Discover more from The Bulwark
The mask is off. So to speak.
Trump, DeSantis, and the anti-vax politics of boosters.
Hey yall -
I’m sitting in again today and am focusing the rundown on the MAGA leaders’ full embrace of their anti-vax base.
But first: If you missed it on Friday I had the pleasure of taking over Charlie’s host chair and engaging in a wide-ranging discussion with my BFF Peter Hamby about Gen Z’s abandoning of Biden, COVID politics, buzz bands, and so much more. Check it out.
Plus—a reminder that if any RINO/DINO cucks in your life need a last-second Christmas present, may I suggest bringing them the unadulterated joy that comes from reading JVL’s newsletter and the rest of the Bulwark+ offerings? And if that’s not doing the trick by itself, turn on my Ultimate Christmas Mix for a little bonus cheer.
There was a moment in time when the dwindling number of responsible MAGA leaders and right-wing commentators tried to walk a delicate balance on the matter of vaccines, taking credit for the success of Operation Warp Speed and gently encouraging vaccination—while making nods to the death-cult mob that wanted them to fight the snooty elites who condescendingly suggested they take a shot that would spare them from unnecessary death.
In July, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis held a press conference stating clearly that “vaccines are saving lives.” A month later former President Trump was booed by his own fans at an Alabama rally for suggesting they get vaccinated.
But as summer turned to fall, their tune changed. It became clear that the vaccine holdouts in the MAGA base were not persuaded by the overwhelming data indicating that the vaccines were safe and effective; nor by paeans to the American entrepreneurial spirit; nor by the desire to honor their dunce-king for his OWS accomplishment.
As the Delta variant ravaged Trump-supporting counties at a disproportionate rate, the people who had the most credibility with their audience gave up on trying to help them save themselves.
No, really. Look at this chart.
And this weekend, the full anti-vax pivot solidified in the context of the booster shots that studies show provide substantial additional protection against the rising Omicron variant.
You would think as the case numbers spiked that MAGA leaders who cared about their constituents would use this opportunity to make the case for the safety and efficacy of a miracle drug that was developed at least in part on President Trump’s watch.
But nah . . .
On Fox Business, Maria Bartiromo asked DeSantis if he was getting the booster. In response, DeSantis smirked and began shaking his head no before she even finished the question. Then he said, “So . . . I mean . . . uh . . . I’ve done whatever I did, the normal shot, and that at the end of the day is people’s individual decisions about what they want to do.”
DeSantis then proceeded into a lengthy harangue about vaccine passports and letting people make vaccine decisions for themselves
As for the former president, in September he told the Wall Street Journal that he “probably won’t” get a booster. In October he was asked again about whether or not he planned to get a booster. He demurred.
I followed up with his spokesperson Liz Harrington over the weekend to see if he has, in fact, gotten the booster shot. She has not replied. [Update: Shortly before this newsletter went out, Newsweek reported that Trump mentioned getting boosted at an event on Sunday in Dallas, and was booed.]
This lack of response comes despite Harrington having plenty of time over the weekend to disseminate press releases about Don Lemon, Jussie Smollett, Tish James, Jeff Zucker, Fredo Cuomo, wokeness not being able to stop Christmas, David Perdue, a NH Journal poll about BBB, Robert Jeffress, and doctored photos that make crowd sizes at Trump’s events look larger than they were.
Even the more “mainstream” Republicans, such as Dan Crenshaw and Chip Roy, have pivoted away from encouraging vaccination, choosing to focus instead on telling their constituents: “DO NOT COMPLY” with vaccine guidelines put forth by the Biden administration
It’s not hard to divine where this pivot came from. Republicans heard what their base thinks about vaccines and decided that they’d rather risk public health than get crosswise with the hydroxymectin crowd.
This weekend Turning Point USA, the MAGA college Republican spin-off—whose founder died from COVID-19 last summer—held a conference in Phoenix replete with anti-vaccine fervor.
Sarah Palin said it would be “over my dead body” that she got vaccinated (no pun intended), to applause from the crowd. Tucker Carlson railed against those who are urging vaccination saying they just want to punish people (huh?) and then praised the “naturally immune” who earned it, which earned him raucous applause. Organizer Charlie Kirk claimed that Anthony Fauci should be “in jail” and was met with a chorus of “Lock Him Up” chants from the assemblage.
The TPUSA People’s Temple demonstrated that there is no longer any interest in the old vaccine two-step.
So Trump and DeSantis and the rest have fully succumbed to #WeThePeople’s demands, consequences be damned.