vaccinated to go to school; and 66% of support that requires college students to get vaccinated to attend college.
  • Most all demographic subgroups, except Republicans, said they would support the vaccine requirements. Only 45% of Republicans said they approve of such mandates.
  • Most respondents in all but three states (Wyoming, North Dakota and South Dakota) said they support the requirement that everyone be vaccinated.

There was a lot of speculation about a week ago when everyone from Fox News anchors to Republican politicians suddenly began to encourage its viewers and voters were vaccinated: was it because they feared the electoral implications of large numbers of Republican voters dying of COVID, or because of the stock market crash based on Delta variant fears, or because of something else?

You may well have seen devastating survey figures like these. If around 70% of Americans get vaccinated, partisanship is inextricably linked to vaccination status, and 65-70% of Americans who actively want to see passports and vaccine mandates implemented become ill from an endemic variant Delta or are forced by circumstances to limit their enjoyment. of life due to a toxic pro-virus movement associated primarily with the Republican Party, which could have dire electoral consequences. If COVID ends up bringing down more than a million Americans, conservatives can try Blaming Biden and the Democrats, but it’s not entirely clear that voters will believe it when the variant is causing the most devastation among unvaccinated belligerent Republicans in the red zones. And unlike many other issues that electorally favor Democrats, this one is deeply personal and provokes anger in those vaccinated.

It is conventional wisdom that Republicans are well-positioned enough to win the House and Senate in the 2022 midterm elections that it would take an act of staggering incompetence to fail. The path to majorities in the House and Senate in 2022 still runs through purple suburban districts and states with a balance of urban and rural populations. It’s hard to see how Republicans will triumph if they are associated with an anti-vax white evangelical movement that puts 70% of Americans directly in danger. Any advantage they seek to sabotage the Biden administration’s economic and public health response may end up costing them more than they earn, not just in actual human lives, but in congressional seats as well.

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