From me to you, a feelgood story to spread some holiday cheer on Christmas Eve.
After five years of searching for an issue, any issue, that might weaken Trump’s hold on the Republican base, Never Trumpers may have finally found it. It’s not his fondness for foreign dictators. It’s not his viciousness towards his political enemies. It’s not his mismanagement of the first phase of the pandemic or his deficit spending or his many personal flaws. His fans don’t care about any of that. If anything, they consider it part of his appeal.
It’s the vaccines. He endorses the vaccines that his administration bankrolled and that have saved hundreds of thousands of lives, of which he’s justly proud and seems to be growing prouder by the day.
And the anti-vaxxers in his base may never forgive him for it.
I’m picturing Ron DeSantis watching this clip, thinking, “Maybe I can win a primary against this guy.” DeSantis’s vax-hesitant credentials are stronger than Trump’s are at this point, frankly.
— Scootercaster (@ScooterCasterNY) December 23, 2021
I laughed in spite of myself at the spectacle of a maskless cop arguing with maskless anti-vaxxers at a moment when New York City is crawling with Omicron. And then I laughed again at the guy who wants Trump to happily pay a $1,000 fine for letting him dine in NYC without proof of vaccination. Trump has enough debts to manage, buddy. He doesn’t need every anti-vax activist in the U.S. making a political pilgrimage to Trump Grill at the cost to him of a thousand bucks a head.
“When you think about what we did…we came up with a vaccine—and sometimes people say ‘oh the vaccines’—we saved—we cannot lose that issue!” Trump told radio host Joe Pags yesterday. “That’s a great, great thing that we did. We saved tens of millions of people throughout the world.” That’s a clue to his motivation in touting the vaccines more aggressively lately, a mystery that’s bedeviled political media over the past few days. He knows most of the electorate has been vaccinated and that being branded the “anti-vaccine” party will be bad for business for the GOP — and for him in 2024, potentially. So he’s trying to counterprogram that. Belatedly.
Too belatedly, in some cases.
Alex Jones is flipping out after Trump said he got the booster: “Hell, we’re fighting Bill Gates and Fauci and Biden and the New World Order and Psaki and the Davos Group .. and now we’ve got Trump on their team!” pic.twitter.com/fyEfx1OcFp
— Ron Filipkowski (@RonFilipkowski) December 21, 2021
Alex Jones had MAGA activist Alison Steinberg on to trash Trump over the vaccine: “If you go to his hotel in NY, you have to show proof of papers. So how can you continue to blindly defend this man? .. There’s no denying what he’s doing is evil.” pic.twitter.com/AytmkN3ggh
— Ron Filipkowski (@RonFilipkowski) December 24, 2021
Everyone knows who Ben Garrison is at this point, right? He’s a cartoonist and a hardcore populist who’s spent the past five years using his art to hero-worship Trump. Not this week.
— Noah Shachtman (@NoahShachtman) December 23, 2021
Some all-stars of the fringe, forced to reconcile their adulation of Trump with their opposition to the vaccine, are stressing the latter while notably declining to mention the former.
On the social media app Telegram, Ron Watkins — whom many believe role-played “Q” in the QAnon conspiracy that held up Trump as America’s heaven-sent savior in the battle against satanic Democrats — sent out a message on the day of Trump’s comments. Watkins blasted “the insidious global campaign to use poisonous injections to ‘save’ every living man woman, woman [and] child.” Watkins didn’t respond to Trump directly, but later urged the “VF” (or Vaccine Free community) to “stand strong,” “never fear,” and “never comply.” Two days later, Watkins was back to unvarnished anti-vax hysteria blasting jabs and boosters as “Subscription Suicide Shots.”…
General Michael Flynn, the Trump’s pardoned former national security adviser, was on Telegram on the day before the former president’s remarks opining that: “The vaccine doesn’t appear to work to prevent this covid madness, it appears to be causing it.” Flynn seemed to ignore Trump’s booster endorsement entirely. By the next day he’d posted a link to “news” item alleging Bill Gates and Tony Fauci had been “charged with genocide” in a filing before the International Criminal Court…
Larry Cook — a top anti-vaxxer who once rivaled Robert Kennedy Jr. in his online reach before getting kicked off Facebook — runs the “Stop Mandatory Vaccination” online community… A QAnon adherent and longtime Trump booster, Cook describes the vaccines as “experimental poisons.” He rails on his “Covid-19 Refusers” site that the “Deep State” seeks to “destroy our children through vaccination” as part of an effort to “usher in a one world government and police state for total Luciferian domination of every Child of God.” He took no notice of Trump’s vaccine endorsement — and instead used Telegram to promote a “powerful zeolite detox” spray that’s sold through his website.
Is this sustainable for Trump?
Maybe it is. He’s said encouraging things about the vaccines before and his anti-vaxxer fans were willing to overlook it so long as he didn’t say them too often, a lesson DeSantis has also learned. It’s the fact that he’s been more emphatic lately, particularly in populist formats like an event with Bill O’Reilly and an interview with Candace Owens, that’s irked them. If he goes back to clamming up, this dispute might be papered over. He’s allowed to be pro-vaccine so long as he doesn’t lift a finger to push back on anti-vaxxers’ messaging.
But what if he keeps pushing it? At what point does this become a liability for him among certain precincts within his base? Or is the whole idea here that he’s daring some of his anti-vax fans not to support him in 2024 while he reaches out to swing voters? We’ll see if he drops the subject in the new year.