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The Republican Death Cult Marches On

The Republican Death Cult Marches On

Florida’s Republican Governor Ron DeSantis lost roughly 200 of his voters on Friday. If that pace holds, he’ll kill off all of the 30,000 or so voters who made up his narrow 2018 margin of victory by Valentine’s Day. He doesn’t care. You should. We are no longer fighting a disease, but a bizarre, apocalyptic civil war.

This latest wave of COVID-19 infections is almost entirely threatening the unvaccinated. Rates of hospitalization for COVID-19 among vaccinated patients are about 1%. Death rates for the vaccinated remain very near zero. COVID-19 is now an epidemic of the unvaccinated.

The US led the world in vaccine availability, but thanks to Republicans we are falling behind in the race toward immunity.

Yes, there are other factors holding certain groups back. Black and Hispanic Americans, along with those at lower incomes lag behind whites in vaccine availability, slowing the race to immunity. However, Republican resistance to public health measures has fed this gap.

Look closely at the list of majority Black or Hispanic counties falling farthest behind in vaccination and you’ll find them concentrated in places with Republican state governments. In New York City, where the government took affirmative steps to bridge minority distrust of the vaccine, resistance is now most concentrated in the city’s only Republican borough, Staten Island, and particularly in that borough’s whitest zip codes.

Of the 20 states with the highest per capita rates of COVID-19 deaths last week, only two had Democratic Governors. Only one, Nevada, has a Democratic legislature. Nationwide, white evangelicals have the highest rates of vaccine refusal. They are also the largest group of vaccine resistors by raw numbers, accounting for the overwhelming bulk of the unvaccinated so far.

There is no concentrated campaign of cult resistance to vaccines spreading in minority communities. Outside white Republican circles, low vaccination rates are generally a consequence of poverty, isolation and poor availability, problems easily overcome by a competent public health initiative. Vaccine resistance has become a tenet of white Republican religion, converting COVID-19 into a high sacrament of the Republican death cult. This is a warning of worse things to come.

Why are Republicans refusing to get vaccinated? Denialist fantasies became a test of Republican identity when the former President, the new Republican God, decided to downplay the pandemic rather than confronting it. It did not have to be this way. COVID-19 was a political gift to Republicans, a black swan event granting them carte blanche to enact the most extreme and sweeping elements of their purported agenda with little resistance. But the former President, who has never had more than a drunk uncle interest in politics, was far more concerned about the impact of pandemic containment measures on his businesses. Keeping his hotels open was a far greater priority than any nerdish policy goal. In a different world, Republicans would be wearing a badge on their golf shirts showing they got their Trump Vaccine, while living in a fortress nation with few COVID-19 cases or deaths. That’s not the world Donald Trump wanted to live in, so here we are.

Why are Republicans willing to die for their politics? First, remember that dying for politics isn’t so unusual. Politics is always a matter of life and death. We regularly celebrate heroes who died for politics, from Valley Forge to the Freedom Summer to Omaha Beach. The question isn’t why they would die for politics, but what are the political values they’re dying for?

Republicans love Donald Trump because he’s the first US President to campaign and win on an explicit promise to protect white men from the threat of cultural diversity. America has been held together by a shared myth of white supremacy for generations. As the power of that myth has weakened without a replacement, the desperation of those who depend on it has grown. Trump earned godlike loyalty for his willingness to acknowledge and elevate the mythology of white supremacy against a world that threatens to undermine white privileges. Republicans see themselves in a life or death struggle to protect their identity. Trump is the god promising to protect this mythology.

Mere support is never enough for a god. GOP politics under Trump demanded a bridge-burning abandonment of reality in favor of racial loyalty. The terms of that racial loyalty were defined by their white god. As Roger Waters sang, “what god wants, god gets.” If god wants you to catch an infectious disease, then you line up to lick a bannister.

What’s remarkable about the emerging Republican death cult is its celebration of futility. Trump failed repeatedly to deliver any of his promises, and then he lost. Failure is not necessarily a problem, as a Lost Cause mythology has been central to white supremacy from its origins. Since Trump is a god of defeat, his minions must become martyrs.

