Democratic Erosion in Brazil

Via WaPo comes a very dramatic headline: Bolsonaro once said he’d stage a military takeover. Now Brazilians fear he could be laying the foundation for one.

The basics:

In a television interview two decades ago, the fringe congressman didn’t hesitate to say it: If he were president, he would shut down the Brazilian congress and stage a military takeover.

“There’s not even the littlest doubt,” Jair Bolsonaro said. “I’d stage a coup the same day [I became president,] the same day. Congress doesn’t work. I’m sure at least 90 percent of people would party and clap.”

Now the congressman is president of Brazil, and fears are mounting here that he could be considering how to make good on that idea.

Keep in mind some context: Brazil spent a good deal of theTwentieth Century under military rule. Most notably, the military ousted the democratically elected president in 1964 and governed until 1985. The first directly elected post-military government president took office in March of 1990. Military rule is not some distant memory in Brazil.

And, yes, Bolsonaro has, shall we say, a colorful past and a problematic present that sums to more than a small chance that he might attempt a coup. So, it is more than fair to say that he both once threatened one in the past and that people in the now have some cause to be worried he might actually try to stage one in the present.

I have hardly kept up with the minute details of Brazilian politics, although I have certainly keep track of the broad contours of late and my impression is that actually motivating the military to take over again is a low probability scenario. That doesn’t mean, however, that Bolsonaro isn’t bad for Brazilian democracy. He is.

To wit:

“Next year’s elections have to be clean,” he declared this month. “Either we’ll have clean elections, or we won’t have elections.”


Bolsonaro’s increasingly brazen comments escalate a months-long, Trump-style campaign to erode faith in the electoral system and transform its processes into a high-stakes political struggle. Now, as Latin America’s largest democracy girds itself for what is expected to be a tumultuous election, it confronts a paradox that will be familiar to Americans: The man leading the assault on its electoral process is the very person most recently awarded its highest office.

For years, Bolsonaro has lodged unsubstantiated allegations of electoral fraud. Before the 2018 presidential election, he said the only way he would lose would be by fraud. He then claimed he had won by much more than the official tally showed. Last year, he parroted President Donald Trump’s allegations on the U.S. election: “There was a lot of fraud there.”

But in recent months he has increasingly latched onto Brazil’s electronic voting machines, alleging without evidence that the system is pervaded by fraud. He says the country should switch to physical ballots and has repeatedly pushed the congress to make that change.

It is flatly destructive to issue warnings about fraud without proof. It simply signals to followers that they should be worried about the system and it casts doubt on outcomes and processes in a way that damages public trust. This is cancerous to a democracy.

“Elections are a huge leap of faith, and it’s amazing that we’ve taken them as an article of faith for this long,” said Christopher Sabatini, a senior fellow for Latin America at the London-based think tank Chatham House.

“The genius of electoral fraud claims is that you don’t even need to demonstrate fraud; you just need to demonstrate the possibility of fraud,” Sabatini said. “Then, in the hothouse environment of social media, it will be picked up with very little fact-checking, really catch fire and be reinforced.”

Both the US and Brazil are seeing their institutions attacked in this manner. It is, in some ways, right out of Putin’s version of authoritarianism: just uncut public confidence so that they simply don’t actually expect actual democratic competition and accountability.

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France Increases Vaccinations

France was lagging in its vaccination rates, so the National Assembly passed, and President Macron signed a vaccine passport law. Beginning on August 1, access to indoor public venues like cafes, restaurants, and bars. And, dare I say, voila! and the number of vaccinated persons has started to rise. The NYT reports, Persuasion vs. Coercion: Vaccine Debate in Europe Heats Up.

Barreling through 1,200 proposed amendments, defying accusations of authoritarianism and chaos from the hard right and left, the lower house voted by 117 to 86 to back President Macron’s attempt to strong-arm the French to get vaccinated by making their lives miserable if they do not.

Europe’s problem is similar to that of the United States: vaccination levels that, at around or just under 60 percent, are inadequate for herd immunity; surging Delta variant cases; and growing divisions over how far getting an injection can be mandated.

But where the United States has generally not gone beyond hospitals and major health systems requiring employees to get Covid-19 vaccines, major European economies including France and Italy are moving closer to making vaccines mandatory for everyone.

Mr. Macron’s measures, announced July 12 as the only means to avoid yet another French lockdown, have spurred both protests and an extraordinary surge in vaccinations, with 3.7 million booked in the first week after the president spoke, and a record of nearly 900,000 vaccinations in a single day on July 19. In this sense, his bold move has been a success.

