Our new book is titled Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics. Among other things, it discusses the politics of COVID.
An unmasked Sarah Palin has been spotted at two New York City restaurants after her attorney revealed she had tested positive for COVID-19. Her disclosure prompted the delay of her defamation trial against The New York Times on Monday. The unvaccinated former Alaska governor was seen by Mediaite sitting with a group at a table outdoors at Elio’s restaurant on the Upper East Side on Wednesday, the same restaurant she dined at on Saturday night, before her diagnosis. Gothamist also spotted her dining al fresco at Campagnola on Tuesday. On her first visit to Elio’s she sat indoors, in violation of city rules, which require diners to present proof of COVID vaccination to be seated inside. The restaurant apologized for not asking her for a vaccine card Saturday, and on Wednesday, its manager, Luca Guaitolini, told Mediaite that Palin returned to apologize. “In accordance with the vaccine mandate and to protect our staff, we seated her outdoors. We are a restaurant open to the public, and we treat all civilians the same,” he said.
Already, opposition to vaccine and mask mandates has become a purity test for Republican officials, as well as a key part of their agenda ahead of this year’s midterm elections. It seems to have turned some of former President Donald Trump’s fervent supporters against him in favor of politicians like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has been coy about acknowledging his vaccination status and is not publicly backing such measures. Just 26% of Republicans say they consider vaccine mandates acceptable, according to a CNN poll last month, compared to 82% of Democrats. This partisan divide is evident in the vaccination data itself: unvaccinated adults are three times more likely to lean Republican than Democrat, according to a November analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
For months, we’ve written in this space about how the Republicans’ pushback against coronavirus vaccine mandates could foment — and apparently has been fomenting — opposition to mandates of other vaccines, including for schoolchildren. It’s inherent in their talking points: If vaccines should be a matter of “choice,” why not those more long-standing vaccines, too? High-profile Republicans haven’t generally addressed where they draw the line and why.
Early efforts to wade into allowing more choice on other vaccines had been quickly pulled back. In Tennessee, the state momentarily prevented its health department from communicating with children about any vaccines. In Florida, a prominent state senator suggested that his state might “review” those other vaccine requirements, before walking it back.
But GOP lawmakers in other states are increasingly moving in this direction.
In Georgia, a GOP state senator proposed a bill that would ban the state from requiring “proof of any vaccination of any person as a condition of providing any service or access to any facility.” The bill was endorsed by 17 state senators, about half of the Republican contingent in a chamber where you need less than 30 votes to pass something.
When it was pointed out that this could quite logically extend to vaccine requirements for the state’s public schools, state Sen. Jeff Mullis (R) said he planned to “adjust” the bill.
Efforts by Republicans in Wisconsin also have shown some real momentum. State Senate Health Committee Chairman Patrick Testin (R) held a hearing this month that included Senate Bill 336. The bill would, among other things, prohibit schools and universities from excluding students because of their vaccination status. And, again, it’s not just about coronavirus vaccines.