Republicans who are drowning in their own lungs right now aren’t sacrificing their lives to further a cause. Their deaths don’t bring a single Republican policy goal any closer to reality. Republican politics is a suicide cult. Like the Native American Ghost Dancers of the late 19th Century, Republicans are marching themselves and their families into suicidal oblivion to demonstrate their resistance to a world whose emergence they can’t halt.

This week a particularly noisy anti-vax politician in Texas died of COVID-19. At age 45, H Scott Apley was a member of the Texas GOP executive committee and a city councilman in Dickinson. Just five days before his death from COVID-19 he posted this to Facebook:

This isn’t about outcomes. It’s about loyalty. Those who died over vaccine resistance won’t be recognized as fools, but sanctified as martyrs. There will be a brief moment as the Republican death toll mounts when a few GOP politicians will attempt a pivot toward sanity. They’ll be shunned. Instead, the faithful survivors will elevate the memory of those who died. Creative, ambitious Republican politicians will invent magical reasons for the carnage, blaming immigrants or Democrats or some fantasy explanation none of us have yet imagined.

DeSantis will be celebrated for blocking measures that might have saved tens of thousands of Florida lives. Faithful white Republicans will fall in line because they have no choice. A world just being born in which white people are no longer special is a world they’d rather not see. If they can kill it, they will. If they can’t kill it, then their death and yours make a reasonable compromise.

Don’t laugh. In time COVID-19 will fade from the headlines, crushed between the hammer and anvil of immunity or death. Most of these Republicans will still be alive and voting. People who would die of a loathsome disease to ‘own the libs’ will not quietly yield to law or elections. Whoever survives this partisan plague will remain a threat to liberal democracy, willing to kill or die to prevent the birth of a freer, fairer, more prosperous world. Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis are merely harbingers of more dangerous figures to come.

Our race to build a new unifying mythology will go on when COVID-19 has been forgotten. At least now we’ve been properly warned of the stakes.


  1. I’m pretty sure the reason red states are anti-vax on the elected government level is because they already vaxed their elderly and vulnerable and that leaves predominantly the poor, who are disproportionately black, minority, and immigrant. Florida’s 200 deaths a day probably widen, not constrict, DeSantis’ margin.

    The base is anti-vax because the leadership is. Useful idiots because if a dozen of em die, they take out dozens more. Suicide bombing without indoctrination camps and traceable weapons. What a gift for the Republicans so that they can keep their minds focused on systematically dismantling democracy at the state level.

    1. Florida may be an outlier, but if the official stats are accurate then up to May ’21, COVID deaths there track pretty closely with the state’s demographics.

      White Hispanic Black
      Population 53% 26% 17%
      Deaths to 6/1/21 51% 24% 16%

      Why? Florida’s white population skews very old, hence higher death rates. Florida is hell’s lobby, where white people wait around to die. So that aging population is disproportionately white and Republican.

      Virtually all of Florida’s non-retirement population growth is in minority communities. Under 40, the state is predominantly black and hispanic. The under-50 population of Florida is solidly Democratic. Under-30 Republican affiliation practically disappears. The people least likely to die of a COVID infection in Florida are disproportionately Democrats.

      DeSantis is murdering his own voters and they love it. There is no galaxy brain strategy here. He’s just an embodiment of what white voters want from their leadership.

      I have a personal dog in this fight. A kid who grew up in my church youth group in Beaumont took that stuff just a little too seriously and became a missionary. As one might expect, his FB feed has been packed with images of him and his wife having the courage to trust Jesus and not wear the devils mask. Well, COVID just killed his wife in Jacksonville, FL, which tells us they weren’t vaccinated. He survived.

      Not one shred of reflection or apology for the behavior that killed her and hundreds of thousands of other people. Just the usual church bullshit about the glory of her life. As I predicted, they are just making saints of their dead and moving on, stepping up for another serving of KoolAid.

      I am increasingly convinced that COVID might kill off enough Republicans in GA to move that state permanently purple. Same may be coming in Florida, though that will require a monstrous death toll. Republicans seem determined to lose our civil war by suicide alone.

    2. Aaron-
      Here’s the data on this:

      It doesn’t break down by income level but it has interesting information about racial/ethnic breakdowns of vaccination levels.

      What’s interesting is that initially, it was true that blacks and hispanics received fewer vaccine doses than whites. However, more recently, they’ve been receiving more doses, and the overall gap between their vaccination status vis-a-vis their population size is narrowing.

