Talking Points

Republicans blame liberals while finally urging vaccines

The good news is that Sarah Huckabee Sanders has come out firmly in favor of COVID-19 vaccines. The less-great news is that she built her case — naturally — using the language of culture warfare.

Huckabee, who served as Donald Trump's White House spokesperson and is now running for governor of Arkansas, urged the state's residents to get vaccinated in a Sunday op-ed for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Along the way, she attacked snooty liberal leaders and institutions like President Biden and The New York Times for planting the seeds of vaccine hesitancy.

"Dr. Fauci and the 'because science says so' crowd of arrogant, condescending politicians and bureaucrats were wrong about more than their mandates and shutdowns that have inflicted incalculable harm on our people and economy," Sanders wrote. "They also misjudged the Trump vaccine plan, which rolled out just as safely, quickly, and effectively as the Trump administration promised." She concluded by urging readers to ignore "fear-mongering and condescension" from liberals to "make the best, most informed decision you can."

Now this kind of argument was anticipated, and even hoped for by many pro-vaccination folks on the left — just look up the number of jokes on Twitter about telling conservatives the vaccines are made from "liberal tears." If giving Trump more credit or griping about condescending libs will get more shots in more arms, by all means do it. The lives and health of millions of people are at stake.

But there is a cost. Studies and polls suggest that vaccine hesitancy in America is driven, in large part, by political polarization — which means that in this case, conservative culture warring is both the cure and (in a very real sense) the disease. "To put it bluntly: Polarization is killing people," German Lopez wrote at Vox earlier this month.

It may be that dissing Democrats is the best way to get conservatives to do what they should do for their own good and the good of the country, but it also reinforces "owning the libs" as a mindset. That may make it even more difficult for America to meet its next big challenge.