This outcome suggests a couple of things. One, that perhaps a lot of vaccine hesitancy is just vaccination procrastination rather than some profound fear of the shots. Second, a little motivation goes a long way in getting people to make a decision. If a given person’s choice is doing nothing and life goes on or one has to go mess with getting a shot, the cost-benefit is to default to doing nothing. Now, if that person can no longer dine out or go to the pub, then the calculation shifts. And yes, I fully recognize that not getting Covid ought to be part of the calculation, but how many people avoid basic medical care (e.g., getting their teeth cleaned) because they just don’t want to hassle with it despite the known risks of such behavior? (How many people smoke and convince themselves that they will be the odd cases that won’t get lung cancer?).

Of course, and unfortunately, something like this will not happen in the United States. For one thing, France has a unitary state, meaning that the national government can mandate rules in ways that are impossible in a federal system like the US. In other words, while US states have a substantial amount of policy autonomy, French Departments are essentially administrative units more like US counties than US states.

And since there is no national consensus on vaccinations, and specifically because the politicization of vaccines has meant that Republican-controlled states are actively opposed to measures like what happened in France (and is likely to happen elsewhere in Europe) we are simply not going to see any national mandates of this type.

It is encouraging that some prominent Republican politicians are starting to understand the situation we are in (although the degree to which they understand how they themselves helped to create it remains to be seen. For example, the Governor of my state, Kay Ivey, said this week (as James Joyner quoted earlier in the week):

“Folks are supposed to have common sense. It’s time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks, not the regular folks. It’s the unvaccinated folks that are letting us down….I’ve done all I know how to do. I can encourage you to do something, but I can’t make you take care of yourself.”

Yet, just two months ago (via WSFA), Ivey signs bill to ban ‘vaccine passports’ in Alabama.

The mixed message here is stark. Kudos to her for promoting voluntary vaccination and being clear that she, herself, was vaccinated. But signing performative laws to signal that the state supports banning any kind of comprehensive approach is a great way for the “regular people” to also be “the unvaccinated folks.”

As I said in the comment section of one of James’ recent posts: if this state had required proof of vaccination or a negative test to attend college football game this fall, the results would have been a lot like what was seen in France.

Ballotpedia has the following map of federalism in action on this topic:

To add to that, here is a map of colleges and universities requiring proof of vaccination via the Chronicle of Higher Education:

Look, I understand that people have the right to refuse medical treatment. But there are also broader collective public health considerations that need to be taken into consideration. It is not unreasonable to want rules that will actively encourage individuals to be vaccinated. You have to have certain shots to attend K-12 or to live in a university dorm. This is not some new notion that we are dealing with.

But when politicians and their media allies convince large swaths of people that a given virus is no big deal (just the sniffles, dontcha know) then this is where we end up. And we are about to see the consequences of that bad behavior, and it isn’t going to be pleasant.

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Kinzinger to Serve on 1/6 Committee

Via CNN:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Sunday she has appointed GOP Rep. Adam Kinzinger to the House select committee to investigate the January 6 attack on the US Capitol.

“Today, I am announcing the appointment of Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger, an Air Force veteran and Lieutenant Colonel in the Air National Guard, to serve on the Select Committee,” she said in a statement. “He brings great patriotism to the Committee’s mission: to find the facts and protect our Democracy.”

Kinzinger, a vocal Republican critic of former President Donald Trump who was one of 10 House Republicans to vote for his second impeachment, is joining Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming as the only Republicans on the new select committee.

I have no illusions that this will make pro-Trump Republicans happy or lead to some broad acceptance of the findings of the investigation.

Nonetheless, it is a positive move, as Kinzginer is certainly a far more serious member of the Republican caucus than, say, Jim Jordan.

McCarthy now has some choices to make in regards to both Kinzinger and Cheney.

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One Child, One Vote

The Yale lawyer and bestselling author J. D. Vance floated a bizarre idea over the weekend in his bid for a U.S. Senate seat from his native Ohio. And it’s catching on in all the wrong places.

NY Post (“GOP Senate candidate J.D. Vance blames ‘childless left’ for culture wars“):

Ohio Republican US Senate candidate J.D. Vance is taking aim at New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other leaders of the “childless left” for their lack of “physical commitment to the future of this country” — suggesting a radical change in voting rights to combat them.