      The way I interpret this is that, in the initial stages of vaccination, when vaccines were in shortage, and it was really hard to get appointments, minorities (and probably poor people as well) had a difficult time getting them. But now, vaccines are plentiful in supply, literally every drug store on the block is offering them for free. And as a result, minorities are catching up rapidly. What has really slowed down is the percentage of vaccines going to white people: most white people who wanted a vaccine probably already got it. What’s left is the anti-vaxxers who aren’t going to get one.

      Here is up-to-the-day numbers from the CDC that back this up:

      Increasingly, minorities are getting vaccinated at rates higher than their overall population, while whites are slowing down significantly and now quite underrepresented in new vaccinations.

      That said, this is only one piece of the puzzle. *deaths* among covid patients probably are disproportionately higher in minorities and the poor, because of their worse access to health care, and higher rates of comorbidities that make them have a higher complication and death rate. On balance, Republicans, especially in Florida, are older, which is probably the biggest risk factor for death.

      On balance, it appears that the recent death rate per 100,000 is about the same for all ethnic groups, except for Asians for whom it’s much lower:

      The CDC website has a lot of good info. Overall, it’s probably too soon to jump to any conclusion about whether Covid will hurt or help the Republicans electorally.

  2. While I take no pleasure in other people dying, I no longer feel any sadness at unvaccinated-by-choice ones who do. I had an extended family member who had cancer that was being kept under control with chemo and radiation. When the pandemic hit and the hospitals shut down for months on end, he couldn’t get his treatments. By the time the hospitals opened again, the cancer had spread, and the only thing they could offer was hospice. He was in his forties when he died, leaving behind a distraught wife and 2 kids.

    These MAGA covidiots can take their freedoms and shove it where the sun don’t shine. I’d one-up DeSantis and say “yeah, you’re right. we shouldn’t have to sacrifice anything for covid. So I ban hospitals from stopping elective surgeries and other treatments.” Why should someone else delay their needed care because some wingnut comes down with a preventable disease? Institute a triage policy that puts non-vaccinated-by-choice covid cases as the lowest priority for hospital beds. Leave them in the streets if need be (with our thoughts and prayers), while other patients get the care they need to keep from dying. Call it necessary triage.

    As I wrote in your last post, western medicine does not assign blame or causation when talking about the cause of disease. But plenty of other medical traditions do. Maybe it’s time we recognize that there is actually a moral component to disease, and that your choices in that regard can and will affect you when the time comes to be treated. Until Obamacare, we let insurance companies do it. And even now, Republicans are happy to exempt health care workers from providing care they’re “morally opposed to” (which is always abortions). Well, as a health care worker, I’m morally opposed to caring for an anti-vaxxer who comes down with covid, when there are other more worthy patients who need that bed. Why won’t Republicans protect *my* moral code?

    1. Well, because Republicans are morally rudderless douchenozzles that care only about their own power, comfort, and never, ever having to live among a base they despise and can’t stand.

      You want your moral code protected? Win the elections you need to and deny them the power to infringe on it. It’s the only thing they’ll listen to.

    2. My condolences for the unnecessary death of your relative, and thank you for bringing up one of the inconvenient truths the “it’s just the flu crowd” deliberately looks away from. I am fully vaxxed, but ICUs filled to capacity are a big problem for any people who get into car wrecks, have a heart attack, or get shot by some road-raging nutjob (a parallel epidemic in Houston), so the virus running amok absolutely does endanger me.

      There is also the matter of long Covid that they deny. I know someone with that. It destroyed one of his kidneys and he’s got brain fog. We could have many thousands more disabled people for who knows how long. All preventable, if not for ignorance and selfishness.

  3. Shrug….remember when I said that the imprisonment of 100,000 leaders of the death cult, with the executions of probably 10,000, was the only way to save democracy, and I was considered a loon?

    Still think that?

    You stated a couple weeks ago that Georgia might be the only state where enough cultists would die to tip a swing state. I don’t think you are that wrong, given the level of vote suppression that has happened and will continue to happen across the union. The loser party will lose the House in 2022, and the Oval office in 2024. People simply don’t have the memory to remember election day the stability and positive things Biden et al have done since they took over. The cultists, if anything, are good at running a campaign, especially as the dem’s tear themselves apart over who can virtue signal the most.

