South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham learned that lesson the hard way over the weekend in his home state.
Graham was speaking to a gathering of the Dorchester County GOP and mentioned the vaccine.
“If you haven’t had the vaccine, you ought to think about getting it, because if you’re my age …” he began. He was immediately shouted down with people booing and yelling “No.”
Graham tried again. “I didn’t tell you to get it. You ought to think about it,” he said. And again, he was met with shouts of “No!” and boos.
And then he tried a third time, noting that 92% of the people in South Carolina in hospitals because of Covid-19 were not vaccinated. “False,” someone in the crowd yells out, while others grumbled about Graham’s claim.
Watching the video, you almost feel bad for Graham. After all, he is exactly right in urging people to get a coronavirus vaccine. All three of the available vaccines — Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson — have proven remarkably effective in limiting hospitalizations and deaths from Covid-19.
A report released Tuesday by the Department of Health and Human Services says that vaccinations stopped 250,000 infections in seniors and tens of thousands of deaths between January and May. The most recent Delta surge of the virus was, largely, visited upon those who were not vaccinated.
Notice above that I said you almost feel bad for Graham. Almost but not quite. And the reason is simple: Graham has been — and continues to be — one of the leading enablers of former President Donald Trump and his repeated lies about just about everything including the results of the 2020 election.
What Trump spent the last five years doing, with an assist from Graham, is convincing his supporters that nothing they saw or read from the media was right. That it was all biased junk being produced by people contemptuous of the average Joe.
Trump said as much in a 2018 speech. “Stick with us,” he insisted. “Don’t believe the crap you see from these people, the fake news. … What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.”
The result of that constant drumbeat that you can’t believe what experts are telling you has an impact in how people think about all sorts of things. A major one.
Trump himself has experienced the effects of his fake news creation. About halfway through a campaign-style speech in Alabama in later August, Trump told the crowd he would “recommend” they get the vaccine (as he did). He, like Graham, was booed.
What’s so depressing about all of this is that it didn’t have to be this way. From the get-go, Trump took what was a public health issue — and emergency — and made it into a political issue. He was dismissive of the virus at the start, arguing that it posed no threat and that it would “disappear.” He openly mocked mask-wearing even as the CDC and other experts insisted it was our best hope of mitigating the spread of the virus. He purposely attacked the likes of Dr. Anthony Fauci, an unquestioned expert in the field of infectious disease, as a partisan hack.
What all of those actions did is create a climate in which the Trumpist base of the GOP simply doesn’t believe in science or expertise anymore. Even when allegedly trusted figures — like Trump and Graham — tell them to do something.
Graham can’t be surprised with the boos, then. He helped foment the very attitude that led to them.