From early on in the pandemic, Republican elected officials turned a national health emergency into a political opportunity, a chance to "own the libs" and make refusing a life-saving vaccine some sort of loyalty test.
Across the country, GOP-led legislatures passed laws preventing mask mandates, blocking social-distancing requirements, and generally tying the hands of elected officials and public-health experts as they grappled with keeping their people safe.
And now the chickens are coming home to roost – or more accurately, to die.
Choose Trump, or choose life?
For the past eighteen months, Republican lawmakers, talk-show hosts, and Fox News have convinced many on the right that the virus is a hoax, that the vaccine is a scam, and that the "conservative" thing to do is to ignore it all and go about your life as you did in 2019. They have claimed that Biden and the Democrats are using the pandemic for political purposes, and that it is all overblown, part of some sort of "liberal plot" to control everyone.
As a result, people on the right — who almost assuredly voted for Trump — are not only refusing to get vaccinated. They are also attacking health care workers, are turning to taking horse paste and gargling with bleach to protect themselves, and are even bathing their children in dirt laced with arsenic and lead.
And Republican leaders have been silent.
The outcome has been exactly what anyone would have predicted: Trump voters and the people around them are getting infected at a higher rate, and are now dying at a higher rate.
Basically, through their silence, the Republican leaders are killing their own voters.
Think this is hyperbole? Let's look at the numbers.
Below are two charts from Charles Gaba, a health-care policy analyst. For years, he has been running ACASignups.net, a site dedicated to both getting people to sign up for health insurance through the ACA, and tracking how many people actually are signing up.
When the pandemic began, Gaba turned to tracking that data as well, including vaccinations, hospitalizations, and deaths. His work has been used by national media outlets and other researchers, and he is widely regarded as a trustworthy source of information in the health research field.
At the end of November, he posted updated charts for every state showing vaccination levels and death rates by county, cross-referenced to that county's vote margin for Trump in 2020. I think the charts speak for themselves.
So, Republican leaders, what now?
We all know that if President Trump had come out early on and said publicly "This is real, it's dangerous, and it will kill you. Wear a mask, stay apart, take it seriously, and get a shot," we would be looking at very different numbers across our state and our country. But he didn't.
In our own state, if Republican leaders stopped making the pandemic some sort of political tug-of-war with the governor, and spoke out about getting vaccinated and doing what it takes to lower the vaccination rate, it would make at least some difference — particularly if they did it in their home counties, in person and in op-eds.
But so far, the only thing that seems to be on the minds of the Repubs in Frankfort is drawing new maps to keep themselves in power, and continuing to have pissing contests with Andy Beshear.
So here are your results, Repubs – through your inaction, your lack of leadership, your cowering in the face of Fox News and QAnon and horse-paste-takers, you are killing the very people you are trying to not make angry – the very voters you are counting on for next year.
Any true leader would want their constituents to be healthy, to be well, and to live their best lives, no matter who those constituents voted for.
But even the most craven political opportunist would at least want their own voters to be healthy enough to vote in the next election.
It's time for Republicans to either be true leaders and push the people in their districts to get vaccinated for their own sakes – or to at least be craven enough to push the people in their districts to get vaccinated so they can vote Republican in the next election.
If, on the other hand, they do neither, then the only conclusion is that they are so afraid of the crazies in their districts that even killing off their own voters is less scary to them than taking on the horse-paste eaters. And if that is the case, those elected officials deserve to be voted out of office, with the deaths they could have prevented hung around their neck like a scarlet C.