“Why is this just a normal fact of … life, for the leaders of our country to be people who don’t have a personal and direct stake in it via their own offspring?” Vance asked Friday at an Alexandria, Va. conference hosted by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, The Federalist reported.

Vance, a venture capitalist and author of the bestselling memoir “Hillbilly Elegy,” entered the race to replace retiring Ohio Sen. Rob Portman this month.

“The left isn’t just criticizing our country … it’s trying to take our very sense of national pride and national purpose away from us,” he said, blaming figures such as Vice President Kamala Harris, Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, along with AOC, for stoking “cultural wars.”

Harris has called herself the “momala” of her two grown stepchildren, Cole and Ella Emhoff. Booker, Buttigieg, and Ocasio-Cortez have no children.

Vance offered a startling solution to what he called the “civilizational crisis”: extra voting power for parents.

“The Democrats are talking about giving the vote to 16-year-olds,” Vance said.

Instead, he said, “Let’s give votes to all children in this country, but let’s give control over those votes to the parents of the children.”

“Doesn’t this mean that parents get a bigger say in how democracy functions? … Yes,” he concluded.

So, even if we’re charitable and ignore the fact that his examples are all people of color or gay, this is just a silly argument. And it’s not like parents Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders are espousing different policies. Or Joe Biden or Nancy Pelosi, both of whom had/have multiple children and grandchildren, for that matter.

But that didn’t stop the idiots on Fox & Friends from hopping on board.

“I think it’s an interesting idea,” host Will Cain said. “I’m into interesting ideas. Let’s think about it. Let’s talk about it. He’s saying childless leaders are making decisions that are short-term in mind, not focused on the long-term future health of this country because they don’t have a stake in the game. Parents have a stake in the game, they have children so give parents a bigger say.”

Co-host Pete Hegseth pointed out that fellow co-host Rachel Campos-Duffy would get nine votes because she has nine children.

“I don’t know about that solution, that seems not feasible,” Campos-Duffy said. “But I will say that I agree with the premise of it, that it is absolutely true that people like [Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez], Pete Buttigieg — you can name the left-wing politicians, people who think that we should legalize marijuana because they don’t have kids and they don’t really have a stake in what that looks like.”

“I agree with him 100% that they don’t have a stake in the game,” she continued.

“That is looking at it through the lens of the actual solution, which is the family unit,” co-host Pete Hegseth agreed. “So many ills that we have in our society stem from that breakdown. I agree with you. [It’s] not a feasible policy but what it is in principle is a reflection of the fact that — what Ronald Reagan said, freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.”

“And if you’re Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — our favorite comrade — and you’ve said the world is going to end in 12 years, what do you care?” he added. “It’s this idea of absolute pessimism that the world’s going to end and as a result, we’re the problem and don’t have kids.”

Again, this is just idiotic. And, indeed, the argument would seem to go the other way, no? Global warming is likely to have relatively modest effect on AOC and Buttigieg personally. It’s only if we’re worried about future generations that it’s worth massive investments now.

Politically, though, this is a tone likely to resonate with conservatives and non-urban voters. A Yahoo Finance piece from 2019 titled “Republicans Have More Kids Than Democrats. A Lot More Kids.” notes,

Liberals are not having enough babies to keep up with conservatives. Arthur Brooks, a social scientist at Syracuse University, was the first to point this out all the way back in 2006 when he went on ABC News and blew blue staters minds. “The political Right is having a lot more kids than the political Left,” he explained. “The gap is actually 41 percent.” Data on the U.S. birth rate from the General Social Survey confirms this trend—a random sample of 100 conservative adults will raise 208 children, while 100 liberal adults will raise a mere 147 kids. That’s a massive gap.

When we collected the number of children per capita in each state and then compared the data to statewide voting records, we found that the trend is so strong, that it can even be observed at the state level. Red States came out with significantly more kids per capita than Blue States.

Here’s the graphic:

An Institute for Family Studies report from right after last November’s election (“The Conservative Fertility Advantage“) adds:

In an election post-mortem interview, progressive election analyst David Shor claimed that increasingly delayed marriage and childbearing have given Democrats an electoral advantage and that these changes in family formation are “reason for hope” for Democrats. Indeed, the recent presidential election revealed sharp divides in American society: between urban and rural, men and women, Black and white, conservative and liberal. Less recognized is the way in which different approaches to family life also shaped the 2020 presidential election. Whereas Americans on both sides of the aisle once shared a basic model of family, today our political divisions show up quite literally at birth, with conservatives having (and desiring to have) considerably more children than liberals. We are not only divided by our political visions, but also by our values and behaviors around childbearing and childrearing; that is, by our visions of family life.

