Or, as Greg Sargent put it in his Washington Post column today, The Zombie Trumpism Of GOP Governors Gives Democrats A Big Opening. Before we get to Sargent, though, let's look at which particular zombies are doing the worst jobs in terms of vaccinations. With 53% of Americans fully vaccinated, there are some outstanding states doing significantly better and 4 of the 11 have Republican governors. These are the states-- what someone might call "real America" with vaccination rates over 60%:
Phil Scott (R-VT)- 68% fully vaccinated (Trump- 30.7%)
Charlie Baker (R-MA)- 66% fully vaccinated (Trump- 32.1%)
Ned Lamont (D-CT)- 66% fully vaccinated (Trump- 39.2%)
Janet Mills (D-ME)- 66% fully vaccinated (Trump-44.0 %)
Daniel McKee (D-RI)- 65% fully vaccinated (Trump- 38.6%)
Phil Murphy (D-NJ)- 62% fully vaccinated (Trump- 41.4%)
Larry Hogan (R-MD)- 62% fully vaccinated (Trump- 32.1%)
Jay Inslee (D-WA)- 38.8% fully vaccinated (Trump- 38.8%)
Kathy Hochul (D-NY)- 61% fully vaccinated (Trump- 37.7%)
Michelle Lujan Grishman (D-NM)- 60% fully vaccinated (Trump- 43.5%)
Chris Sununu (R-NH)- 60% fully vaccinated (Trump- 45.4%)
Talk about correlations! These are the under-vaccinated hellholes that all (but Georgia and that's still being violently argued over) voted for Trump last year-- the 11 worst:
Mark Gordon (R-WY)- 39% fully vaccinated (Trump- 69.9%)
Brad Little (R-ID)- 39% fully vaccinated (Trump- 63.8%)
Tate Reeves (R-MS)- 39% fully vaccinated (Trump- 57.6%)
Kay Ivey (R-AL)- 38% fully vaccinated (Trump- 62.0%)
Jim Justice (R-WV)- 40% fully vaccinated (Trump- 68.6%)
Asa Hutchinson (R-AR)- 42% fully vaccinated (Trump- 62.4%)
Bill Lee (R-TN)- 42% fully vaccinated (Trump- 60.7%)
Brian Kemp (R-GA)- 42% fully vaccinated (Trump- 49.2%)
Doug Burgum (R-ND)- 42% fully vaccinated (Trump- 65.1%)
John Bel Edwards (D-LA)- 42% fully vaccinated (Trump- 58.5%)
Kevin Stitt (R-OK)- % fully vaccinated (Trump- 65.4%)
Sargent began with some very encouraging words: "If there is one thing that might get Democratic voters to take state-level races more seriously, it’s the Zombie Trumpism that continues to afflict GOP governors. In states where covid-19 cases are surging, they steadfastly refuse to take the virus seriously enough, and some are actively thwarting local efforts to combat it, a state of derangement that refuses to die."
He seems to think that Virginia-- a blue state-- is going to teach them Republicanos a lesson by "providing an opportunity for Democrats to prosecute the case against this sort of derelict governing-- which, if successful, could offer a model for Democrats to get more aggressive in taking it on elsewhere. The Democratic candidate, Terry McAuliffe, is placing public health questions involving masks and vaccines squarely before the electorate in a way that’s all too rare among Democrats. He is excoriating Republican opponent Glenn Youngkin for opposing vaccine and mask mandates, and casting this as a holdover of Donald Trump’s deranged approach to covid-19." Watch McAuliffe's new ad that eviscerates a Trump-loving candidate for governor who "even vowed to follow Florida’s Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, by blocking local school officials from implementing them, though Youngkin’s spokesman backtracked a bit on that."
McAuliffe would never be running it if it hadn't been thoroughly polled and focus-group tested. He's not the kind of guy who takes chances and he knows tying Youngkin to Trump is good politics outside of the red counties that Trump won and where vaccine rates suck, cesspools like Lee County (84.1% Trump), Buchanan County (83.5% Trump), Bland County (83.4% Trump), Scott County (83.4% Trump) and Tazewell County (83.1% Trump), all counties that Virginia foolishly kept when Kentucky and West Virginia were formed. How much better off Virginia would be without these 5 sick, freeloading, unproductive, uneducated, reactionary counties!
