Friday, I sat down in the waiting room at City of Hope, a hospital in L.A. County. Every personal being treated there has at least one comorbidity: cancer. So they are very strict about protecting the patients from COVID infection-- at least on paper. The waiting room was relatively crowded, but socially distanced and everyone had a mask on-- more or less. I sat down next to-- 3 chairs roped off between us-- a woman who I soon noticed had her mask down under her nose and was coughing for the entire 40 minutes we were in the waiting room. I moved to the other side of the waiting room but saw she wasn't the only one with her mask under her nose. It seemed peculiar to me that no one who worked there said anything to any of them. Maybe a sign explaining that the mask didn't do anyone any good under the nose-- let alone under the chin. I looked at the people with their masks under their noses and chins to see if there were anything they all had in common. They all looked like if we were in high school they'd be in the modified classes. I don't know if they still have modified classes, but a band I once worked with, Filter, named their platinum debut album, Short Bus. Same, same, more or less.
When I got home, I saw an opinion column in the NY Times by Tressie McMillan Cottom, Education Doesn't Inoculate Us From Vaccine Hesitancy. Hmmm... education. Guess that's a more polite way than blaming vaccine hesitance and resistance to masking on debilitatingly low IQs. Cottom, noting that there are healthcare workers who are vaccine hesitant (and who haven't been fired yet), wrote that "You can be a health care worker with anything from a six-month training certificate to a doctoral research degree in nursing or medicine. I wrote a book that covers some of those differences, and they are vast. Given that knowledge, it made sense that we would see the same kinds of manic denialism that I wrote about a couple of weeks ago even among health care workers. But the truth is that this is a problem that education alone cannot fix." True, true. Unions representing New York City teachers and principals successfully, at least for now, sued the city's board of education to stop it from enforcing a vaccine mandate. And those jobs take more than a 6-month certificate program.
Cottom spoke with sociologist Jessica Calarco, whose research brought her to a woman perfectly named: Tory, "'a white, Republican mom and former nurse… who opposes masks and vaccines.' Tory said Covid is serious only 'if you’re unhealthy, if you have comorbidities.' Tory has extended family members who are at risk, but Tory suggests they 'deserve what they get.' I talked with Jessica about how someone like Tory could have exposure to health education and still be so adamantly anti-vaccine. Jessica points out that people filter education through their other identities, one of which is their political identity. She said: 'There’s a happy marriage between Republican or right wing ideas about personal responsibility in all aspects of life and personal responsibility and medicine. And so there’s a clear alignment with those parents who are most strongly opposed to masks, vaccines, across the board, these different kinds of public health measures, being the parents who are most likely to oppose these kinds of measures, either in society as a whole, or specifically if we’re talking about things like kids in schools. And so certainly the nurse... identifies as libertarian. So sort of right-leaning independent and certainly has… you can hear those ideas in the way that they talk about things. And the Republican-leaning, white parents were the ones who used sort of the strongest sort of 'bad body is bad culture' kind of arguments, these echoing, and sometimes explicitly eugenicist, arguments about why they shouldn’t be required to sacrifice for who they call unhealthy people.'... Tory’s interpretation of public health as an attack on her civil liberties-- her God-given right to choose how she will live and ergo how others around her might die-- sounds like a strident political identity of grievance."
Connor Friedersdorf, writing for The Atlantic penned an event more disturbing piece The Conservatives Who’d Rather Die Than Not Own the Libs. Yep, they're willing to sacrifice their lives for... yes, for what? The right to be a moron? And their family's lives as well. Friedersdorf was mesmerized by one of the cheerleaders of the anti-vaxx/short bus crowd, John Nolte.
Nolte identifies "a conspiracy of evil leftist elites [who] are to blame for vaccine skepticism on the right. 'I sincerely believe the organized left is doing everything in its power to convince Trump supporters NOT to get the life-saving Trump vaccine,' Nolte writes. They are 'putting unvaccinated Trump supporters in an impossible position,' he insists, 'where they can either NOT get a life-saving vaccine or CAN feel like cucks caving to the ugliest, smuggest bullies in the world.'" LOL! I only wish that there were leftist elites who were so effective, let alone Machiavellian. It's what you could expect from the Right; never, alas, from the left.
This conspiracy theory is rooted in a fundamental misunderstanding of the left. Folks in blue America who fret about the surge of the Delta coronavirus variant want every American to get their shots as soon as possible, because they genuinely fear that unvaccinated adults will infect unvaccinated children, fuel new variants, overwhelm hospitals, burden doctors and nurses, degrade care for those who suffer any other medical emergency, raise the risk of breakthrough cases, and undermine political approval for President Joe Biden’s handling of the pandemic. Those are the reasons, right or wrong, that Biden and many of his supporters favor vaccine mandates. But the populist right has put disdain for the left and the establishment at the center of its identity. And rather than simply telling his readers that refusing a medical miracle in order to defy the left is irrational, Nolte accuses the left of exploiting their psychology.
...[T]he left is not conspiring to thin the ranks of Trump supporters. If leftist elites are conspiring to do anything, it is self-interested stuff: padding their kids’ college applications, abusing historic preservation laws to prevent their neighborhoods from getting more dense. Biden himself wants credit for ending the pandemic, not to own Breitbart News readers.
