July 27, 2021 | Reading Time: 4 minutes

The country is failing to face the rage of Donald Trump’s supporters. The result is mass death

We are afraid to hold the unvaccinated accountable for their choices.

The country is failing to face the rage of Donald Trump's supporters. The result is mass death

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The covid pandemic is surging among people who are not vaccinated thanks to the wildfire spread of the highly contagious delta variant.1 Some of the unvaccinated are reachable, as Editorial Board member Magdi Semrau argued in her latest piece of brilliance. Many are not. These are supporters of the disgraced former president.

They are not vaccinated by choice. Vaccinations are free, widely available, highly recommended and they work. Yes, some vaccinated people are getting sick, but they are vanishingly small in number. Refusing to get vaccinated is like refusing to wear a seat belt with the most obvious difference being that the latter is not contagious.

We should hold dangerously immoral people to account for their dangerously immoral choices. We should celebrate dutifully moral people for their dutifully moral choices.

It seems to me we are forgetting that this is a choice grown men and women are making not only for themselves but for their loved ones and their communities. We seem to be forgetting that, or even overlooking that, as if they are not responsible for their own death and dying as well as the death and dying of the people around them.

I have seen some liberals express genuine sympathy in the wake of story after story of people dying after swearing up and down they’d never get the covid vaccine. Yes, there is something ultimately tragic about arrogant sonsabitches getting killed off by their own arrogance. But let’s not permit our Shakespearean sensibilities to get the better of us. These people are choosing irresponsibly. Even the dead should be held to account.

Blaming the dead is distasteful but morality demands we get over that. If we don’t, we ourselves are acting irresponsibly. Yet the discomfort of looking a dangerously immoral person square in the face and saying they are making dangerously immoral choices is so painful even ER docs search for excuses, any excuse, that will get them out of the moral obligation of squaring off truthfully with a dangerously immoral person.

Last week, CNN interviewed Rob Davidson, an emergency room physician. Every single covid patient during the prior week was unvaccinated, he told Brianna Keilar. He didn’t blame them, though. He blamed Fox News. “We are in a highly Republican area, about 40 percent vaccinated, about 70 percent voted for the former president,” Davidson said. “When you see what’s being put out there on the air waves … it is undeniable that these messages are getting through to patients. They are avoiding something that can prevent them from getting extremely sick and potentially dying.”

Here’s the tip jar!

Public information is critically important to the individual’s choices. But in blaming Fox for the dangerously immoral choices of dangerously immoral people, Davidson overvalued public information while undervaluing a plain fact. Normal people don’t need good public information to trust doctors and medical professionals. We know this is true. It happens all the time. As Davidson said, if a patient comes to his ER with chest pains, they don’t resist him when he orders an EKG. So they know better. Ditto when it comes to vaccines. They know what they should do. They are choosing not to.

The rest of us seem to fear saying so. We are behaving like some of the children of unvaccinated people. We are acting like we have to go behind their backs to get them to do the right thing on account of asking them to do the right thing risks arousing their rage. But in respecting that rage, we are making it the centerpiece of our politics such that our politics ends up venerating unvaccinated people instead of venerating the children who went behind their backs to get vaccinated. We should but don’t hold dangerously immoral people to account for their dangerously immoral choices. We should but don’t celebrate dutifully moral people for their dutifully moral choices.

The Republicans and some Fox talking heads have recently urged supporters of the disgraced former president to stop stalling and get vaccinated. I’m not the first to notice how diametric this was, after a long period during which the Republicans and some Fox talking heads did everything they could to demonize the vaccines to the point where getting vaccinated was tantamount to getting a beat-down. The reason for this about-face should be as plain as the coronavirus itself. The Republicans and some Fox talking heads are partly responsible for the fact that the pandemic isn’t over yet.

It could be over, but let’s not give unvaccinated people a pass. While some “vaccine hesitant” people really can be reached, as Magdi Semrau has explained, diehard supporters of the disgraced former president would rather die hard than admit defeat (i.e., get vaccinated). We need to explain what they are doing. We need to face their rage with courage. After that? Absent mandates, it’s their choice. While there’s something tragic about arrogant sonsabitches getting killed off by their own arrogance, I’m not sure I should feel sympathetic. How much sympathy do I have to the person who refused to wear a seat belt before dying in a car wreck? Not much.

John Stoehr


The Centers for Disease Control announced this morning its recommendation that vaccinated people once again wear masks when they are inside public spaces.

John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.


  1. abbyinsm on August 4, 2021 at 3:07 am

    I have been struggling with this. The public health people say we need to have empathy and communicate better, and I’ve tried to do that. But when more than half of the police officers and firefighters in my solid blue city are unvaxxed, I’ve had it. I was particularly disgusted by Andy Slavitt’s two podcasts on vaccine “hesitancy”. He spoke with the vile and stupid Hugh Hewitt, and the Republican advancer Frank Luntz, who spent the whole interview (at least until I turned it off) advancing Chris Christie, who clearly has him on contract, and trashing VP Kamala Harris, while lifting up AARP. His strategy is clear! So I’m done with Slavitt, and I’m done with empathy.

    It is time to require vaccine passports. I just spent a lovely family vacation in Hawaii. We had to show proof of vaccine or a negative test within 72 hours in order to get off the plane! It was so nice to be almost back to normal, and no one objected to putting on a mask in a store or indoor restaurant. All the servers wore masks without complaint.

    For those in Los Angeles, here’s a list of bars that are now requiring a vaccine passport to get in to a safe and fun drinking experience: https://www.lataco.com/bars-asking-vaccine-proof-covid/ 😉

  2. John A on August 4, 2021 at 3:07 am

    It is no coincidence that the region of the country with the highest rate of vaccination is New England. It’s not necessarily that New Englanders are smarter than other folks, but it is definitely part of the fundamental regional culture to care more about the common good of the community. That’s why taxes here are so high. It’s why most cities and towns were historically laid out around a common grazing ground, or green (the Boston Common and the New Haven Green being two striking examples, along with extant greens in places like Litchfield, Milford, and Fairfield).
    This isn’t so much a question of superior virtue as it is one of a certain underlying sensibility that just develops in people from living here. People are getting vaccinated here not only to protect themselves and their families, but their wider community as well.
    For all the other limitations, drawbacks and challenges that face our region, in this particular scenario we were hard-wired to shine (relative to the rest of the country). In other regions more attuned to personal freedom and a sense of every man for himself, the vaccine is proving a much harder sell. There’s not only politics at work here. There’s culture, too. We need to realize that.

    • Deep Time on August 4, 2021 at 3:07 am

      If nothing else the pandemic has reminded me how fortunate I am to have been born and raised (and stayed) in New England, high taxes and all.

  3. Anthony J. Alaniz on August 4, 2021 at 3:07 am

    I like your seatbelt analogy as a way to describe anti-vaxxers, but I don’t think it fully captures the consequences of their actions. I feel those unwilling to get vaccinated are more akin to habitual drunk drivers—fully sure of themselves that they are capable to safely drive, while also being a clear and present danger to innocent bystanders because of their lack of responsibility to the community. They know what they are doing is morally wrong and dangerous, they just think of themselves as better than everyone else.

  4. John Smart on August 4, 2021 at 3:07 am

    I’ve no time for any of these conservative freaks. I and grateful to live in a liberal area of a liberal state.

  5. Matthew Davis on August 4, 2021 at 3:07 am

    Shorter version: if you choose not to get vaccinated and die of COVID, good riddance.

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