‘Trump is not my God’: How the former president’s only vaccine victory turned sour | donald trump
She is fiercely loyal to Donald Trump. But when the former US president came to his hometown and praised coronavirus vaccines, Flora Moore did something she never thought possible. She booed him.
“He said take the vaccine but we all booed and said no“, she remembered Trump’s event with broadcaster Bill O’Reilly in Orlando, Florida. “He heard us loud and clear because the Amway Center was packed. We told him “no” and some of us even shouted: “It kills people! »”
There is no scientific basis for the claim that vaccines kill people. In fact, they have obviously saved thousands of lives. But Moore is indicative of the extreme anti-vaccine sentiment consuming the base of the Republican Party — a monster Trump himself can no longer control.
America is exhausted by a pandemic still killing more than 2,400 people a day, the overwhelming majority of which are unvaccinated, bringing the total death toll to 900,000.
In more conventional times, Trump’s Operation Warp Speed, which developed vaccines in record time, would be a source of pride for his constituents. Even his successor, Joe Biden, hailed the initiative, indicating: “Thanks to the previous administration and our scientific community, America was one of the first countries to receive the vaccine.”
But Trump’s eagerness to claim credit has been dashed by conservative backlash against Biden’s efforts to legally require workers to be vaccinated, which they portray as a threat to individual liberty. The ex-president’s usual applause turned to mockery as he encouraged his supporters to get vaccinated and told O’Reilly that he himself received a reminder.
What was arguably Trump’s most important legacy after an otherwise disastrous pandemic response and a divisive four-year presidency has turned into a political liability, threatening to turn his own fans against him. Laurie Garrett, an award-winning science writer, observed, “That’s probably the only time his base booed him about anything. If he can’t brag about Operation Warp Speed anymore, what can he brag about the way he handled Covid?”
Anti-vaccine fervor has been stoked by some Republican politicians as well as the right-wing media. Last month, Fox News host Tucker Carlson, a notorious skeptic, gave writer Alex Berenson a platform to to proclaim without foundation, “Covid mRNA vaccines must be taken off the market now. No one should get them. No one should be boosted. No one should be double boosted.
The web has also become a place where unscientific conspiracy theories develop. Moore, the Trump supporter in Florida, said she gets her information from her 30,000 followers on Facebook as well as Telegram, Twitter and YouTube.
She said, “I don’t trust the government. I don’t trust pharmaceutical companies. I’m active in politics here and found out that a lot of people had complications and died. There are a lot of jobs I won’t even take because they want me to get vaccinated.
The business analyst, who is in her 40s, refuses to wear a face mask in restaurants or at work. His radical views on the matter outweigh even his faith in Trump.
“I trust him on some things, but it’s not my God,” she said.
Trump appears to have heeded the change and recalibrated. At a rally in Conroe, Texas, last Saturday, where anti-vaccine views were once again prevalent, he channeled the crowd’s anger at Biden’s mandate for federal government employees (a similar mandate for enterprises was rejected by the Supreme Court).
“It is time for the American people to declare their independence from every last term of Covid,” Trump said to cheers. “We need to tell this bunch of hypocrites, bullies and racists that we are done letting them control our lives, waste our children and shut down our businesses. We are moving from Covid.
He then added emphatically: “We did a great job. Operation Warp Speed has been hailed by everyone, but now is the time to move on. Notably in the remarks, he didn’t use the word “vaccines” at all. It was a pivot that seemed to recognize the political threat and that’s enough to satisfy voters like Moore.
She commented: “I think he got the message that he can say he took the vaccine and nothing happened to him and if you want to take it, take it, but if you don’t , leave him alone.”
The number of anti-vaxxers in the Republican base is difficult to estimate. The Guardian interviewed half a dozen attendees at the Trump rally last week and found that most got the beatings. They included Jered Pettis, of Phoenix, Arizona, who had changed his mind on the subject.
“We were totally anti-vaccine, we didn’t really believe in it, we didn’t want to get it,” he said. “Then a friend got it pretty badly: he could barely breathe and felt like his head was going to explode. He didn’t go to hospital but he was very, very sick to the point where he told me said, “Hey, Jered. I’m so grateful for every breath of air I get now. After seeing and hearing one of my best friends go through this, I changed my mind in a heartbeat. ‘eye.
Pettis received two doses of Pfizer, then caught the virus just over a month ago. “So thank God, because I would have been much sicker than I was. It was almost like a mild cold. I could just imagine if I wasn’t vaccinated.
Exterior designer, 50, describes recent boos as ‘absolutely ridiculous’ and believes Trump deserves credit, not criticism, for vaccines. “Even though you may be anti-vaccine, you will change your mind if you get sick or someone around you dies.”
Even so, a deep-seated suspicion of vaccines could deprive Republicans of what could have been a powerful boast ahead of November’s midterm elections. Garrett, author of The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance, points out that counties that voted for Trump in 2020 have a far higher death rate than counties that voted for Biden.
“Republicans are at an impasse,” she said. “They are experiencing a higher death rate within their ranks and it is directly related to their positions on Covid. The one thing they could claim as a great life-saving benefit, vaccination, they are now being forced by their own base to give up.
Vaccine skepticism has never been a purely right-wing position. Some Libertarians on the left opposed big, for-profit pharmaceutical companies and advocated for holistic alternatives. But on Covid-19, at least, that group appears to be significantly smaller than the conservative holdouts.
Garrett said: “All the polls show a huge partisan differential in all things vaccines. and it has steadily increased over the past two years. He is very much driven by right-wing myths and narratives around Covid.
“There are still some of these types of ex-hippies who don’t want to get vaccinated, but if you look at the breakdown of the political sentiment about vaccination, the desire to get a third booster or even a fourth s’ it becomes available, it’s so democratic. It’s amazing,” Garrett said. “I never thought in my life that I would see something like this. It’s an absolute partisan divide and it’s widening.
About nine in 10 Democrats and six in 10 Republicans have been vaccinated, according to a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation, while 62% of Democrats and only 32% of Republicans were both vaccinated and boosted. The trend suggests that Republican candidates in the midterm elections will likely follow Trump’s lead in attacking Biden’s terms rather than celebrating Trump’s vaccines.
But if any Republican can outflank Trump on the issue ahead of the 2024 presidential election, it might be Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis who declined to say whether he received a callback. The New York Times reported that Patrick Ruffini, a Republican pollster, found Trump’s lead over DeSantis closing to just nine points among party members who like the two men.
Monika McDermott, a professor of political science at Fordham University in New York, said: “They can be unhappy with Trump, certainly, and DeSantis is the obvious choice for anti-vax people. But giving up on Trump is like giving up on their dreams at this point. Trump was their saviour. Trump has caused the total remasculization of this part of the American psyche.
Indeed, despite the possible split with his Make America Great Again movement on vaccines, Trump remains by far the biggest beast in the Republican jungle and announced this week that he is entering 2022 with a staggering $122 million in campaign funds.
Joe Walsh, a Republican former congressman active on social media, said: “I talk to extremists all the time and I agree with the Trump people that they are locked in with him. They don’t go to anyone else.
Walsh finds that 90% of the base is anti-vaccine, doesn’t believe Biden won, and has no problem with the Jan. 6 uprising or viewing it as a patriotic day.
“As a Republican candidate, you couldn’t run for office if you told people to get vaccinated or if you said Joe Biden won fairly,” he added. “If you said either of those two things, you couldn’t win a Republican primary..”