Mississippi’s Republican governor, Tate Reeves, appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday, tried to justify his refusal to require coronavirus vaccines in his state, which has a long list of required vaccines for schoolchildren. It did not go well. Reeves called President Biden’s directive a “tyrannical-type move.”

To grasp the utter pigheadedness of the anti-mandate crowd, consider this revealing extended excerpt:

CNN host Jake Tapper: The virus has killed more than 660,000 Americans.
You’re calling the move tyrannical. Just so our viewers understand it, President Biden says he’s using a workplace safety law called the Occupation — Occupational Safety and Health Act to justify the mandate. . . . I mean, if there ever were a reason to use this law, wouldn’t it be during a pandemic, with almost 2,000 Americans dying every day?
Tate Reeves: Well, again, Jake, over 9,000 Mississippians have passed away with covid, and every single one of them breaks my heart. It is — it is a very difficult situation that we, as Mississippians, and we, as Americans, find ourselves in.
But we also have to understand that, as we look forward, if this president has the ability to mandate vaccines, what powers do we not grant this president? What does he not have the ability to do? . . . That’s another point that I think your viewers need to know, Jake, is that we haven’t seen the actual rule itself. All we’ve had is a press conference. It was 10 days ago or so . . .
Tapper: Let’s talk about what you and the legislature in Mississippi [are] doing, because I’m sure I don’t need to tell you Mississippi this week became the state with the worst number of coronavirus deaths per capita.
In fact, if Mississippi were its own country, you would be second in the world, only to Peru, in terms of deaths per capita. That's a horrible, horrible, heartbreaking statistic.
So, with all due respect, Governor, your way is failing. Are you going to try to change anything to change this horrible statistic from what you're doing already?
Reeves: Yes, well, obviously, the — in Mississippi, our legislature is a part-time legislature.
I — sometimes, I wonder if in America if our Congress was part-time, we wouldn’t be in a better position.
But let’s talk a little bit about . . .
Tapper: Better position than what?
Reeves: . . . Mississippi and where we are with the virus.
Tapper: Your state is second worst — second worst in the world.
I mean, I — how can you say that?
Reeves: Let’s talk about where we are and why — well, Jake, let’s talk about where we are and why we are there.
In large part, just like the summer of 2020, it was the Sun Belt states that saw the initial surge from the delta variant. It started — the first state that I saw seeing upticks was Missouri, and then it was Arkansas, and then it was Louisiana. And now it’s Mississippi.
Our surge went from less than 100 cases per day in Mississippi to 3,600, much like what happened in the country of Israel, much what — like what happened in the country of Great Britain and in England. We saw a very quick spike, and now we’re seeing a very could — a very, very quick decline in the total number of cases.
We spiked at about 3,600. We’re now half of that in our state.
As you know . . .
Tapper: Right.
Reeves: . . . unfortunately, fatalities is a lagging indicator when it comes to the virus. It is a lagging indicator.
And so timing has as much to do with where — with that statistic that you used as anything else, as we see in 2021 what occurred in 2020 as the delta variant moves around the country. and it’s going to happen.
The president wants you to believe . . .
Tapper: But . . .
Reeves: . . . that this is — the delta variant is only affecting Republicans in red states.
Tapper: Are you going to change anything?
(crosstalk)
Reeves: That’s just not true. That is not a fact.
Tapper: I understand. I understand. But you’re — you’re . . .
Reeves: That is just not true.
And so what you’re going to see . . .
Tapper: Mr. Governor, my point is this.
Reeves: What you’re going to see, Jake, is the . . .
Tapper: You compare yourself to Israel. Israel has something like the . . .
Reeves: . . . delta variant is going to continue to move around the country.
Tapper: Yes.
Reeves: And you’re going to see fatalities rise in other states.
And so here’s what we need to focus on, Jake, okay? Let’s focus on this.
Tapper: But my question is, what are you going to do to change...
Reeves: The best way in which America...
Tapper: What are you going to do to change this? . . .
Tapper: Governor, if Mississippi were a country, you would have the second-worst per capita death toll in the world.
And I'm saying, are you going to do anything to try to change that?
Reeves: Jake, as I mentioned earlier, deaths, unfortunately, are a lagging indicator.
Our total number of cases went from 100 to 3,600 and, over the last two weeks, has declined. They have been cut in half from 3,600 to 1,800.
When you wanted me to come on . . .
Tapper: So you think it — so you think this is successful?
Reeves: . . . three or four weeks, you wanted to talk about our number of cases. And then you want to talk about our hospitalizations. Now you want to talk about a lagging indicator, which is sad.
And — and it’s true.
Tapper: I’m trying to talk about the dead in Mississippi, is what I’m trying to talk about.
Reeves: And I -- my heart breaks for all 9,000 Mississippians that have passed away.
But let's put this in perspective, Jake. I mean the reality is, Mississippi accounts for 1 percent of the U.S. population. We account for 1.1 percent of the total number of cases in America. And we account for 1.29 percent of the total number of fatalities in America.
Tapper: Right.
Reeves: And so the reality is, the delta variant is very transmissible, and it is moving around the country.
If you want to talk about cases right now, talk about Kentucky or West Virginia or what's happening in North Carolina, or moving into Southern Virginia. This virus is very transmissible.
Tapper: I’m asking you about your state. But — I’m not going to ask you about West Virginia or Kentucky. I’m going to ask you about your state.
And I'm just saying, you seem to be very, very activated when it comes to fighting the mandate from the federal government. And I understand the arguments you're making.
But what President Biden is trying to do is save lives. Now, you can think that policy or it's unconstitutional, and that's fine. We can have that discussion. We already have. But he's trying to save lives.
I'm saying to you, your way's not working. And whether you say it's a lagging indicator or whatever your argument is, Mississippi now has, if it were its own country, the second worst per capita death rate in the world, behind only Peru.
And I’m saying, are you going to try to do anything to change that? And I’m — I’m not hearing an answer . . .