    Democracy survived, by a tiny thread, Jan 6th. Well, the death cult leaders are all still around, just as powerful, and they have learned from that day. They won’t make the same mistakes twice when they regain power. This time they will finish the job.

    I like to use movie analogies a lot. Most of the time they only superficially deal with a subject. That being said, two come to mind.

    The first is from the movie Casino when the wise guys gather in the courthouse back room and debate killing off all that could implicate them. Finally, one says “why take the chance?, and that was the end of it.

    The second movie was Gladiator and the discussion of the army entering Rome to wipe out the empire, to give control back to the Senate, and what would happen after that. Would the army leave? The decision was to to risk it.

    Imagine the current government as the wise guys discussing the fate of the death cult, and whether to invoke actions akin to the army entering Rome. In order to save democracy, very undemocratic methods are required. Naturally, the laws of unintended consequences is very very likely to take over.

    But what what other options are available? There is a known outcome if nothing is done. Any other outcome is better.

    1. I kinda have to agree with Dins here.

      Where does this leave all the exhortations to democratic participation? Voter suppression and the peculiarities of the Electoral College have combined to the point where Democrats need +5% in the popular vote to win the Presidency and probably even more to win the House, and something like +10 to win the Senate. Those are massive obstacles in a democracy as divided as ours. The answer to can’t be to just shrug our shoulders and say “oh well, I guess we’ll have to get out there and round up the votes.”

      People willing to die to “own the libs” are too far gone to expect to participate in democracy. They don’t deserve a vote. They barely deserve to share our country. To this day, I don’t see the Dems being more than half-hearted about finding themselves in a cage battle: we see it as politics, they see it as bloodsport. And part of the reason Republicans are so gleeful in pursuing it is because they know Dems won’t counterpunch. Sometimes the best way to beat a bully is to punch him in the face with all your might. You might get sent home that one day by the teacher, but the bully will never bother you again.

      So yes, we should organize. Absolutely. But that’s not all. I want Democratic governors to start suppressing votes in the Republican pockets of their states. Places like California, Illinois, etc. still send plenty of Republican congressmen to Washington. It’s not hard. Those are rural districts where it’s already hard to put up convenient polling places. Cut all polling places except for a single one per county, or less, in those rural areas (explain that you’re being fiscally responsible). You can even keep a fig-leaf of objectivity by saying each polling place should serve an equal number of voters (and disregard geographic density). Many of these seniors no longer have drivers licenses, and their birth certificates are long gone, and they have less passport-holders as a percentage than other groups. Happily institute voter id laws that accept only those forms of id, while funding voter registration drives in urban areas (much cheaper than rural areas). Make election day a mandatory state holiday (retired people already get it off, but now so do workers, especially the working poor who tend be Democrats). Biden should put in a new IRS commissioner who goes after the tax status of every evangelical church in the country. Even if ultimately they fail, it’ll make churches think twice about talking politics from their pews or even doing so much as a voter drive on their property. Just ask Acorn how it feels to be subject to Congressional ire, even when they did nothing wrong.

      If Republicans want to try suppressing votes, they should be ready for Democrats to go after their own voting base as well. If Republicans want to “clean up the voter rolls” Dems should push to purge snowbird New Yorkers from their rolls (it would be better to purge them from Florida’s rolls, but that can be done after we win the governorship). Make it such a pain to maintain registration if you own two houses in different states, with both sides cancelling you for living in the other state, that people rich enough to have vacation homes will just give up and stop voting.

      Yes, suppressing voters of any stripe, even Trump voters, goes against my principles, but as they say, there are no rules in love and war. We need to win this.

      And regarding vaccination status, Biden has to do only one thing, and I can’t believe he hasn’t done it yet: pass a law stating that insurance companies, barred from underwriting thanks to Obamacare, can use covid vaccination status as a consideration when setting a person’s health insurance rate. No need for handwringing about “restricting muh freedom!”; it’s so simple, it can probably even be done by executive order. MAGA patriots like to say freedom isn’t free. Well, they can find out just how much it actually costs. And I have a hunch that while they’ll give their life to their God Trump, they’ll be less reluctant to part with their jetskis and house for Him.