Youngkin has blasted vaccine requirements at Virginia universities and among state employees, and has come out against vaccine mandates generally. Though he encourages vaccines by choice, he also explicitly urged people to seek an “exemption” for “whatever reason.”
By contrast, McAuliffe-- who was governor from 2014 to 2018-- supports mask requirements in schools, and supports requiring vaccines for school teachers and staff and requiring vaccines or tests for state employees. So this race puts our grand national debate over masks and vaccines on the ballot this November.
Though Virginia is a blue-trending state, this provides an important test case. It might illustrate whether Democratic voters will remain motivated in off-year and midterm elections despite their party controlling the White House and Congress, as opposed to all the anger and energy being concentrated among the out-party.
This might also help illuminate the durability of the shift of suburban and educated White voters to Democrats. If turnout remains relatively good for an off-year election in the D.C. suburbs in Northern Virginia and in suburbs around Richmond-- which helped power President Biden’s 10-point statewide victory-- that might bode well.
This also has implications for how engaged Democratic voters will be in the 2022 midterms, and in the battle for governorships and state legislatures. Democrats badly need to recapture ground in the states, as the huge voter suppression push and the active impairment of our covid response in red states both confirm.
You’d think such Democratic voters might get engaged by this lingering Trumpist derangement. Youngkin has tried to style himself as a pro-business Republican, to mute that Trumpist taint a bit in a blue-trending state. But Youngkin has fallen prey to the same absurdities that other GOP governors have.
Youngkin, like GOP governors DeSantis and Greg Abbott of Texas, constantly justifies opposition to any and all mandates with empty pieties about liberty and individual responsibility. But these Republicans cannot seriously explain why they selectively oppose mandates in the particular case of covid.
As it is, the covid crisis has exposed the vacuousness of a certain type of reflexive anti-government, anti-health-mandate posture, but that reflex alone can’t explain what is happening. Another factor is likely that the pull of the Trumpist vortex is powerful.
Many Republicans are aligning themselves with the obsessions of the Trump movement, and opposition to any sort of covid mandates has become a quasi-religious calling, perhaps because of their association with Enemies Of Trump.
Thus governors like DeSantis are using government power to prevent private businesses from implementing vaccine requirements, blocking them from protecting workers and customers as they see fit.
And they’re flouting conservative principles of local control by blocking local officials from implementing mask requirements in schools — ones counseled by experts on the grounds that mere voluntary masking will not actually allow communities to protect themselves.
Youngkin hasn’t gone quite as far as those governors, but he’s plainly trying to keep that Trumpist spirit alive to keep Trump voters engaged, to whatever degree he can get away with. And indeed, Youngkin and Republicans may soon find themselves in an even worse position: CNN reports that many experts believe that once school resumes, we may see covid outbreaks in districts that do not employ public health requirements.
That might illustrate in a terrible way the folly of GOP opposition to such requirements. If Democrats can successfully prosecute the case against Youngkin here, that may persuade them to lean harder into these arguments against Republicans elsewhere.
As it is, the public is broadly on the side of public health mandates as a sensible way of exercising collective self-defense in response to the new covid surge, and Democrats need to speak more forcefully to those voters. This could underscore the concrete dangers of ongoing GOP extremism and activate those voters politically, which could benefit the country if it makes GOP efforts to impair our covid response harder to sustain. Really, it can’t happen soon enough.
Meanwhile, across the country, California is preparing to break the Republicans' hearts with a big win for the unpopular Democratic governor, elite neo-liberal Gavin Newsom, whose recall election is a week from today. The most right-wing polling firm looking at it, Trafalgar put out a new poll 2 days ago that finds the momentum against the recall growing. The poll shows likely voters soundly defeating the recall 52.8% to 43.1%, with just 4.1% undecided.
An original organizer of the recall, Orrin Heatlie, a former Yolo County sheriff's deputy who is unvaccinated, caught COVID-- for the second time-- while going back and forth from mask free and unvaccinated Wyoming. His wife has it as well. He's too sick to campaign and Facebook suspended his account earlier this year after someone from the Newsom campaign pointed to a 2019 post he wrote saying, "Microchip all illegal immigrants. It works! Just ask Animal control!"
Newsom, like McAuliffe is banking on messaging that emphasizes his pandemic restrictions... and on everything else in the Democratic kitchen sink. His latest ad warns Californians that Republicans backing the recall will "eliminate vaccine mandates," and endanger the state’s recovery.