Praying For Time

“You break it, you bought it” has rarely fit so aptly as it does for Republican officials finding themselves suddenly with little choice but to emphatically call for their supporters across the South and West to finally get vaccinated. 

Vaccine misinformation and antivax messaging sits squarely with conservative news and media outlets; nightly skepticism from Fox, Newsmax and OAN joined up with months of Covid minimization and attacks on leading public health figures (the especially gross attempts to go after Anthony Fauci deserve their own special section of hell). The messy witches brew of Trump sycophancy, anti-intellectual takes on science and political gamesmanship around Covid were always bound to end in a mess of infections and finger pointing… still, its been a remarkably fast six weeks since Biden’s initial 300 million vaccines ran headlong  into the vaccine resistors, and the reality of the Delta variant started shortly thereafter. 

What had been whispered in polite circles has now become the undercurrent of urgency: if Republican officials aren’t successful soon, predictions of Republican voter dominance won’t be about manufactured conspiracies and ham handed legislating… instead it will be about the devastation done to one side of the electorate by misinformation and recalcitrance and how that dominance was lost. 

All of this underscores something even more obvious: the breakdown of the right wing noise machine, the carefully constructed false narratives that animate right wing “news” outlets, that have served as an endless buffet of distractions for right wing voters, the pundit class, and ultimately all of us. Who needs masks! Mandates are fascism! What about the lab in Wuhan? Critical Race Theory will destroy us all! And on and on. 

And so we get surreal moments like an op-ed from Sarah Huckabee Sanders, one day after publicly questioning vaccines yet again, telling Arkansans that she was indeed vaccinated and they should too, but not because “The Left” is telling you to in some condescending way… do it because your preacher says so. Or something.

The narrative is falling apart because, mainly, it is a lie. When studies were able to show that the vast majority of vaccine misinformation can be traced back to just 12 Facebook users, when the Administration can calmly and with virtually no blowback point out that Fox News traffics in disinformation… conservatives panicked. It doesn’t help that at this point some 7 states in the south are facing outbreaks of Delta that amount to the worst period yet of infections and hospitalizations… and that was in the space of one week.The rest of us can (fairly) be concerned about potential implications… but all bets are going to be off if, as predicted, a swath of southern states will have India-like issues of nowhere to store ever increasing numbers of the dead.

So… well, good luck with that: good luck trying to say “we’re really telling you the truth now” as if you can perpetuate all the other lies - the January sixth insurrection stories, fearmongering Wuhan, smearing Hunter Biden, I could go on… - and not face consequences. This cannot be fixed with a tweet. This doesn’t just end. Conservatives are on the hook for all of it - all of the lies, all of the fake stories, all of the haze that kept their audience angry and fearful and spun up. In part, this is the lesson of playing with fire: I suspect many conservatives had little idea about the deep tentacles the antivax crowd had lying in wait for just this moment, ready to seize upon, repackage and expand on the little white lies they started telling about COVID vaccines. Much the way that some more cosseted Republican operatives didn’t understand a white supremacy movement just waiting for the green light to take dog whistles and make them into flat racist rhetoric. Not at first, anyway.

Critical Race Theory, though… that one you knew. You knew that was a put up job, a new meaningless jeremiad you could throw around as an all purpose slop of racist anger, education myths, and grievance politics that can set a nation back 40 years. Or more. Who cares! Anything for a win! Let’s all pretend to make Kevin McCarthy a serious man - whose only hope now is screaming at the sky while Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger help Democrats tell the true story of January sixth.

These are the days of the guilty man… and it was fine, taking all these chances while God didn’t seem to be keeping score. But the narrative is blowing up, what was over there is over here… and suddenly belief in witchcraft and fear of science could get a lot of people killed. And maybe we should all be praying for time… but hey, conservatives, why don’t you go first. Pray that you have enough time to stop the antivax madness. Pray that no one notices your house of cards tumbling down. Pray that one inkling truth doesn’t lead to a flood of raised consciousness. All that religious fervor has got to count for something. Or… just maybe… God was keeping score. And maybe you’re just not the children he’s coming back for.


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