Sheila Kennedy: Pandemic is example of when identity politics kills

  • Comments
  • Print

Polling has confirmed the troubling politicization of what should be a straightforward health care decision. To date, some 86% of Democrats have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine shot, while only 45% of Republicans have.

Furthermore, a survey by The Washington Post found that only 6% of Democratic respondents reported an intent to decline the vaccine, while 47% of Republicans said they would probably refuse to be inoculated.

Not to put too fine a point on it, this is insane.

Aside from people with genuine medical conditions that make vaccination unwise, the various justifications offered for denying the vaccine range from hypocritical (“pro-life” politicians suddenly defending the right of individuals to control their own bodies) to inaccurate (“freedom” has never included the right to endanger others—if it did, we’d have the “freedom” to drive drunk and ignore red lights), to conspiratorial (COVID is a “hoax” perpetrated by those hated liberals).

America has always had citizens willing to make decisions that endanger others; what is truly mystifying, however, is why such people are clustered in red states—very much including Indiana. At a time when three states in the Northeast have reached President Biden’s 70% benchmark, data from 15 red states shows half or fewer of adult residents vaccinated.

Virtually every state with large numbers of people who have refused vaccination is predominantly Republican. In several of those states, hospitalizations of the unvaccinated threaten to overwhelm health care systems. New York, a blue state, has five COVID patients hospitalized per 100,000 people; red state Florida, where Gov. Ron DeSantis has actually barred businesses from requiring patrons to show proof of vaccination, has 34 per 100,000.

DeSantis’ Trumpian approach is an excellent example of just how dramatically the GOP has departed from the philosophy that used to define it. Whatever happened to the Republican insistence that business owners have the right to determine the rules for their own employees and patrons? (They still give lip service to those rules when the issue is whether to serve LGBTQ customers, but happily abandon them when the decision involves the health and safety of those same patrons.)

And what happened to the GOP’s former insistence on patriotism? Surely protecting others in one’s community from a debilitating and frequently deadly disease is patriotic.

Tribalism has clearly triumphed over logic. The desire to “own the libs” has proved to be more powerful than self-protection. As Amanda Marcotte recently wrote in Salon, “Getting the vaccine would be an admission for conservatives that they were wrong about COVID-19 in the first place, and that liberals were right. And for much of red-state America, that’s apparently a far worse fate than death.”

Making vaccine refusal a badge of political affiliation makes absolutely no sense. It does, however, correspond to the precipitous decline of rationality in what was once the “Grand Old Party”—a party now characterized by the anti-science, anti-logic, anti-intellectualism of officials like Marjorie Taylor Greene, Lauren Boebert, Jim Jordan, Paul Gosar and Louie Gohmert (who was memorably described by Charlie Savage as “the dumbest mammal to enter a legislative chamber since Caligula’s horse”).

These mental giants (cough, cough) are insisting that vaccination will “magnetize” the body and make keys stick to you, and/or charging that Bill Gates is sneaking “tracking chips” into the vaccine doses. (As a friend recently wondered, don’t most of those people warning against “tracking devices” own cell phones?? Talk about tracking … .)

Talk about buffoonery.

Bill Hudnut and Richard Lugar must be rotating in their graves.•


Kennedy recently retired as professor of law and public policy at the Paul H. O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs at IUPUI.

Please enable JavaScript to view this content.

Story Continues Below

Editor's note: You can comment on IBJ stories by signing in to your IBJ account. If you have not registered, please sign up for a free account now. Please note our updated comment policy that will govern how comments are moderated.

5 thoughts on “Sheila Kennedy: Pandemic is example of when identity politics kills

  1. We must tip our hat to the demos favorite whipping boy, former President Donald J. Trump, for taking immediate action to have an effective vaccine developed at “Warp Speed”. If the Biden administration were genuinely interested to encourage more to get vaccinated, it would initiate something similar to “warp speed” to move the vaccines to “fully FDA approved”, rather than the current status as “FDA approved for emergency use”. There should be more than ample data based on the numbers vaccinated. However in Standard Operating Procedure for the Demos ethos of “never let a good crisis go to waste”, not getting FDA approval serves to perpetuate a crisis, while instead, they focus on bankrupting our nation with wasteful stimulus spending (our federal government has a well-documented track record of not getting any “bang for the buck”), which will inevitably morph into …, a major financial meltdown … “crisis”. Perfect for the Demos as for them you can never have enough crises (plural). New York has a lower case rate because residents are fleeing the “failed blue state of New York” for successful states like Florida. Due in large part to an unbearable tax burden, soaring violent crime and murder rates in metro areas, and a governor with blood on his hands for infecting nursing homes causing numerous deaths. Once again, Sheila Kennedy delivers a predictable “partisan” political belief. This one is typical, with undocumented poll information and opinion, but I will credit her for an unwavering allegiance to the liberal cause, supported by a dogmatic effort to regularly harp and chant the liberal platform ans beliefs …, that she no doubt truly believes.

  2. The first two comments are spot-on. Thank goodness this leftist hack has “recently retired” from a career poisoning young minds under the guise of higher education.

  3. In typical Marxist fashion SSK wants her cake and it it too. Oh yea if we are talking about the murder of babies in the womb it is “my body my choice”. When it comes to vaccine My body my choice, “Not to put too fine a point on it, this is insane.'”.

    The Marxist have no absolutes and therefor can always have it there way. Global warming is prime example. They were not garnering enough fear with .05 C increase in temperature over 50 years, they had to resort to climate change. Heck if you don’t like the weather wait 5 minutes and it will change. So when it does/doesn’t rain, snow or gets cold or hot it fits neatly into the climate change box.

    it is good to have no moral absolutes and yet always be right or left as it would be.

  4. Ah retired professor…never a more appropriate TRUSH than “Those who can do, and those who can’t, teach”. Yes, thankfully she is not longer poisoning the youth w her Marxist rhetoric.