Kay Ivey is frustrated. In recent interviews, she’s tossing around blame, talking about poor life choices and basically throwing up her hands, exasperated, at the people of this state who refuse to go get a vaccine for COVID-19. Ivey even said that it’s “time to start blaming the unvaccinated.”
She is not alone within the GOP — either at the state level or nationally — when it comes to tune-changing over the vaccine. From Fox News entertainers to the most prominent Republicans to even state officials, the rhetoric has quickly died over the last week, as cases, hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 — almost all of the above a result of the delta variant — have shot through the roof.
With school starting back and cooler weather around the corner, we’re looking at a nightmare scenario. Again.
And especially in heavily unvaccinated areas — like all of Alabama.
Making matters even worse: the delta variant appears to pose more of a threat to children. Late last week, Alabama had 22 kids in hospitals because of the virus and doctors were warning that while kids are still handling the virus much better than adults overall, the Delta variant is hitting them harder.
But none of that is why Alabama’s governor is frustrated.
She’s frustrated because she knew better. She knew better than to be pushed into the position of signing a vaccine passport ban. She knew better than to be pushed into a position of guaranteeing that Alabama will be “open for business.” She knew better than to contradict pediatricians on masks for Alabama school kids.
My friends on the progressive side of things will likely disagree with me (and they’ll make some good points doing so), but I believe Kay Ivey is a good person who wants to do good things for the people of the state. I disagree with her on how to do those things — and even on which things are good — but I do believe that’s her goal in office, and not personal greed or power.
I believe that much, at least, was evident in how she handled the pandemic last year. She took a lot of heat from some very big names around this state — and from some of the usual kingmakers in Alabama politics — for her refusal to lift the lockdowns and the mask mandates.
But she was right. And she knew it. And she had the political capital to stand her ground in the face of the ignorant mob.
That’s no longer true.
Elections are coming. And like winter on “Game of Thrones,” an army of brain-dead zombies are about to march off to the polls and vote for whatever insane candidate the rightwing nuts tell them will make it legal for toddlers to own firearms and ban teachers from even calling on Black kids in classes.
So, Kay Ivey has been forced to do the dance of the dumb. To placate the anti-vaccine masses. To coddle the anti-mask morons. To soothe the anti-lockdown loons.
And she knows it’s not right. And that it’s going to cost lives in this state.
Because Ivey is no dummy. She knows that a bunch of Alabama lawmakers running around passing vaccine passport bans and talking about personal freedoms is discouraging Alabamians from taking this virus as seriously as they should, and from getting the vaccine. She knows that her comments about mask mandates and other measures being behind us send a message that the dangers are over.
She knows that national Republican figures spending months talking about how the virus was going to “magically disappear” after the 2020 presidential election led to a cavalier attitude about the virus and the vaccine.
She knows that Republicans turning this virus and vaccine into political issues only made it more likely that conservative voters would dig in and find any reason whatsoever — even one as unfathomably stupid as President Biden isn’t giving Trump enough credit — to not take the vaccine.
(I don’t want to hear about “both sides” playing politics with this, because it’s provably false. One side has consistently asked you to take a virus seriously, to get the proven-safe vaccine, to take simple steps to keep yourself and others safe. The other side has pushed absurd conspiracy theories, undermined vaccine efforts at every turn and put American lives at risk.)
But there Ivey is — in the corner that she and all the rest of the GOP have painted themselves into. Nowhere to turn. Nowhere to hide.
They can see clearly now the results of all that pandering, all of that telling people what they wanted to hear, all of that entertaining of conspiracies and lies. As the COVID-19 cases grow and the hospitals start to fill up again, they know what’s coming and they know how very simple it would have been to stop it.
And that is why Kay Ivey is so frustrated.