Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves is no different from any other garden variety Republican coward these days. CNN’s Jake Tapper pointed out to him that if Mississippi were a country it would have, after Peru, the second highest Covid death rate on the planet. Tapper wanted to know what the governor intended to do about it. Reeves then took off on a Gish Gallop from which, despite repeated attempts by Tapper to return the governor to the question, he would not be dismounted.
The governor began with the stunning non sequitur that “Obviously [obviously?] in Mississippi our legislature is a part time legislature. Sometimes I wonder if, in America, our Congress was part time, we wouldn’t be in a better position.” Yes, he really said that. Was he suggesting that if Mississippi had a full time legislature it would have more per capita deaths than Peru? No one knows. But then, Republicans seldom miss an opportunity to slam Nancy Pelosi and perhaps this was an obscure example of the type.
As with all things human and approximately so, Reeves’ verbal avalanche finally came to a rest. The gist of it (the part that sort of made sense, anyway) was that individuals should consult their doctors about getting the vaccine. In other words Reeves didn’t want to be seen infringing on the individual liberties of Mississippians by daring to promote a proven lifesaving remedy for a deadly disease.
It was only 19 months ago that Donald Trump suggested that coronavirus would miraculously go away by April. According to the Washington Post he repeated that bit of staggering unwisdom 39 more times. Needless to say it didn’t, and today Republicans find themselves in the embarrassing position of having to contradict Donald Trump. They try to get around this by continuing to minimize the devastation the virus has caused. They are, in short, attempting to change history in real time, by continuing to deny the seriousness of coronavirus and make individual liberties, as they parrot them, the real issue.
This kind of behavior is psychotic and we consequently expect it from psychopaths. Recall that John Hinckley Jr. tried to assassinate Ronald Reagan because he “wanted to impress Jodie Foster.” Republican politicians want to allow hundreds of thousands of Americans to die because they want to impress Donald Trump. Protecting Trump by following the playbook of a psychopath is their political guiding light. It would be funny if the consequences weren’t so tragic.
There was a time when Republicans would plunge to draconian depths in order to avoid a disapproving tweet from Donald Trump. Today they plunge to the same draconian depths in order to avoid the disapproving tweet they might have gotten had Trump not been banned from Twitter. This Pavlovian knee-jerk is the sweaty, pimply-faced cowardice of the new GOP, the onetime Party of Individual Responsibility.
Republicans aren’t just cowards, they are cowards with absolutely no discernible credibility. There’s no equivocating, stretching, distorting or blistering of the truth they won’t stoop to. For example, I suppose when Trump said that coronavirus would go away by April he didn’t, technically speaking, say which April. Maybe he meant April of 2025? Yeah, that’s the ticket. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.