WTF Is Going On Here? Part II

MELBOURNE, FLORIDA, UNITED STATES - 2021/05/17: A nurse gives Sherri Trimble, 15, a shot of the vaccine at a vaccination clinic at Health First Medical Centre.On May 12, 2021, the CDC approved the use of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine in 12 through 15-year-old adolescents. Vaccinating this age group is seen as a keyway for middle and high schools to reopen fully by this fall. (Photo by Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
A nurse gives a shot of the vaccine at a vaccination clinic in Florida. (Photo by Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
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July 21, 2021 10:55 a.m.

I’ve had a slew of people asking me what’s behind the apparent about face on vaccination and COVID generally from so many rightwing influencers, media luminaries and officeholders. You’ve also sent in a bunch of emails. I’ll be publishing some of them today. I continue to be baffled by the apparent about-face.

The switcheroo is reminiscent of when the rightwing networks started putting out canned statements recanting any suggestion that voting machine companies had rigged the election. Lots of people are saying they may be reacting to some as yet unknown lawsuit. But that really doesn’t add up. Unless I’m really missing something there’s no entity that would have any standing to sue anyone or plausible shot at winning a case. So it really can’t be that.

Was it the stock dip early in the week? I’ve heard a lot of suggestions that donors put out word that vax denial is costing them money. But again, that’s not how things work – either in high rollers reacting to a momentary stock dip or a few donors having that kind of hold on the modern GOP.

There aren’t any good answers. But the most plausible bad answer continues to be bad polling. Perhaps not literally polling. There are other gauges of public opinion: focus groups, reactions at townhalls. My best guess is that Republicans see that a lot of their constituents – despite the tough talk on Twitter – are suddenly pretty worried about COVID. And because of that – somehow – Republican politicians suddenly feel exposed. Like they’re the ones holding the ‘poo-poo COVID, don’t get vaccinated’ bag when their voters are freaking out.

Is this really true? As I suggested yesterday, it sounds a bit like a liberal fever dream: a just political comeuppance for just terribly irresponsible, life-endangering behavior. So I’m skeptical. But again … I don’t have a better explanation.

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It’s pretty remarkable that Steve Scalise hadn’t gotten vaccinated until this weekend. I mean, the second ranking Republican in the House, who has been eligible since December or January, just hadn’t done it yet? Either for self-protection or to model proper behavior? We’ve become inured to how remarkable that is.

It’s entirely plausible that non-vaxed elected officials are seeing these spiking hospitalization numbers, getting scared and decided to get vaccinated. The numbers are really out of control in Louisiana, where Scalise is from and has to spend time. One dimension of this spring and summer is that cases and hospitalizations were just dropping to nothing. It was easy to think that COVID was basically over and you could free-ride on other people’s vaccination. No mask, no vaccine, all party.

But what we’re seeing here isn’t self-protection. You don’t have to broadcast that you got vaccinated. It’s pretty clearly an effort not only to get people to get vaccinated but even more an effort to claim these folks have always been for vaccination. Hey, if you didn’t get vaccinated, don’t forget I was definitely telling you to get vaccinated all along.

For the moment that strikes me as the most plausible explanation.

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