September 14, 2020
Beware COVID-19 Vaccine Politics
By Buck Sexton
Last week, President Trump made an optimistic claim… “We could have a vaccine soon, maybe even before a special day. You know what day I’m talking about.”
The possibility of a COVID-19 breakthrough should be positive news to all Americans. But some are terrified for what it will mean for the national election, now less than two months away.
Never in living memory has an emerging medical breakthrough been poised to play such a critical role in who will stay – or become – the leader of the free world.
For the American people, of course, the vaccine can’t come soon enough…
We’ve been living through the slow-moving nightmare of COVID-19 lockdowns for more than seven months now.
Despite mask mandates, stay-at-home orders, and a slew of other onerous regulations meant to slow the spread of the disease, the U.S. has had more than 6 million documented cases of COVID-19. That’s considered a small fraction – perhaps only 10% – of all actual cases, as estimated millions more were never officially diagnosed. The government wasn’t able to prevent the virus’s spread, but now it has a chance to end it. The vaccine’s time line is now the biggest question, with the most political implications.
As a general matter, everyone wants a vaccine to cure the coronavirus scourge. But how soon? And who will get credit for it? The politics around this tremendous scientific achievement are starting to drown out the unity and optimism that should define a cure for a disease that has killed close to 200,000 Americans, according to official numbers.
The reason is clear: A COVID-19 vaccine could be a major game changer for the election.
If President Trump is able to point to the success of “Operation Warp Speed” in delivering a lifesaving vaccine in record time before voters go into the polling booths, he will be in a stronger position to win re-election. Democrats are aware of this, as are the anti-Trump partisans in the liberal media. That’s leading to a bizarre surge of what sounds distressingly close to “anti-vax” rhetoric from the Left.
For example, take Senator Bernie Sanders on CNN. He won’t say that a vaccine won’t be safe… but he does want everyone in America to think that Trump is willing to push through an unsafe vaccine. As he said last week:
“Look, I think you’ve got a president who’s losing it… everyone wants a vaccine, but we want to make sure that vaccine is safe. We don’t want to see that vaccine put on the market for political reasons.”
For comrade Sanders to suggest President Trump would ram through an unsafe vaccine is reckless but entirely unsurprising. The Democrats know they cannot allow him to have this political win. In a very tight election, the vaccine’s readiness – or its definitive approval – before November 3 could tip the balance. That’s why there is a narrative battle underway right now to make sure that voters don’t credit Trump with any COVID-19 successes.
We should also expect the media to run a subtle propaganda campaign on the vaccine, always leaving room to say that they’re just “asking questions.”
They will appeal to the substantial “anti-vax” sentiments that are widespread within the U.S population, stopping just short of outright support for conspiracy theories.
Here’s what you should expect…
First, Democrat politicians will say that they are deeply supportive of science and think vaccines are wonderful innovations – but with Trump in charge, who knows? Maybe Putin interfered with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) approval process on behalf of the president.
Editorials in major newspapers and magazines will play a large role, as journalists and public intellectuals make their case for why vaccines are usually great – but do you really trust a vaccine that the Trump presidency oversaw? Unsubstantiated whispers will have the intended effect.
The free-for-all rabble-rousers of social media will amplify those whispers into screaming matches. Does Ivanka own stock in a pharmaceutical company involved? Maybe the FDA approved it, but can you really trust the head of the FDA since he’s donated to Republicans?
Major newspapers and flagship cable news shows will take their turn discrediting Operation Warp Speed – covering every alleged negative reaction to the vaccine like a national crisis.
And if and when one of the vaccines (there will be several soon) has proven safe and effective, then questions about whether Vice President Pence’s task force has done enough to help states safely deploy it will dominate the headlines. And so on, and so on…
The media’s undermining of the vaccine is a foregone conclusion. Expect it to last precisely until November 3. Then – depending on the outcome of the election – expect a quick turnaround… the sun is shining again, and FDA-approved vaccines are certainly safe.
All just in time for the onset of a Biden presidency, for which there will unfortunately never be a vaccine.
Now here are some of the stories we’re reading…
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Rule or Riot
If the idea of a November spent hunkered down at home with mass protests and violence again roiling the streets sounds appealing, don’t worry: The left has a plan for that.
And let us know what you’re reading at [email protected].
Executive Editor, American Consequences
With P.J. O’Rourke and the Editorial Staff
September 14, 2020