      1. Dems won’t counterpunch

        I’m in the process of becoming an election judge via the local Dem party, which must work with the local Rs to make sure voting sites are staffed, etc.

        From the welcoming email:

        “Presiding Judge and Alternate Presiding Judge must be affiliated with different political parties. This provision in the law anticipates a cordial working relationship at the polling place on Election Day.”

        Cordial working relationship tripped my irony detector.

        Elected Texas Rs want us to die. From non-existent environmental regulation to no distribution of federal funds to help still-waiting people harmed by Harvey to brown skinned children who might grow up to vote D to a so-called market based energy system that hurts people, they just want us to die — or at least feel there’s nothing that can be done about the situation. It’s awful.

        Working on my conversational Spanish. There will be a lot of voter registration walks soon.

    2. Ah yes, the eternal and immutable failings of a political party that squanders every opportunity it’s given and leaves itself to be curb stomped by the opposition at seemingly every general election; losing even when it appears to be winning.

      Oh wait, that’s the Labour Party in the former UK, not the Democratic Party.

      Lighten up, Francis.

  4. Next door to Texas, LA Attorney General Jeff Landry is offering his own malicious contribution to COVID madness. Despite the steady hand of Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards throughout the now fourth phase of pandemic surge, Landry is exploiting the lives of the children as they return to in-person school for the first time since 2020. Governor Edwards has invoked his statutory Emergency Power to mandate a statewide mask requirement, inside businesses and schools to stem the spread of covid, save lives, and try to avoid shutting down a fragile state economy once again.

    Landry seized this moment to cater to Louisianians who are radically opposed to masking (and, vaccination), by issuing an Attorney General Opinion that offers a “legal” exception to masking waivers for children. Landry, like Abbott and DaSantis, is running for a higher office – (obviously, not a higher place in Heaven) – and, he, too, is willing to sacrifice the lives of others – in this case – children- to advance his own puerile political interests .

    The evil we are witnessing is despicable and heartbreaking.

  5. I have hoped Governors Abbott and DeSantis were seriously miscalculating their state’s citizens tolerance for these most recent bits of republican absurdity . After reading your piece, I may be the one who is overly optimistic. Although the thrust of the post is the crisis in America, I read yesterday that Germany has only a 52% vaccination rate. Apparently, pandemics pair well with White Nationalism goals. Expendability is, after all, an acceptable means to a greater, Whiter end – give or take a few million deaths. Hitler taught the world this lesson. It’s unfortunate that we thought this would never happen again.

    1. After getting access to the vaccines late, Europe is pulling ahead:

      And Canada has left us in the dust:

      Though it should be noted that vaccination rates in Democratic states remain well ahead of Europe:

    2. Mary-
      The only silver lining is that DeSantis is dropping in the polls. He seemed to be cruising to a comfortable (but close) reelection in 2022. He is now behind Charlie Crist:

      If the pandemic remains at these levels until the elections (admittedly unlikely), then he may actually face political consequences for killing so many of his voters. OTOH, I can easily see the pandemic easing up before then, DeSantis claiming victory (“See! I told you you don’t need masks and vaccines! All you need is 10,000 dead instead to bring the pandemic down!”) and Floridians deciding more important issues like what to do with them brown and black folk invadin’ their state come back to the fore.

      1. WX Wall-
        Across the vast expanse of an infinite multiverse extending into eternity and even beyond life and death itself, there are scarcely a handful of instances where Florida adheres to what we human beings refer to as common sense.

        To put it a bit more succinctly, at the end of the day, “Florida’s always gonna Florida”.

        As a homegrown Floridian, I deeply wish that DeSantis and particularly Rubio were in any kind of serious political danger. They’re not. Do not trust what the polls say here (they’re always s***) and never, ever underestimate the incompetence of the FL Democratic Party to manage anything more complicated than a kid’s birthday party.

        Unless the floor just completely falls out for DeSantis (and even then he’d lose by, in the best-case scenario, less than a point), this race is his to lose.

    3. Not to be a stickler, but we *hoped* it would never happen again. Until we can peer into the void and summon the dead back to smack some regular sense into us, even the most atrocious horrors fade into obscurity within a few decades for enough of the population for this kind of s***show to happen again.

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