Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan has seen Greg Abbott’s insane coronavirus vaccine mandate ban and raised the Texas governor seven more deadly diseases, tweeting that “Ohio should ban all vaccine mandates.”
It’s disturbing but not surprising that when the Republican Party is having a race to the bottom, someone’s going to scrape it. It’s no surprise at all when that someone turns out to be Jordan, who thinks rolling up his shirt sleeves when the cameras are on marks him as Everyman, albeit one who’s been accused of turning a blind eye to sexual abuse during his former career as a wrestling coach at Ohio State University.
It’s awfully quiet inside Jordan’s head, without the clanging from Republicans who are OK with every other vaccine but dead set against mandating this one to help stop the spread of a disease that’s still killing nearly 2,000 Americans a day for the simple reason that their base hates anything elites want, no matter how sensible or helpful. He’s resolved the dilemma by objecting to all of them.
Fortunately, Jordan’s words were just that, and responsible parents all over the Buckeye state had already delivered their children to the first day of classes fully immunized against polio; measles, mumps and rubella; chickenpox; hepatitis B; meningococcal disease; and diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis, as required by its its health department.
Still, it was enough for Jordan to claim the rhetorical lead in the wild competition among red-state officials to take the most radical position possible. But one reason Jordan is talking so wildly is that unlike many of his rivals who have real power, he only has Twitter.
There’s South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, who found time to push through her daughter’s real estate appraiser’s license when she wasn’t encouraging 500,000 bikers to come to Sturgis for 10 days of partying and superspreading. And Abbott, whose favorable rating in Texas has fallen to the mid-40s as he faces a re-election campaign next year and who has already lost most of the women in greater Houston and Dallas with his vigilante-enforced ban on abortions after six weeks.
Abbott has to actually do some governing, and so his position is a little less crude, sufficiently revolting to appeal to the “you’re not the boss of me” crowd while at least trying to remain flexible enough to repackage himself later for general consumption. To that end, he insists he likes the COVID vaccine, don’t get him wrong, but he won’t let government tell people what to do—unless of course they’re women who need to end a pregnancy. So he says President Biden “invaded” the Lone Star state with a vaccine mandate and the governor is only trying to protect Texas from that.
It’s a position that puts him on the other side of companies like American Airlines, which welcomed a push from Washington to help get its employees immunized and said outright that Abbott’s order “does not change anything” for it. Fortunately for Abbott, the world’s biggest airline is too big to move its massive fleet of 737s parked at its longtime hub in Dallas-Fort Worth or the thousands of employees in the state where it’s headquartered. But watch him become more nuanced should Exxon-Mobil, McKesson, or AT&T make noises. At least he’ll always have Tesla, even if the electric carmaker is an odd fit for a state in many ways defined by the oil and gas industry.
Not to be outflanked by his governor, Sen. Ted Cruz falsely claimed that the Southwest Airlines meltdown that stranded thousands of travelers was caused by pilots who refused to abide by the Biden vaccine mandate, an assertion with no basis in fact according to the carrier’s CEO and the FAA. What does Lyin’ Ted, who fudged bailing to Cancun during his state’s freeze-out, care about facts if he can own the libs for a news cycle?
The worst COVID-incited turmoil is at the local level, where the havoc anti-vax and anti-mask politicians is wreaking has turned so violent that the National School Boards Association (NSBA) sent a letter to the president deeming the clashes at school board meetings akin to “domestic terrorism.” With videos of parent-on-parent and school official brawls pouring in, Attorney General Merrick Garland told the FBI to recommend ways to address the violence.
Immediately, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell shot back that Garland’s memo doesn’t reflect what he’s seen at school boards meetings, which raises the question what news he’s watching. He should tune in to the testimony of Florida’s Brevard school board member Jennifer Jenkins describing her life. She disagreed with a resolution to curb parent participation at meetings. What she’s asking for is protection from parents menacing her and her family outside meetings, brandishing weapons at her house, and “following me around, saying that they’re coming for me, that I will need to beg for mercy.”
It gets worse. Someone made “a false DCF [Department of Child and Family Services] claim” against her, she said, and since all such reports have to be followed up on, she had “to take a DCF investigator to her [daughter’s] playdate to go underneath her clothing and check for burn marks.”
A false report to child protective services anywhere is a crime, and if Brevard Sheriff Wayne Ivey weren’t such a staunch Republican and friend of former President Donald Trump, he might investigate this one as such. Meantime, Jordan and the other Republicans who routinely go on TV to dismiss the flames they’re fanning in no small part with their pandemic pandering should stop puffing themselves up with stories of brushing off their own harassment as they walk through airports and ask themselves if they’ve ever endured having a child strip-searched because a political adversary accused them of abuse.
That, Jenkins clarified at the end of her testimony, “is what I’m against.”
Not McConnell, who summarized his opposition to the AG’s memo by describing what’s happening as “democracy, not intimidation,” a new chapter in defining deviancy down as practiced by former Vice President Mike Pence. He recently downplayed Jan. 6, when Trump supporters weren’t actually looking to lock him up but to string him up, as just “one day in January” that the media supposedly wants to distract the public with.
We no longer live in a country where there’s agreement on what constitutes the common good. It’s two decades since half the country told Gallup we were on the right track, and longer still since 600 children died in the early days of the polio vaccine but parents still followed the science and lined up their offspring for the immunization until iron lungs all but disappeared.
If Jim Jordan would roll down his sleeves—he can since he’s had his shots, like most of his GOP colleagues—and stop making absurd pronouncements, the same will someday be true of ventilators.