The backdrop of everything political these days is the 2022 midterm election.
The most immediate story in the country is that coronavirus infections are rising rapidly. The seven-day average of Covid-19 cases is rising about 37,700 cases per day, and the seven-day average of hospital admissions is about 35,000 per day. The seven-day average of daily deaths has also increased to 237 per day, about 19 percent higher than it was in the previous seven-day period.
The vast majority of these hospitalizations and deaths are among the unvaccinated as the new, highly contagious Delta variant spreads. Today, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, warned that the Delta variant “is one of the most infectious respiratory viruses we know of and that I have seen in my 20-year career.”
Three states with lower vaccination rates, Florida, Texas, and Missouri, had 40 percent of all the nation’s cases. At a White House press conference, Jeff Zients, the White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator, noted, “For the second week in a row, one in five of all cases [occurred] in Florida alone.”
Republican lawmakers and right-wing pundits have cast doubt on the vaccines and hardened opposition to them as part of the stoking of a culture war, but now, quite suddenly, many of them are urging their supporters and listeners to get vaccinated. They have not offered their reasoning for the about-face, and perhaps they are suddenly concerned about coronavirus deaths.
But as news outlets repeat that hospitalizations and deaths are overwhelmingly among the unvaccinated, Republican lawmakers must also realize that their voters will at some point resent the anti-vaccine advice that is singling them out for death.
Republicans seem to be trying to rewrite their past attacks on the vaccine by now blaming the people who refused the vaccines for their reluctance to get it. Today, for example, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey, who has been a strong Trump supporter, blamed the unvaccinated for the spike. “Folks are supposed to have common sense. But it’s time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks, not the vaccinated folks. It’s the unvaccinated folks that are letting us down,” she said.
The Republicans have another problem, too. Candidates vying to win Republican primaries are trying to pick up the Trump base by sticking closely to him and to the lie that he won the 2020 election. But the same stances that will win primary voters will alienate voters in the general election.
Candidates are staking out their pro-Trump ground in part because they are holding out hope that the former president will choose to pour money into their campaigns; however, news broke today that Trump has taken in about $75 million in the first half of 2021 on the promise that he is fighting the results of the 2020 election but has spent none of that money on those challenges.
At the same time that news about House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s picks for the January 6 commission put a spotlight on the possible involvement of Trump Republicans in that insurrection, Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) is using the Senate Rules Committee, which she chairs, to highlight the voter restrictions that legislatures in Republican-dominated states are imposing on their citizens. The committee is holding field hearings this week in Georgia.
There, Georgia State Senator Sally Harrell (D) told the committee about begging for copies of voting rights bills so she could read them before voting, about bills being switched at the last minute, and of not being able to stop the Republicans from undermining voting rights. Harrell told the committee that state lawmakers need the help of the federal For the People Act to protect voting rights.
Mounting pressure on Republican lawmakers to try to shore up their voters showed in the July 20 Senate vote on the VOCA Fix to Sustain the Crime Victims Fund Act, which President Joe Biden signed into law today. Originally passed in 1984, the measure gathers fines and penalties paid by convicted federal criminals into a fund that spreads money to organizations helping the victims of crimes. But the amount of money in the fund has dropped 92% since 2017, as “non-prosecutorial agreements” and “deferred prosecution agreements” kept money from going into the fund.
This measure is vital for domestic abuse survivors and their children, and the new bill directs money from those agreements into the fund to replenish it. The Senate, which generally opposes social welfare legislation, backed it 100–0 in what looks like an attempt to reach out to the suburban women Republicans need to win in 2022 and 2024.