Republicans have consistently, perversely sabotaged attempts to stop the spread of the coronavirus. They have been hostile to lockdowns, social distancing, and mask and vaccine mandates. Instead, many Republicans have embraced either fatalism (“There are more important things than living,” the Republican lieutenant governor of Texas said last year) or quack cures such as hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin. Another GOP favorite — monoclonal antibody therapy — is more effective in treating covid patients, but monoclonal antibodies are in short supply, forcing the Biden administration to ration the drugs.
The result is a preventable tragedy. The United States has enough vaccine doses for everyone, yet we rank behind 43 other countries — and rapidly falling — in the percentage of our population that is vaccinated. We have been averaging 2,045 covid deaths a day over the past seven days — more than twice as many as any other nation.
Two red states — Florida and Texas — account for nearly a third of recent covid deaths. Florida’s death rate is more than 10 times that of New York, whose largest city requires proof of vaccination for people going to restaurants, bars, gyms and shows. Another red state — Mississippi — has overtaken New Jersey for the highest number of covid deaths per 100,000 people. Even if monoclonal antibodies were in more abundant supply, they couldn’t bring back the dead.
Republicans are just as blinkered in their approach to climate change — an issue that President Biden highlighted at the United Nations on Tuesday. The world has already warmed more than 1 degree Celsius since preindustrial times, and on the current trajectory temperatures will rise 2.7 degrees by the end of the century. The consequences of climate change are already catastrophic, and only getting worse.
A Post analysis found that nearly 1 in 3 Americans experienced a weather disaster this summer: “Record-shattering temperatures in the Pacific Northwest cooked hundreds of people to death in their own homes. Flash floods turned basement apartments into death traps and in one instance ripped twin babies from their father’s arms. Wildfires raged through 5 million acres of tinder-dry forest. Chronic drought pushed federal officials to impose mandatory cuts to Colorado River water for the first time.”
Yet Republicans remain in denial. One poll found that only 10 percent of them cite climate change as a top priority, and only 17 percent say human activity contributes a “great deal” to warming. Even Republicans in Congress who admit that climate change is real are trying to block Biden’s plan to transition to renewable energy. They would rather spend billions to help communities cope with the impact of extreme weather — for example, by building higher sea walls — or hope for the development of technologies to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
The Republican mantra is that cutting fossil fuel use will kill jobs. Republicans don’t seem to care that climate change is killing people — and also inflicting heavy economic costs. (The United States suffered $95 billion in damage from extreme weather events in 2020.) There is simply no way that infrastructure investment can keep up with the consequences of unchecked climate change. The Post notes that, in a worst-case scenario, “More than 60,000 additional people may be killed per year by extreme heat by 2050.”
While we deal with the consequences of covid-19 and global warming, the United States is also being ravaged by an epidemic of gun violence. Last year, with nearly 20,000 people killed by firearms (not counting suicides), gun deaths spiked to a level we haven’t seen in decades. This year is even worse. No other advanced industrialized democracy has this kind of gun violence — not even close. U.S. gun deaths are more than eight times higher than in Canada and nearly 100 times higher than in the United Kingdom.
Republicans are all in favor of more police officers and longer prison sentences — but they refuse to do anything to reduce the availability of firearms. Just the opposite. The Republican-majority legislature in Texas just approved, and the Republican governor signed, a law that will make it easy to carry a gun in public without a permit. The Texas Tribune reports that law enforcement officers worry that this “could increase crime rates while putting officers and residents in danger,” but the self-described “pro-life” party couldn’t care less.
Why won’t the GOP do more to avert so many foreseeable tragedies? Because it is afraid to take on anti-vaxxers and covid deniers, oil and gas interests, and the gun lobby. Due to a combination of extremism and expedience, Republicans are allowing problems to fester at great cost rather than dealing with them at the source.