The conversation continued on and on. Tapper never got an answer. It is unclear whether Reeves is cowering before a rabid electorate, or whether the governor actually believes using the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to mandate vaccines is worse than thousands of deaths.

What is clear is that opposition to mandates is not working well for MAGA governors. Nationally, mandates remain hugely popular. The latest Fox News poll shows 67 percent of voters (including 42 percent of Republicans) support mask mandates for students and teachers, and 66 percent for an employer’s workers and customers. By a 61 percent to 36 percent margin, they favor vaccine requirements for teachers; 37 percent of Republicans favor such mandates. Voters favor vaccine mandates by a 58 percent to 40 percent margin for all government workers (34 percent of Republicans favor them), and by a margin of 56 percent to 41 for employees of firms with at least 100 workers (with testing as an alternative). Among Republicans, 32 percent favor this part of Biden’s plan.

As an aside, the media hysteria about Biden’s poll numbers seems overwrought if not downright wrong. Fox News reports on its poll: “Biden garners his best job rating for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic: 55 percent approve, while 44 percent disapprove. That’s mostly unchanged from August (54-42 percent), but down from 64-34 percent in June. . . . Biden’s overall job rating stands at 50 percent approve and 49 percent disapprove.” His overall rating is down three percentage points since last month.

Anti-mandate furor is not even popular in deep-red states. The most recent poll from the Dallas Morning News and the University of Texas at Tyler finds approval of Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a inveterate opponent of mandates, sliding from 59 to 45 percent, while 54 percent of Texans think the state is on the wrong track. Some of this may be attributable to Texas’s antiabortion bounty law, which makes it illegal for abortions to be performed after six weeks of pregnancy. (On abortion more broadly, according to the poll, 48 percent of residents want to see Roe v. Wade overturned. Fifty percent want to keep the 1973 decision, amounting to a statistical tie.)

Fourteen of the 15 least-vaccinated states have GOP governors. The six states with highest covid-19 deaths per capita all have GOP governors as well. These governors are failing spectacularly as they willfully contribute to the toll of entirely avoidable deaths and hospitalizations. Their actions are politically destructive. They seem to imagine their political future depends on satisfying the most extreme elements of the GOP, even as they put the health and lives of people in their party in jeopardy. Few could have expected moral and political insanity on this level from a party that was — until Biden took office — not anti-medicine.

That so many people refuse to receive a vaccine approved by the Food and Drug Administration but trust the FDA-approved monoclonal antibody treatment for covid-19 or — worse — unproven drugs such as the horse dewormer ivermectin, suggests a level of irrationality and oppositional behavior (Biden want us to get shots, so we don’t!) more indicative of a cult than people capable of self-governance.

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On a more general level, the MAGA cult’s claim that their anger is the result of elite condescension or economic dislocation never made much sense. MAGA politicians and their most virulent supporters seem more motivated — to the point of self-destruction — by unhinged and illogical resentment. Ending that phenomenon may be more challenging than ending the pandemic itself.