Covid-19 cases — fueled by the fast-spreading Delta variant — have nearly tripled over the past three weeks. Every state in the country has seen an increase in cases.
It is, by any measure, a fraught moment in the 16-month fight against the virus. People need to get vaccinated or run the very real risk of getting the Delta variant.
At moments like these, leaders matter. What our elected officials say (and do) about vaccines matter — they model behavior that, ideally, people follow.
Enter Donald Trump.
“Joe Biden kept talking about how good of a job he’s doing on the distribution of the Vaccine that was developed by Operation Warp Speed or, quite simply, the Trump Administration,” the 45th president said in a statement released via his Save America PAC on Sunday. “He’s not doing well at all. He’s way behind schedule, and people are refusing to take the Vaccine because they don’t trust his Administration, they don’t trust the Election results, and they certainly don’t trust the Fake News, which is refusing to tell the Truth.”
That statement is — and I am not exaggerating at all here — the opposite of what leadership looks like.
The whole statement is bad, but this line stands out for the damage it will do to the efforts to get more people vaccinated:
“People are refusing to take the Vaccine because they don’t trust his Administration, they don’t trust the Election results, and they certainly don’t trust the Fake News, which is refusing to tell the Truth.”
In that single line, the former president of the United States, who is, without any question the most influential person in the Republican Party today, affirms the totally misguided doubts people have about receiving the highly effective Covid-19 vaccine while painting the vaccine push in a partisan light with the comparison to the 2020 election.
In short: It’s a remarkably dangerous thing for anyone to say — much less a former president. That Trump said it in the midst of a surge in cases — fueled almost exclusively by unvaccinated people living in areas that he won in 2020 — makes it even worse.
Leadership is about saying and doing the best things for everyone — not just you. And, at times, doing the best/right thing for everyone means that it will not be the best thing for you personally. It’s about the “we,” not the “me.”
Trump has never, ever been willing or able to understand that. He is remarkably self-focused, concerned entirely and only with how events impact his life — or, more accurately, how he can use facts (and bend them) to make him look like the smartest and savviest guy in the room, the hero of every story.
That includes Covid-19 — and the effort to vaccinate enough people to achieve herd immunity (and thereby protect those who are not able to get vaccines for medical and other reasons).
Trump is SO obsessed with a) taking credit for the vaccine and b) disparaging the man who beat him in 2020 that he can’t (or won’t) see the damage he is doing by telling an already skeptical bloc of people — many of whom voted for him in the last election — that Biden and the media are not to be trusted.
It’s an important reminder that the damage Trump has done to the country is not a finished product. His self-centeredness continues to create chaos and uncertainty in a situation — the vaccine saves lives! — where there should be very little.