One way this shows up is fertility. In this election, the association between fertility rates and voting patterns was crystal clear. 

This seems to be Schor’s hobby horse! Regardless, here’s what we saw in 2016 and 2020:

Data about fertility rates is only available for around 600 of the largest counties, thus many small, rural counties are excluded. But the relationship shown here is clear: President Trump did better in counties with higher birth rates, and the difference is fairly large, with the most pro-Biden counties having total fertility rates almost 25% lower than the most pro-Trump counties. If anything, this effect is understated, since the most pro-Trump counties were small, rural counties that usually have even higher birth rates and are excluded from this analysis. Indeed, Yi Fuxian at the University of Wisconsin showed that the relationship between voting and fertility is even more pronounced when we look at fertility rates and state voting trends.

Nor is the relationship between fertility and presidential voting a spurious result related to urbanization, race, or state practices in drawing county lines. The figure below extends the analysis to more presidential elections, and includes controls for the state a county is in, the county’s non-Hispanic white population share, and the county’s population density.

There’s whole lot more, much of it wonky, in that report.

An, only tangentially related but included because it struck me as counterintuitive, a 2013 Pew report titled “Having daughters makes parents more likely to be Republican.”

Two sociologists have found that parents who have daughters are more inclined to support the GOP and turn a cold shoulder to Democrats.

In newly published findings that challenge earlier research, Dalton Conley of New York University and Emily Rauscher of the University of Kansas found that having more daughters than sons and having a daughter first “significantly reduces the likelihood of Democratic identification and significantly increases the strength of Republican Party identification.”

Not only is the daughter effect statistically significant, it’s substantively large.  They found that overall, “compared to those with no daughters, parents with all daughters are 14% less likely to identify as a Democrat….[and] 11% more likely to identify as a Republican than parents with no daughters,” they write in the journal Sociological Forum.

The daughters effect is considerably stronger among better educated and wealthier parents, they find. But among those farther down the socioeconomic ladder, it weakens to statistical insignificance.

Their startling conclusions are based on data collected two decades ago from 661 respondents with biological children interviewed for the 1994 General Social Survey conducted by the University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center. Even though this national trend study has been administered regularly since 1972, the 1994 survey is the only one that included questions about the sex and birth order of a respondent’s biological children. (Surveys typically measure only whether a respondent has any children, including step-children and adopted children.)

The researchers note that their results fly in the face of the few other studies that test the effect of daughters on political attitudes. Among them is a 2008 voting analysis of members of Congress. It found U.S. Senators and Representatives with more daughters voted more liberally than other members.  A 2010 study in Great Britain found having daughters increased the likelihood of voting for the Labor or Liberal Democrat parties as opposed to the Conservative Party, though the data are limited to “children who live at home, do not include information on those who have left home, and include step-children,” Rauscher and Conley write.

However, their findings are consistent with a recent study that found boys who grew up with sisters in the house were more likely to identify as adults with the Republican Party.

But why would having a daughter cause parents to become more Republican? The authors speculate that men and women might want more socially conservative policies when they have daughters and thus be more attracted to the GOP.

Regardless, Vance is being cynical but perhaps shrewd here. Not only is he playing to parents, which would seem to be the right play for a would-be Republican Senator, he’s simultaneously playing to the trope that Democrats are less fully American because they’re not doing their part in keeping up the population.

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A Little Monday Tab Clearing

Compassion should always be the first reaction to vaccine hesitation. Maybe some unvaccinated people have trouble getting time off work to deal with side effects, maybe they are disorganized, maybe they are just irrationally anxious. But there’s no getting around the truth that some considerable number of the unvaccinated are also behaving willfully and spitefully. Yes, they have been deceived and manipulated by garbage TV, toxic Facebook content, and craven or crazy politicians. But these are the same people who keep talking about “personal responsibility.” In the end, the unvaccinated person himself or herself has decided to inflict a preventable and unjustifiable harm upon family, friends, neighbors, community, country, and planet.

Will Blue America ever decide it’s had enoughof being put medically at risk by people and places whose bills it pays? Check yourself: Have you?

