Why shifts in vaccine, infrastructure support suggest US Republicans are not beyond hope
- The US$1 trillion infrastructure package now appears within reach since Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell signalled support for the plan
- With an infrastructure deal looming and people in Republican strongholds rejecting vaccine misinformation, the party might not be as damaged as we thought
The only way back to the path of pandemic control the United States was on for months is through higher vaccination rates and mask-wearing in the meantime. But as we have seen throughout the pandemic, a large swathe of the Republican Party cannot allow any issue to go unpoliticised, even if that issue pertains to a staunchly non-ideological, fast-spreading contagion.
More people in Covid-19 hotspots, where Republicans have portrayed an American biomedical breakthrough as a liberal plot, are seeing friends and family members of all ages stricken by the illness. Vaccination rates in these areas have finally begun to rise, but that is in spite of the attitude that most within the Republican Party have taken towards the pandemic.
As if a quadrupling in cases in the space of a couple of weeks and a flood of new patients in Covid-19 wards did not call for decisive government action to avoid the kind of social-distancing measures we had to endure before the US vaccine roll-out allowed Americans to breathe more easily. Republicans call vaccine mandates politicising public health, but there is no political gain in forcing Americans to choose between vaccination and tests.
But, like many Republicans, he has made his choice about the Republican Party’s future.
It is within this effort we can see the struggle between the centrist Republicans working to reassume the mantle of Ronald Reagan and those who are still reluctant to break with Donald Trump, who would not be able to articulate a political vision if Washington’s best strategists boiled one down to a one-pager to be delivered on the set of The Apprentice.
But infrastructure spending may be too popular for them to ignore. McConnell clearly thinks so. With an infrastructure deal on the horizon and more of those in Republican Party strongholds rejecting vaccine misinformation, perhaps the Republican Party’s DNA is not as damaged as we thought.
Robert Delaney is the Post’s North America bureau chief