On most of the big issues facing our country over the past 40 years, Republicans have been wrong. Beginning with Ronald Reagan, they told us that cutting taxes on corporations and the wealthy “lifts all boats.” Instead, their policies led to the widest income inequality since the 1920s. As a study from the London School of Economics shows, those tax cuts never trickled down.
Republicans spent the first decade and a half of the 21st century passing laws to keep marriage between a man and woman. They fought against allowing gay couples to adopt children. Today, marriage equality is a widely accepted concept and, fortunately, a lot of children have happy homes.
For almost a decade, Republicans thwarted any effort to reform our health care system. They opposed the Affordable Care Act which has increased access to care to more than 20 million people. They gutted parts of the program and have worked hard to undermine it at both the state and federal level. The GOP made opposition to Obamacare the centerpiece of their platform until Americans realized they had no plan to replace it. We haven’t heard much about it since.
On climate change, conservatives first denied it was happening. When that was proven wrong, they claimed that it wasn’t caused by humans. Now that we know human activity is responsible, they are opposing effort to curb it, claiming that the cure is worse than the disease. Hurricane Ida and the wild fires in California beg to differ.
But speaking of diseases, they’ve been most wrong about the pandemic. From the beginning, Republicans shifted from denial to opposition. Initial analysis by researchers said that the virus would likely kill between 500,000 and 1.5 million Americans in the first two years without mitigation efforts. Republicans screamed that such predictions were irresponsible and fearmongering.
Once the disease proved them wrong, as hundreds of thousands of people were sick and dying, they shifted their story to claim that the only people getting seriously ill were the old and infirm. They implied that most of those people were going to die soon anyway. The lieutenant governor of Texas even said that people would rather die than shut down the economy.
The government response, though, really pushed them over the edge. Conservative commentators and Republican politicians have waged war against any measures to mitigate the impact of the virus. They opposed the lockdown. They oppose masking. Now, they oppose the vaccine mandate.
According to conservatives, we should focus mainly on protecting vulnerable populations, especially those in extended care facilities. Yet, those people are largely vaccinated and the disease is still raging. More than 85% of people over 65 years old are vaccinated and their percentage of deaths has plummeted. At the peak of the wave in January, before a vaccine was available, 80% of the deaths were people over 65. At the peak of the current wave, their percentage of deaths has dropped to 60%. In other words, 40% of the deaths today are people under 65 years old, almost all of whom are unvaccinated.
Conservatives and Republicans, even if they may support vaccines, have spent most of their energy opposing mitigation efforts. They have largely sat silent as a wave of disinformation leaves their base ill-informed and vulnerable to the disease. They’ve excused the failures of Republican governors in states like Florida and Texas despite overwhelming evidence that states that took more aggressive action have fared better.
Today, our hospitals are again overwhelmed. This time, the disease is killing younger people who, with a vaccine, should be living much longer lives. A responsible political party would be doing all it could to get people vaccinated to end these preventable deaths. Instead, Republicans are basically demanding that government let nature take its course, and take a lot of American lives with it.
Joe Biden made the tough decision again. He’s demanding all federal employees and contractors get vaccinated and he’s asking the Labor Department to force companies that employee more than 100 people to require it. Despite what Republicans say, nobody likes mandates, but saving thousands of lives from preventable deaths is worth the political risk.
Republicans have done one thing very well for the past 40 years. They’ve made Democrats pay a steep political price for making the tough choices required of governing. They’ve successfully portrayed any attempt to implement tax fairness as a tax increase. Their fearmongering over the ACA, which slowed the rate health care costs and cut the uninsured in half, led to the 2010 wave election. Now, they hope to turn efforts to rein in the virus into a political liability, claiming government overreach and loss of freedom. Maybe it will work, but does it really matter? Democrats run to govern and that takes making the hard choices that often involve political costs. Just get it done, Joe.