And because of the various causes, attributing the low rates to one group is difficult. In a state like Alabama, for instance, roughly 30 percent of white people, 27 percent of Black people, and 22 percent of Hispanic residents are vaccinated. “Regardless of race, the rates are abysmal,” Budhwani said. As such, “we need to respectfully reach into communities,” she continued, and that means continuing to engage with churches and schools as well as leaning on peer-to-peer messaging. “People tend to respond better when hearing public-health messaging from near peers, so for example, when trying to engage adolescents in Alabama, we should co-create messaging with adolescents and then these same adolescents should be involved in the delivery of the messages that they helped to create.”

That racial background, I would note, underscores that the vaccination rate issues are not simply a function of Trump voters/right-wing media. The fact that only 27% of Blacks in Alabama have gotten their shots indicates there are other issues at play.

Louisiana ranks near the bottom in vaccination rates nationally, and cases are again multiplying, with the second-highest average daily case count per 100,000 people in the country.

“We are unfortunately the leading edge of the Delta surge,” said Dr. Joseph Kanter, the state’s top health official. “We lost all the progress we had made.”

The immediate crisis is confounding and demoralizing Dr. Whyte and other officials in Shreveport, where just over half the population is Black and nearly 40 percent is white, with a mix of moderate Democratic and far-right conservative politics.

Again, note the racial breakdown. The misinformation is not just in one arena (and a lot of this is also a tale of poor health care infrastructure).

A White city leader captured on video using a racial slur toward Black people during a council meeting said he won’t apologize, and might run for mayor. Others are calling for his resignation.


During a public session, Bryant used the slur to refer to a Black female council member, Veronica Freeman. Before the outburst, neighbors asked Bryant about controversial social media posts allegedly made by his wife about race, CBS affiliate WIAT-TV reports

After being questioned, Bryant stood up and can be heard saying: “The n-word. The n-word. Let’s get to the n-word. Hey. Do we have a house n* in here? Do we? Hey. Would she please stand up?” Bryant said.


Asked whether he is a racist, Bryant demurred.

“It’s according to what your definition of the word racist is. What a lot of the public’s definition is, I might be a racist. But according to what the true definition of a racist is, absolutely not,” he told WVTM.

This took place in a city that is part of the greater Birmingham metro area.

The whole story is a bit convoluted as it includes some accusations about something allegedly overheard, but there is no doubt that Bryant used the word at the meeting. What struck me about the whole thing is that we are often told by some that structural racism and less obvious forms may not exist. That, in fact, racists are obvious and do things like use clearly racist language. And here we have a clear example of racist language, and the deployer of said language claims not to be a racist (at least not the “true definition” dontcha know).

  • No tansition for this one: Ross Douthat’s column over the weekend is a great example of the contents of a piece not living up, at all, to its premise: Can the Left Regulate Sex?

The piece has the feel of a columnist who had an idea, couldn’t really make the idea work, but wrote the column anyway (and yes, I am aware that that often describes Douthat’s columns). This one is a patchwork quilt of weird connections of vaguely linked (in the sense that they are all, very broadly, about sexual behavior) to make an incredibly thin argument (so much so that I kind of hate to use the term). Let’s just say that the title does not live up to the contents.

The post A Little Monday Tab Clearing first appeared on Outside the Beltway.

Afghan War: Twenty Years For Nothing

U.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. Evelyn Chavez

WSJ (“U.S. Intensifies Airstrikes in Afghanistan as Taliban Offensive Nears Kandahar“):

The U.S. has stepped up airstrikes in southern Afghanistan amid growing apprehension over a Taliban offensive threatening Kandahar, the country’s second-largest city and spiritual capital of the Taliban movement.

The fall of Kandahar would deal a heavy blow to the U.S.-backed government in Kabul, which is trying to impart calm to its citizens as the Taliban has seized swaths of the countryside, but so far failed to take a major city.

The airstrikes, about a dozen in recent days, point to a continuing role for the U.S. military in Afghanistan, despite confidence expressed by President Biden and the Pentagon that the Afghan armed forces are well-equipped and ready to fight the Taliban on their own. U.S. forces are due to depart Afghanistan by the end of August.

Kandahar, population 600,000, was home to deceased Taliban leader Mullah Omar, and host to key military bases once maintained by the U.S. It is also a major economic prize.

The Taliban have advanced dozens of miles toward Kandahar city in recent weeks, squeezing it from three directions, capturing swaths of territory in the Panjwai and Arghandab valleys, places where foreign troops fought for decades to keep the Taliban at bay.

