Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is one of several Republicans apparently planning to run for president in 2024 as a mini-version of former President Trump. Making the same kind of mistake that Trump made that led to the election of Joe Biden as president, DeSantis is now waging a political war against vaccine passports.
Trump and too many Republicans have made every aspect of the COVID-19 issue, from masks to vaccines to even denying the dangers of the deadly virus, a partisan political issue. Now, incredibly and unwisely, they would make vaccines a political issue. They will pay a heavy political price if they do – as voter confidence in Biden over Trump on COVID-19 was a major factor in his election in 2020.
DeSantis promises to take executive and state action against any private sector business or local government that seeks to establish proof that individuals have taken the highly effective vaccines that would save them, and their families, and their neighbors, from joining more than 500,000 Americans who have lost their lives from the deadly COVID-19 virus.
This is disastrously bad health policy for America and self-destructive politics for Republicans.
Let’s define vaccine passports for purposes of serious discussion. The federal government would not establish a vaccine passport. The Biden administration does not seek to do this. And neither the federal nor state governments would or should require mandatory vaccinations. Refusing to take the COVID-19 vaccine is a horrifyingly bad decision that hurts those who make it and endangers those they come in contact with, but legally forcing people to take vaccines would not be right.
A vaccine passport, as I define it, would simply be a card or document that verifies that an individual has taken a COVID-19 vaccine and established a very high degree of protection for themselves and those they come in contact with. There would be no other personal health information included in this form of vaccine passport.
Private sector businesses would be able to make business decisions, from working in the office to flying in a plane, factoring in whether an individual has or has not taken the vaccination. Local government, based on local circumstances with the deadly virus, would be able to make local decisions, such as requiring a vaccine for those who want to enter facilities in jurisdictions with high numbers of COVID-19 cases.
DeSantis would tell every business in Florida that the power of the state will not allow them to consider whether an employee or customer who has not taken a vaccine, which would significantly raise the health risk to their other workers and customers, can enter their premises.
Isn’t this assertion of state power over business what DeSantis and other “conservatives” have attacked their political opponents for?
It can be argued, and I would agree with this reluctantly, that a citizen has a right to not take a vaccine. But other citizens they come in contact with, on an airplane, train or bus and in offices, shops and stadiums, have a right as well – to not have their health or lives endangered by those who refuse to take a vaccine. Business owners have a right to protect their employees and customers from dangers of illness and death caused by those who refuse to take a vaccine.
There are reasons that Biden’s favorable ratings tower over the ratings for Trump and for Trump’s allies in Congress such as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). And why Biden’s ratings for handling COVID-19 tower over Trump’s. And why the number of vaccinated Americans has skyrocketed under Biden compared to Trump. And why the numbers of cases, hospitalizations and deaths have fallen dramatically under Biden compared to Trump. And why the economy has dramatically improved under Biden.
Americans seeking safety will rue the day if DeSantis prevails on COVID-19 vaccines. Republicans seeking election will pay a heavy price, as Trump did, if they follow his Trump-like lead.
Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) and former Rep. Bill Alexander (D-Ark.), who was chief deputy majority whip of the House of Representatives.