A Conspiracy of the Malicious
BY RICHARD C. GROSS
“Men that make envy and crooked malice nourishment, dare bite the best.”
People are getting sick and dying because Republicans are focused on attacking President Joe Biden for violating individual freedom for mandating injecting vaccines to combat the coronavirus, a systematic undermining of a policy implemented to save lives.
These extremist Trumpist Republicans, including governors and members of Congress, are conducting a callous, chilling contemptuous horror show for the sake of scoring macho political points despite the life-threatening nature of their ugly campaign. It’s the unvaccinated who are racking up the biggest COVID-19 death tolls nationwide.
Republicans are taking advantage of a pandemic that won’t go away in order to slam the Democrats and make Biden look like a failure by intentionally confusing what is freedom with what is common sense. Biden had promised to eliminate COVID-19, which is caused by the virus. But the Republicans are fighting him and mocking him at every step.
This isn’t politics. It’s some kind of weird jihad, a holy war against what is the right thing to do to avoid contagion and spreading a deadly disease that has killed 659,000 Americans, more than four million people worldwide.
An estimated 80 million Americans reportedly have not been vaccinated though about 208 million of those over 12-years old have received at least one dose.
The anti-vax campaign is being led by many of the same people who let Trump as president virtually ignore the virus beginning with its onset in the country in January 2020. They’re a confederacy of like-minded opposition to “libs,” far rightists who are against abortion, masks, vaccines and minorities but favor restricting voting to ensure Republican victories at the polls.
This new confederacy smacks of evil intent. It follows an unstable, ingenious purveyor of hatred, malevolence and violence ensconced in his castle at Mar-an-Ego.
Their hypocrisy is legendary for its outrageousness: they cry liberty as if they were a collective Patrick Henry but deny freedom to women who want to make their own choices about their bodies. They say they’re pro-life but have no problem with the death penalty.
Republicans now are on the warpath against Biden for having used a 1970 law protecting workers to require employees at companies of more than 100 people to get vaccinated or tested weekly for COVID-19, threatening to sue. The mandate affects about 80 million people and another 17 million who work at health facilities that receive Medicare or Medicaid payments.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who backed the state’s new anti-abortion law, said on a conservative radio show a president cannot “dictate” mandating vaccinations or testing.
“I don’t believe he has the authority to just dictate from the presidency that every worker that works for a large company has to get a vaccine,” Paxton said, promising in a tweet to “fight back.”
“Joe Biden has declared war on constitutional government, the rule of law, and the jobs and livelihoods of millions of Americans,” Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, who also is against masks, even in schools, said in a fundraising email, the Times reported.
“Have at it,” Biden replied to his detractors.
Biden imposed the mandate after being clearly fed up with the large numbers of people who refused to get vaccinated, hindering the ability of health authorities to bring COVID-19 under control. He tried for months to cajole, persuade and nearly beg people to get vaccinated as a sure-fire antidote to the virus.
Those who were not completely vaccinated during the past several months are 11 times more susceptible of dying of COVID-19 and more than 10 times likely to be in a hospital than people who are fully vaccinated, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in three major studies.
But the Republicans and their supporters in the media worked against getting a shot in the arm, much as they shun masks and other symbols of possible infringement of some strange definition of freedom. What does freedom have to do with protecting oneself from illness or death? The craziness is breathtaking.
“This is not about freedom or personal choice,” Biden said last week. “It’s about protecting you and those around you.”
He applied the mandate using the emergency authority of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, which has protected workers from asbestos and other industrial hazards, The New York Times reported. It’s never been used to require vaccinations, it said.
I would think something like a once-in-a-century pandemic of this magnitude would have brought Americans together, much like the 9/11 surprise attack that killed 2,977 people 20 years ago. But it’s not to be. The political climate has changed drastically in the country since 2001, when George W. Bush was in the ninth month of his presidency.
The change, for the worse, was exacerbated by the disastrous presidency of Trump, who divided the country even more than it already had been because of the financial inequality that has riven the populace mercilessly, perhaps best noted in low wages and the limited availability of affordable housing, particularly in big cities.
The persistent Republican sniping in opposition to the vaccination mandate may harden attitudes toward Biden, whose popularity in the polls keeps dropping, now at only 44 percent of approval, where Trump was during much of his presidency. The debacle of the exit from Afghanistan didn’t help Biden’s popularity.
But Biden’s get-tough attitude toward the need for vaccinations could stand him in good stead because the majority of Americans approve of his actions, both with the Afghan withdrawal and his attempts to control COVID-19.
He should get tougher with the Republicans and get rid of the Senate filibuster rule, for starters, to ensure equal voting rights for all eligible Americans. This is no time for political games, especially in the presence of a hardening Republican confederacy.
Richard C. Gross, a correspondent, bureau chief and foreign editor of United Press International, retired as the opinion page editor of The Baltimore Sun.