From the west, Taliban fighters now are within 2 miles of a base once used by the Central Intelligence Agency to train Afghan special forces, who now occupy the facility, according to residents reached by telephone in Kandahar.

Residents said the Taliban push from the south threatens to cut off the main road between the city and Kandahar Air Field, a one-time bastion of U.S. air power during the 20-year war. The U.S. turned the base over to the Afghan National Army last month.

In an impromptu visit to Kabul, the top U.S. military commander in charge of the Middle East and Afghanistan, Gen. Frank McKenzie, met Sunday with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and his top security officials to discuss Afghanistan’s defense plans and to reassure them of U.S. support.

Gen. McKenzie told reporters after the meeting that the U.S. had increased the number of airstrikes against the Taliban in the past few days, and was prepared to continue if the Taliban offensive continues.

Gen. McKenzie called the battle for Kandahar “a tough fight” and said the city was critical for both sides. “I think the issue is still in doubt, but Kandahar has not fallen,” he said.

Given that we’ve spent nearly two decades building up an Afghan security structure modeled after our own, and therefore unsustainable by a poor, developing country, it’s only right that we continue air support to give them a fighting chance. But it appears for all the world that we’re just trying to forestall the inevitable until the last of our ground troops have departed. Indeed, we’re barely making it a secret:

The U.S. military has sought to dial back on strikes against the Taliban before Aug. 31. After that, White House officials have said they would retain the right to strike al Qaeda or other groups only if they pose a threat to the U.S.

If we keep to that, the Taliban will be back in charge by Christmas, if not Halloween.

The United States has lost 2,354 dead in the direct fighting and untold numbers physically maimed and/or psychologically injured and countless marriages ruined for, well, nothing. Of those, only 7 were in 2001 in the immediate response to the 9/11 attacks. Just another 30 came by the end of 2002. The heaviest losses came between 2005 and 2013, during which time it became rather obvious that a democratic Afghanistan able to control the whole territory and stave off the Taliban on their own was unachievable at a price the United States and its dwindling number of allies in the fight were willing to pay.

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Alabama People 40% Vaccinated, Alabama Football 90% Vaccinated

Kay Ivey, the Republican governor of my former home state of Alabama, is furious about the rapid spread of the COVID-19 Delta variant there and rightly blames people who won’t get vaccinated.

A fiery Gov. Kay Ivey made her most forceful statements yet today encouraging Alabamians to get the COVID-19 vaccine, saying “the unvaccinated folks are letting us down” in the fight to control the pandemic.

She also signaled she would not mandate students to wear masks when classes resume in Alabama’s public schools, saying that decision should be left up to school districts.

“Let’s be crystal clear about this issue,” Ivey said.

“Media, I want you to start reporting the facts. The few cases of COVID are because of unvaccinated folks. Almost 100% of the new hospitalizations are unvaccinated folks. And the deaths certainly are occurring with unvaccinated folks. These folks are choosing a horrible lifestyle of self-inflicted pain. We’ve got to get folks to take the shot.”


Calling the vaccines “the greatest weapon we have to fight COVID,” Ivey admitted some frustration in response to questions on what she can do to encourage more Alabamians to get vaccinated. Alabama is the only state in the nation with fewer than 40% of eligible residents vaccinated against COVID-19. Data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows just 39.6% of people 12 and older in Alabama are fully vaccinated.

In response to the question of what will take it get more people to take the vaccine, Ivey said, “I don’t know. You tell me.”

“Folks are supposed to have common sense,” she said. “It’s time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks, not the regular folks. It’s the unvaccinated folks that are letting us down….I’ve done all I know how to do. I can encourage you to do something, but I can’t make you take care of yourself.”

She’s mostly right here. And, despite being a Trumpist in many ways, she’s been comparatively responsible on this issue. While she dragged her feet on issuing a stay-at-home order, she finally did so in early April 2020. While she prohibited venues from requiring proof of vaccination to enter back in May, she has been vocal in advocating for vaccination.

But there’s simply no way around the fact that, when fewer than 40% of the eligible population is vaccinated, the refusniks are the “regular folks.”

And it’s worth noting the Nick Saban, the wildly successful head coach of my graduate alma maters’ football team, has not only been a vocal leader for masking, social distancing, and other mitigation measures from the outset of the pandemic, his players and coaches are among the most vaccinated of any program in the country. It’s not an accident:

The Crimson Tide is “pretty close to 90%,” Saban said in terms of players who’ve received the vaccination entering the Aug. 5 report date for preseason practice.

