I have to hand it to the Wyoming Republican Party chairman: When it comes to throwing tantrums to get his political way, nobody does it better than Frank Eathorne.
His histrionic response to Gov. Mark Gordon not yet calling a meaningless special legislative session to fight vaccine mandates would be funny if it wasn’t likely to be effective. He’ll almost certainly bully enough GOP legislators to make the special session happen. It would be a waste of money, yes. But far more harmful, it would send exactly the wrong message about a health crisis we need to get under control now.
Eathorne wrote to the Legislature’s leaders that he’s fed up with Gordon’s lack of urgency on the issue. “Wyoming’s people need to see action — and confident leadership. … We believe a majority of legislators favor a special session,” the chairman wrote. “THERE IS NO TIME TO WASTE.”
For starters, there is no vaccine mandate in place to do anything about, because President Joe Biden’s executive order still has to go through the rule-making process. That has to happen through OSHA, the regulatory agency charged with protecting American workers from “grave danger.”
If the 700,000 deaths due to COVID-19 doesn’t meet that standard, I’d hate to see what Eathorne considers a real threat.
Except I already know — it’s the fear of having elected members of his own party who won’t toe the line and follow his extreme-right agenda. Republicans have stoked so much fear about the federal government trying to end the pandemic through vaccinations that it’s become their bread-and-butter issue. They believe it’s their ticket back to the White House in 2024.
Choosing to keep the pandemic alive to gain a political advantage is a complete betrayal of the public’s health and safety. It’s deplorable. And it’s not the only example: How many lives have ended prematurely because Wyoming lawmakers have refused to expand Medicaid?
Wyoming has lost nearly 1,000 people to the coronavirus. Instead of promoting a safe, effective and free vaccine that will keep them out of hospitals, Republican leaders have pushed malaria drugs, bleach and horse dewormers on their faithful followers. What’s the harm in a little snakeoil so long as the anti-vaxxers keep marching!
In reality, Biden’s so-called “mandate” isn’t one at all. It would create two options for employees at businesses with more than 100 employees: get the vaccine or take a COVID-19 test once a week. Both would create a safer work environment.
How, pray tell, is that different than requiring certain workers to pass drug tests, wear seatbelts or not smoke in the office?
If employees think their rights are being violated by having a swab put up their nose, I have news for them: There are plenty of other people ready to do their jobs and respect the health of their co-workers.
It’s far past time for Wyomingites to get vaccinated. Sadly, I can guarantee you that this disease is not a hoax: I’ve lost two people close to me from it in the past year. One friend had some underlying medical issues and died before the vaccine was available. The other was young and had been healthy his whole life. He chose to not be vaccinated.
Only 41% of Wyoming residents are fully vaccinated, giving the state one of the lowest rates in the nation. But here’s the corresponding number to focus on: the Department of Health says 96% of the COVID-19 patients filling Wyoming hospitals are unvaccinated.
The misinformation being circulated about the vaccine, meanwhile, is incredible. Here’s what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says: The vaccine does not contain microchips. It does not alter your DNA. It does not turn you into a magnet. It does not affect fertility in either sex. It does not infect you with COVID-19.
But if you ingest bleach, as former President Donald Trump once famously suggested, that will ruin your organs and kill you.
Misinformation spread by right-wing outlets like Fox News, NewsMax and the OAN Network; on social media networks platforms Facebook, Twitter and YouTube; and the conspiracy theories your crazy uncle spouts are deadly, too. The World Health Organization deems it an “infodemic.” U.S Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said the problem “poses an imminent and insidious threat to our nation’s health.”
Why are so few people in Wyoming and throughout the country listening?
One of the reasons is because of people like Eathorne, who immediately pounced on the idea of a legislative session to fight Biden’s vaccine “mandate.” He’s not about to take no for an answer.
Gordon’s initial reaction was to call the mandate Biden’s decision a “complete disregard for the rule of law and the freedoms individuals and private companies enjoy under our Constitution.”
But that was several weeks ago, and the governor hasn’t called the special session he was considering. Maybe he got legal advice he didn’t expect, since there’s absolutely no reason to call lawmakers back to work now. Federal law is supreme, so no matter what the state does, it’s likely to be upheld in court.
Gordon may be waiting for legislators to do it themselves. His response to the pandemic has been wishy-washy from the start, angering people of all political stripes. Gordon hemmed and hawed for months about a mask mandate before finally ordering (but declining to enforce) one.
Now he has Eathorne breathing down his neck. I’d tell the chairman to take a hike.
Gordon won’t, of course. He’s walking a political tightrope, trying to please his party’s right-wing because he sees it as his path to re-election.
Governor, here’s advice you don’t want to hear: Your party leaders decided long ago that you’ll never be conservative enough to get their support. They haven’t forgiven you for beating their candidates, Foster Friess and Harriet Hageman, in 2018. You will have primary challengers, and guess what? Some Democrats who changed parties to vote for you won’t do it again. Neither will many of the moderate Republicans I’ve talked to.
So why not do the right thing, stop this anti-vaccine madness and protect everyone? It will earn people’s respect. Bringing an end to this pandemic will do what Wyoming needs most: return the state to normal.