There’s a sort of petulance that’s common in a lot of political discourse, a well-they-do-it-too shruggery that serves little purpose other than to deflect criticism. It’s a very specific flavor of whataboutism, America’s preferred rhetorical device in the moment, by a wide margin. That’s particularly true on the political right, where critiques of Donald Trump met with, “Well, what about Barack Obama?” ripostes over and over for four-plus years. Where efforts to combat gun violence are met with, “Well, what about Chicago?”

And now, efforts to convince Republicans to get vaccinated against the coronavirus are being met with, “Well, what about Black people?”

Since it became obvious several months ago that the country’s overall vaccination rate was being hampered by resistance from Republicans — resistance clearly linked to skepticism fostered by conservative media and celebrated by Trump — that rejoinder has cropped up. Sure, Republican vaccination rates are low, but so are Black vaccination rates. Why aren’t Democrats complaining about that? Clearly because of hypocrisy.

That argument has never been robust for an immediately obvious reason. Black vaccination rates are low compared to White Americans — but that’s because White Democrats are so heavily vaccinated. Data from Kaiser Family Foundation polling has shown that repeatedly, including new data published Tuesday morning. Whites and Blacks are about equally likely to say they’re vaccinated (about 7 in 10 of each) while White Democrats are far more likely than White Republicans to say that they are (93 percent to 60 percent). White Republicans are also far more likely to say they won’t get vaccinated, a position one-fifth of that group holds.

It’s also useful to note that the Republican numbers are actually boosted by high uptake rates among older Republicans. Among White Republicans under the age of 65, only 54 percent say they’ve gotten a vaccine dose; 23 percent say they won’t. Among Black Americans under 65, two-thirds say they’ve gotten a dose, and only 12 percent say they won’t.

It is true that vaccination rates among Whites are higher than rates among Blacks in many states, which again is largely (though not entirely) a function of the uptake of vaccinations among White Democrats. If we compare the difference between the vaccination rates of Whites and Blacks in a state with how those states voted in 2020, we see that the difference between the two racial groups is narrower in states that preferred Trump — almost certainly because more of the Whites in those states are Republicans.

On the graph below, the horizontal lines indicate the average for the groups, once states with small Black populations are excluded. (Smaller populations introduce more variability in the numbers.) Among states that backed Biden by at least 20 points, the White-Black vaccination gap is about 10.3 points. Among states that backed Trump by that much, the gap is only about 3.3 points on average.

(Florida has repeatedly been anomalous on vaccination data. This is likely in part because of people who were in the state during the initial rollout in the spring but who don’t live there full-time.)

Kaiser Family Foundation also found that Republicans viewed the causes of the current surge in cases through the same lens as the unvaccinated. The unvaccinated were most likely to say that the surge was a function of the vaccines not being as effective as expected and least likely to say that the surge was a function of low vaccination rates. (These positions are indicated with arrows.)

It’s not terribly surprising that the unvaccinated would hold such views, of course, whatabouting the vaccines. Nor is it surprising how partisanship overlaps. Across the responses, Republican positions were three times further from the responses of the vaccinated than the unvaccinated on average. Democratic responses were on average four times further from the unvaccinated response than the vaccinated one. This makes sense given how broadly vaccinated Democrats are.

The responses also show specific infiltration of political rhetoric. For example, Republicans are most likely to blame the current surge in cases on immigrants and tourists rather than the unvaccinated. It’s not accurate to blame migrants for the surge, but, “Well, what about immigrants?” is very much in keeping with the spirit of this exercise.

What’s important about this is the why. Most Republicans have gotten at least one dose of a vaccine, so it’s not as though resistance to the vaccine is the central driving ideology on the right. Instead, the point of these deflections is simply to try a bit of rubber-glue action, defending the team by pointing out where the other team has fallen short.

In this case, though, that means pointing out that Black Americans are less vaccinated than White Americans thanks to the good work that other team has done.