At a fundraiser this summer, Donald Trump told donors he hoped his supporters would get vaccinated.
“We need our people,” he pointed out.
But when this leaked to the media, he took a lot of heat.
To his critics, coming from a man who once dismissed COVID-19 as a “democrat hoax,” who predicted it would “go away like magic,” who openly mocked respected scientists while hailing anti-maskers as freedom fighters, it was an epic case of too little, too late.
It was also perceived as an act of betrayal by many of his supporters. When he doubled down at a rally in Alabama, urging them to “take the vaccines,” he was uncharacteristically booed.
And yet, in his defense, why wouldn't he want “his people” to get vaccinated? In a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study comparing health outcomes of vaccinated to unvaccinated Americans, the latter were five times more likely to catch COVID-19, and 11 times more likely to die from it when they did.
That's why some 97% of COVID-19 deaths in recent months were among those who refused the vaccine. Of the roughly 140,000 U.S. casualties since vaccines became widely available, an estimated 135,800 were unvaccinated.
A recent poll, moreover, brings Trump's plea into even sharper relief. According to Gallup, 92% of Democrats were vaccinated, compared to only 56% of Republicans.
While 44% of Republicans fall into the high-risk-of mortality category, in other words, only 8% of Democrats do.
Even taking into account the disparity in their ranks – 49% of Americans identify as or lean Democrat, while only 40% are Republican – this means 4.5 unvaccinated Republicans would likely die of COVID-19 for every unvaccinated Democrat who died of the virus.
I realize this may seem like a callous way of appraising human life.
But GOP analysts are almost certainly using far more sophisticated math than this to assess the impact of COVID-19 on their base.
If these admittedly crude figures suggest Republicans have lost 86,419 more voters than Democrats in just over five months (and they do), then you can bet they're paying attention.
After all, while Trump lost the popular vote by several million in each of the past two elections, the electoral outcomes were both determined by fewer votes than the figure cited above.
So, whatever you may think of our former president, he is right to be concerned. If not for the tragic loss of life, or for the staggering toll of needless suffering, at least for the loss of would-be voters who could otherwise help reelect him.
If he does decide to run in 2024, Trump could very well become one of the few major-party candidates in American history to lose two consecutive presidential elections.
And given how he addressed the pandemic as president, there seems little doubt where future historians might pin the blame.
Steve Graves of Fort Wayne is retired from the motion picture industry, where he worked as a best boy grip and camera rigger.