Own the Libs; Get Vaccinated!

How can we encourage Republicans to do the right thing?

Young woman with mask thumbs up after getting vaccinated for coronavirus.
Pfizer second-dose (and mask) success! (Photo by author.)

Despite alleged political games playing out in various states, the rollout of the Covid-19 vaccines is going reasonably well in the United States. As of this writing, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. has delivered 113 million shots of vaccine and is currently providing 2.4 million shots a day. Some 74 million (22%) have received one dose and nearly 40 million (12%) are now fully vaccinated.

As of Tuesday, because of my cardiovascular condition, I am one of them. (I’ve never had a nickname, but these days go ahead and call me “Stenty.”)

Even though the rollout is going fairly well, there is an imperative to get enough of the population vaccinated to reach herd immunity and tamp down the spread and the creation of new variants. Health experts generally think herd immunity comes with somewhere north of 80% of the population vaccinated. So, the Biden team is thinking outside the box on vaccines — talking about having dentists, medical school students, and even veterinarians provide shots.

You could, say, get Fido checked for worms and get your Covid-19 shot all in one go (well, if it is the Johnson & Johnson version). Root canal? For a brief period, not necessarily such bad news.

The story in Europe is not as good. A number of countries there are going into lockdowns again due to spikes in cases. Only about 8% of EU citizens have received a vaccine, and supplies remain low. Meanwhile, the Gates Foundation is funding the World Health Organization to help with the work of providing the vaccines to poor and developing countries in the rest of the world.

Meanwhile, in this country various polls indicate that nearly half of Republicans say they will wait to get the vaccine — or not get it at all.

How can we encourage them to change their minds?

The Biden administration has turned to religious leaders, and all the former presidents and first ladies (save one couple) have done an excellent television spot, “It’s Up To You.” The Biden White House is reportedly prepared to spend $1.5 billion on advertising, no doubt to create spots with well-selected celebrities to speak up about the importance of our all working together — like, you know, Americans — to crush the curve with the vaccine.

Perhaps, as Republicans like to put it, the efforts need to be better “targeted” to specific audiences:

  • With each vaccination, a certificate for a choice of a Chick-fil-A sandwich or a tiki torch from the local home improvement supercenter?
  • In exchange for a slightly reduced sentence, have that “Q Shaman” guy do a spot touting the ‘Merican Freedom the vaccine promises? (He could shake his American flag spear-thingy.)
  • Offer a “Shot for a Shot” promotion at gun ranges, where everyone who gets a shot in the arm gets free extra shooting time?
  • Ad campaign: “Join a Worthy Insurrection-Against COVID-19. Get Vaccinated!”

Our younger daughter came up with the “Shots for Shots” gun promotion and noted you could also use it, to attract people of any political persuasion, at local bars and clubs.

To reach more Trump acolytes, it would be good if you could manage to convince them that getting the vaccine was a way to “own the libs.” Maybe a print campaign of various famous liberals smiling confidently with a Band-Aid on their upper arm, glass of champagne in hand, and the tagline: “Real Patriots Don’t Let Libs Out-Survive Them!” “Darwin, Too, Is Smiling,” or some such.

The truth is, more people will likely quietly get the vaccine when it becomes readily available, no matter what they say to pollsters. Just make it ubiquitous and quick.

Might we get “Q” to say a word in favor of the vaccine? C’mon big guy! Can you just say something like “Look it up for yourself?” with “secret” links to the CDC website and Vaccine Finder?

Donald and Melania Trump apparently quietly received the vaccine at the White House in January but did not use that moment to encourage others to do so. The former president briefly mentioned the vaccine at Conservative Political Action Conference (“Everybody, get your shot”) and then talked up the vaccine, somewhat desultorily, on “Fox News” this week. It wasn’t another one of his hostage-reading-a-script performances, but given that he also talked about people’s freedom to not take the vaccine, it wasn’t really much of an urging for his followers to comply for the benefit of all citizens. (At least he said it was safe.)

It is worth noting that at CPAC, Trump for the umpteenth time pointedly referred to the coronavirus the “China virus,” despite ongoing horrific attacks on Asian Americans.

It is also worth noting that largely due to his slow, confused, politicized, and often mendacious response the United States has done remarkably poorly in saving lives in the coronavirus pandemic. By early July, 600,000 Americans will have died as a result of COVID-19, or just above 15% of the global death total (3.9 million). As we all surely know by now, the United States accounts for only about 4% of the global population.

How can we motivate nearly half of our population, still Trump-drunk, to act responsibly?

Originally published at https://kirkswearingen.substack.com.

Kirk Swearingen is a poet and an independent journalist. His work has appeared in Salon and The American Journal of Poetry.

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