Noble: Death of the party
For the so-called “pro-life” party, Republicans seem very comfortable with death. Sure, they are “pro-fetus,” but do not ask them to choose between the Second Amendment or schoolchildren.
Unlike every other advanced western democracy, they are cool with the United States keeping the death penalty. And the pandemic has demonstrated that Republicans would rather everyone, especially the elderly, play roulette with their lives rather than stall a booming economy. This comes just a few years after Republicans accused Democrats of wanting to off their grandparents.
During the debate over the Affordable Care Act, former Alaskan Gov. Sarah Palin hyperbolically claimed, “The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s death panel so his bureaucrats can decide … their level of productivity in society.” No such provision existed, and Palin’s false claim earned her PolitiFact’s Lie of the Year award.
While the specious claim originated with Palin, other politicians incorporated it into their messaging about the proposed legislation. Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley declared, “have every right to fear … We should not have a government program that determines you’re going to pull the plug on Grandma.”
It was a lie with legs — polling showed approximately 26 percent of Republicans continued to believe Obamacare included death panels in 2015. To be fair, so did 12 percent of Democrats.
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In a stunning sanctity-of-life reversal, some Republicans indicated a willingness to sacrifice senior citizens during the pandemic rather than damage the economy. Dan Patrick, Texas’ Republican lieutenant governor and unofficial spokesman for all senior citizens, told Tucker Carlson, “Those of us who are 70 plus, we’ll take care of ourselves. But don’t sacrifice the country.”
More recently, Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene cavalierly blabbered, “…you know, we’re human, we can’t live forever” as she dismissed concerns of rising COVID-19-19 infections. Recently surfaced video shows Greene congratulating Alabamans on their low vaccination rate.
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem figuratively bellowed her priority of economy over lives by resisting lockdowns and mask mandates — and sacrificed thousands of her residents in the process. South Dakota and Vermont are similar in many ways — each has a small population that is older and white. Both also have high population immunity but reached that immunity in different ways. Vermont achieved its level of immunity via vaccinations — nearly 85 percent of Vermonters have received at least one dose of the vaccine, with 234 Vermonters dying from COVID-19. By contrast, only 55 percent of South Dakotans have received one dose of the vaccine and more than 2,000 have died from the virus.
Taiwan and Florida provide an even starker contrast. They share similar-sized populations — Taiwan’s is more than 23 million and Florida’s is nearly 22 million. Taiwan used quarantines, contact tracing and masks to keep citizens safe. As a result, Taiwan has experienced just over 800 COVID-19 deaths. By contrast, more than 40,000 Floridians have died from COVID-19-19.
Florida now leads the nation in children hospitalized with COVID-19. As Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis bans mask mandates in schools, hospitals in his state are requesting ventilators from the federal government emergency stockpile. Taiwan took on COVID-19 without sacrificing its economy, which is expected to grow at its fastest pace in a decade.
It was not a given that 40,000 Floridians or 600,000 Americans had to die. Leadership informed by science could have saved many lives. Estimates run in the hundreds of thousands of lives that could have been spared with competent, coordinated national leadership.
Tallying America’s pandemic failures, the British medical journal The Lancet faulted America’s weakened public health infrastructure. The National Center for Disaster Preparedness concurred with The Lancet and added the following failures of national leadership: delayed response (“It will magically disappear by April”), inadequate testing capacity, lack of a mask mandate, and failure of top officials to model best practices.
Amid rising case levels in his state, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson now regrets signing a law banning mask mandates. If only he had followed the science and not the politics.
COVID-19 deaths are highest among white Americans over the age of 50, as the delta variant tears through the unvaccinated. Since older and white describes the Republican base, it is a head-scratcher that Republican politicians seem willing to sacrifice so many.
Former Florida Rep. Alan Grayson presciently asserted during a debate over the Affordable Care Act: “If you get sick America, the Republican health care plan is this: Die quickly.”
Claire Noble can be found online at Claire Noble Writer on Facebook.