Republicans are increasingly making opposition to COVID-19 vaccine mandates a requirement for membership in their club, but sometimes, as Rep. Jim Jordan found out Tuesday night, that sets you up for a takedown.
Ouch. But hey, a man who spent his early career ignoring sexual abuse against the college students he was responsible for and then goes on to have a highly public career as a loudmouth attack dog is going to have to learn to handle that kind of reminder.
For the record, Ohio has had more than 1.47 million cases of COVID-19, and more than 23,000 deaths from the disease.
Ohio also currently has a fairly standard list of required immunizations for children to attend public school: diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, hepatitis B, varicella, and meningococcal. Does Jordan want to bring back polio, tetanus, and measles? See if he can boost those numbers up to compete with coronavirus numbers for cases, hospitalizations, and deaths?
Throughout the pandemic, Republicans have fought one kind of public health measure after another, insisting on their absolute right to spread disease in whatever way they want. The new hotness is opposition to vaccine mandates—mandates that wouldn’t have been necessary if high-profile Republicans hadn’t made vaccination a partisan issue to begin with. Republican lawmakers in many states, including Texas, Arkansas, Wyoming, South Dakota, Tennessee, and more are pushing for bans on vaccine requirements. Florida has already fined one county for putting a vaccine mandate into place. This trend is dangerous in itself as it exists right now. But it could become much more dangerous because today’s Republicans are so happy to climb on any slippery slope and then throw lubricant in front of themselves.
President Joe Biden has repeatedly made clear that he didn’t start out wanting to impose mandates. But they became necessary because a lot of people—including a disproportionate number of Republicans—refused to get vaccinated, and COVID-19 rates were skyrocketing. And mandates work. A lot of people are vaccinated who would not otherwise be, and that is saving lives and, ultimately, slowing the spread of the virus. But Republicans, ever in search of 1) something to be angry about and 2) ways to ensure that the government in general and Democratic leadership in particular fail, are making the righteous fight against a life-saving vaccine their big cause. Even, as in Texas, when it leads them to turn their backs on previously held positions like “private companies should get to do whatever they want.”
Jim Jordan is an angry clown, but these days, he’s one of the official faces of the Republican Party, the guy House Republicans put on every high-profile committee and want the media to go to for a quote on every hot issue. And at this rate—considering the recent record of the Republican Party in moving ever toward the fringe—we can’t be surprised if Republicans do move from opposing COVID-19 vaccination mandates to opposing all vaccination mandates, even the ones that are uncontroversially the law in their own states. When a Florida state legislator floated exactly that idea a few weeks ago, he ended up walking it back. But it would be foolish to bet that the idea is dead.