The conversation is two-fold, Saban said while noting they’ve had three different doctors speak to the team to “give lectures to our team about the pros and cons of the whole COVID circumstance.”

“First of all, you have a personal decision, which comes down to risk — risk of COVID, relative risk to the vaccine,” said Saban who recorded a May PSA encouraging Alabamians to get the vaccine. “It’s the same thing. We don’t really have a lot of knowledge about how this stuff is going to affect people in the future, so that’s a personal decision that everybody has the right to make.”

The team component also factors in here.

Saban mentioned the NC State baseball team whose run in the College World Series ended when there was an outbreak in the locker room. The New York Yankees has had two such incidents including one last week with All-Star right fielder Aaron Judge.

“Players have to understand that you are putting your teammates in a circumstance and situation,” Saban said. “We can control what you do in our building. We cannot control what you do on campus and when you go around town, who you’re around, who you’re associated with, and what you bring into our building.”

With [Southeastern Conference Commissioner Greg] Sankey saying Monday that games wouldn’t be rescheduled if rosters were hit by COVID-19 outbreaks, that discussion takes on another degree of urgency.

“So every player has a personal decision to make to evaluate the risk of COVID relative to vaccine, and then they have a competitive decision to make on how it impacts their ability to play in games, because with the vaccine you probably have a better chance,” Saban said. “Without it, you have a lesser chance that something could happen, a bigger chance that something could happen that may keep you from being on the field, which doesn’t enhance your personal development.”

Saban, who contracted a mild case of the disease during his national championship season last year despite observing strict masking and testing protocols, is doing what makes him great: focusing on the details and what he calls “The Process.”

The contrast with the rest of the states’ population is just amazing. Oh, and ditto the cross-state rival.

[I]t’s probably not the greatest sign of things to come from Auburn’s new football coach that the most memorable thing he said on Thursday at his first SEC Media Days was that vaccines are a personal choice, and he’s not encouraging anyone to get one.

Has [Bryan] Harsin received the COVID-19 vaccine? He no commented that question, and also said he wasn’t going to discuss the vaccine with his team.

“It’s deeply personal for a lot of people,” Harsin said. “And so, that’s how we approach it: here’s the information, you make the decision.”

Bryan Harsin, the maybe/maybe not anti-vaxxer. Just great. Wonderful. Is he planning to run for the U.S. Senate, or something?

On a more mundane level, this message from a Birmingham physician:

Dr. Brytney Cobia said Monday that all but one of her COVID patients in Alabama did not receive the vaccine. The vaccinated patient, she said, just needed a little oxygen and is expected to fully recover. Some of the others are dying.

“I’m admitting young healthy people to the hospital with very serious COVID infections,” wrote Cobia, a hospitalist at Grandview Medical Center in Birmingham, in an emotional Facebook post Sunday. “One of the last things they do before they’re intubated is beg me for the vaccine. I hold their hand and tell them that I’m sorry, but it’s too late.”


For the first year and a half of the pandemic, Cobia and hundreds of other Alabama physicians caring for critically ill COVID-19 patients worked themselves to the bone trying to save as many as possible.

“Back in 2020 and early 2021, when the vaccine wasn’t available, it was just tragedy after tragedy after tragedy,” Cobia told this week. “You know, so many people that did all the right things, and yet still came in, and were critically ill and died.”


“A few days later when I call time of death,” continued Cobia on Facebook, “I hug their family members and I tell them the best way to honor their loved one is to go get vaccinated and encourage everyone they know to do the same.”

“They cry. And they tell me they didn’t know. They thought it was a hoax. They thought it was political. They thought because they had a certain blood type or a certain skin color they wouldn’t get as sick. They thought it was ‘just the flu’. But they were wrong. And they wish they could go back. But they can’t. So they thank me and they go get the vaccine. And I go back to my office, write their death note, and say a small prayer that this loss will save more lives.”

More than 11,400 Alabamians have died of COVID so far, but midway through 2021, caring for COVID patients is a different story than it was in the beginning. Cobia said it’s different mentally and emotionally to care for someone who could have prevented their disease but chose not to.

Indeed it is.

The post Alabama People 40% Vaccinated, Alabama Football 90% Vaccinated first appeared on Outside the Beltway.