MINOT, N.D. — Vaccine hesitancy isn't just a political thing.
For instance, Black Americans and Hispanics have lagged behind other demographics in getting dosed.
But, as David Leonhardt reports in The New York Times, "the racial gaps — while still existing — have narrowed. The partisan gap, however, continues to be enormous."
The juxtaposition of vaccination rates and voting trends is alarming. A chart in Leonhardt's article shows Trump-voting states with the lowest vaccination rates, while Biden-voting states have the highest.
The dire consequences of this trend show up in COVID-19 death counts.
Trump-voting counties have, by far, a much higher death rate than Biden-voting counties.
Per Leonhardt: "In counties where Donald Trump received at least 70 percent of the vote, the virus has killed about 47 out of every 100,000 people since the end of June, according to Charles Gaba, a health care analyst. In counties where Trump won less than 32 percent of the vote, the number is about 10 out of 100,000."
That's a death rate that's nearly five times higher. COVID-19 has exacted a terrible price from Americans. In 2020, the life expectancy for Americans dropped by 1.5 years, the most significant decline since WWII. Yet, because of vaccine obstinance, the virus has hit red-voting areas the hardest.
Vaccines, to be clear, are not the only variable in this data. For example, Trump voters tend to skew toward an older demographic, and we know that age makes a person more susceptible to COVID-19.
Even so, the vaccines protect the elderly from COVID-19 too. The link between anti-vaccine sentiments and higher levels of suffering and death from COVID-19 are too pronounced to be ignored.
The unnecessary human suffering should, on its own merits, be enough to persuade reasonable people to get the shot, but it's not, so what if we talk about the political toll?
Only twice since the Reagan era has a Republican presidential candidate won the national popular vote: George H.W. Bush in 1988 and his son, George W. Bush, in 2004. Republicans have been leaning on the Electoral College to win the White House for a while now, but if COVID-19 continues to take Trump voters at a rate that's several times higher than Biden voters, that path to victory gets narrower.
And that's just looking through the lens of the national elections. How many congressional and state-level elections could be lost because the Republican voting base has been shrunk by COVID-19?
On a somewhat positive note, the rate of vaccinations in North Dakota, one of the most Republican states in the union, has improved this fall. However, after a spike in vaccination rates around back-to-school time, things seem to be slowing down again.
Maybe a political drive to get people vaccinated could turn things around?
Much time has been spent trying to discern the reason for Republican obstinance towards the COVID-19 vaccine. Everyone has their favorite theory. "Republicans are anti-science" is a popular one.
I think the problem is cultural. "I don't like being told what to do" is something you'll hear many right-leaning anti-vaxxers say, which is admitting that they're not getting vaccinated because vaccination is something the leftists, or institutions perceived as leftist, are promoting.
If liberals want people to get vaccinated, then conservatives will own those libs by not getting vaccinated. Or so they think.
In the end, who gets owned if the liberals win more elections because COVID-19 killed far more conservatives?
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Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at email@example.com.