Perhaps Nolte’s dark, paranoid claims simply show that he has lost touch with reality after looking at everything through a culture-war lens for too long. Or maybe, as some on Twitter have speculated, Nolte is engaging in his own attempt at reverse psychology, calculating that his best chance of persuading the still-unvaccinated among Breitbart’s audience of manipulable, leftist-hating, negatively polarized culture warriors is to tell them that the left doesn’t want them to get the jab and that staying alive is the real way to own the libs. (I requested comment from Nolte but have not yet heard back.)
Either way, a Breitbart polemicist deeply familiar with hard-core Trumpists thinks many of them will make life-and-death decisions not to protect their families but to avoid feeling humiliated by Democratic politicians and liberal celebrities. That’s an extraordinary conclusion.
It brings to mind bygone critiques of the populist right from outsiders attempting to warn about its dysfunction. “The secret shame of the conservative base,” the libertarian writer Julian Sanchez argued in 2009, “is that they’ve internalized the enemy’s secular cosmopolitan value set and status hierarchy-- hence this obsession with the idea that somewhere, someone who went to Harvard might be snickering at them.” He was writing the year after Sarah Palin’s rise to vice-presidential nominee portended the GOP’s shift from Bushism to populism and the politics of ressentiment, a psychological state in which policy victories are less important than, as Sanchez defined it, “hostility directed at that which one identifies as the cause of one’s frustration.”
As Palin made gaffes and cost her party votes, the populist right rallied around her more enthusiastically, not less. Sanchez thought this faction was saying, in effect, “We cede to the bogeyman cultural elites the power of stereotypical definition, so becoming the stereotype more fully and grotesquely is our only means of empowerment.” Later, when the GOP base elevated Trump, a boorish, flagrantly vulgar celebrity who gave Stern permission to call his daughter “a piece of ass” and was caught on tape bragging about grabbing women by their genitals, there could be no doubt that a faction of Trump’s base reveled in what others found deplorable.
Sanchez thought psychological grievances couldn’t be solved via politics, and, in another 2009 essay, offered conservatives a prescient warning about their base: “There’s a potential strategic benefit for any political movement in tapping these sorts of thicker grounds of solidarity,” he granted. “But the way it elevates and expands the scope of political identity-- and therefore of politics-- seems like it ought to be anathema to conservative principles.” The populist right, Sanchez argued, was fixating on matters that shouldn’t be swept up in national politics. He concluded, “It’s just another way of living in Washington’s shadow.”
To react to a Biden mandate by eschewing a life-saving vaccine is to die in Washington’s shadow. And Nolte isn’t being paranoid when he posits that the Trumpist right is dying more such deaths. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, “As of September 13, 2021, 52.8% of people in counties that voted for Biden were fully vaccinated compared to 39.9% of Trump counties.” An NBC News poll last month found that vaccination rates varied widely by political orientation:
Democrats: 88 percent
Independents: 60 percent
Republicans: 55 percent
Republicans who support Trump more than party: 46 percent
Republicans who support party more than Trump: 62 percent
Democratic Sanders-Warren voters: 88 percent
Democratic Biden voters: 87 percent
Biden voters in 2020 general election: 91 percent
Trump voters in 2020 general election: 50 percent
If Trump voters decide to commit mass suicide via COVID, I applaud them, even if I hate the idea of them killing normal people who they walk among. These are some of my favorite counties in America-- alone with the percentage of the morons who have been fully vaccinated and the percentage of the morons who voted for Trump last year:
Slope Co., ND- 9% vaccinated, 89.0%Trump voters
McPherson Co., SD- 10% vaccinated, 81.2%Trump voters
McPherson Co., NE- 12% vaccinated, 91.1%Trump voters
Miller Co., AR- 12% vaccinated, 72.1%Trump voters
King Co., TX- 15% vaccinated, 95.0%Trump voters
Harding Co., SD- 15% vaccinated, 92.0%Trump voters
Cameron Parish, LA- 15% vaccinated, 90.7%Trump voters
McCone Co, MT- 16% vaccinated, 84.7%Trump voters
Holmes Co., OH- 16% vaccinated, 83.2%Trump voters
McKenzie Co., ND- 17% vaccinated, 82.7%Trump voters
Arthur Co., NE- 17% vaccinated, 91.2%Trump voters
Grant Co. NE- 17% vaccinated, 93.3%Trump voters
Logan Co., NE- 17% vaccinated, 90.4%Trump voters
Garfield Co., MT- 17% vaccinated, 94.0%Trump voters
Gaines Co., TX- 18% vaccinated, 89.3%Trump voters
Loving Co., TX- 18% vaccinated, 90.9%Trump voters
Grant Co., ND- 18% vaccinated, 82.9%Trump voters
Storey Co., NV- 18% vaccinated, 66.3%Trump voters
Powder River Co., MT- 19% vaccinated, 85.4%Trump voters
Billings Co., ND- 19% vaccinated, 85.2%Trump voters
Moore Co., TN- 19% vaccinated, 81.6%Trump voters
Winston Co., AL- 19% vaccinated, 90.3%Trump voters
Crowley Co., CO- 19% vaccinated, 72.6%Trump voters
I'm certain all these fine white folks feel that not getting vaccinated will keep Democratic candidates from coming to their doors to explain what the Green New Deal and Medicare-for-All means. But don't tell Nolte.