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Why would governors fight vaccine mandates?
This week, the Republican governors of Texas and Florida challenged the coronavirus vaccine mandates put forth by President Joe Biden.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued an executive order banning any entity in the state from enforcing a vaccine mandate. Florida governor Ron DeSantis said that he will challenge in federal court and through legislation any vaccine mandates placed on employers by the federal government.
Both Abbot and DeSantis have been at the forefront of the political wars over Covid prevention protocols – from banning mask mandates or refusing to implement state-wide social distancing measures at the start of the pandemic.
Syracuse University Professor Shana Gadarian and chair of the political science department at the Maxwell School, says that the Biden administration has a clear legal precedent to enforce vaccine mandates. So what is motivating these governors to engage in what could be a protracted and expensive legal battle?
“These governors are most likely looking to the next election cycle. Both Abbot and DeSantis could both be jockeying for 2024. In the past, candidates would need to position themselves as middle of the road. But today, they are in competition with former president Trump, who could still run again,” said Gadarian. “The Republican party has made it part of the conservative ideology to uphold the value of individualism. During the pandemic, that has translated into holding personal choice and freedom over the beliefs of public health and collective safety.”
Gadarian, a political psychologist, has tracked American attitudes toward the pandemic since it began. She is the co-author of several papers tracking these attitudes and will have a book out next year about these results.
In one of her most recent papers “Partisanship, health behavior, and policy attitudes in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic,” she and her co-authors found that political partisanship – and specifically between Republicans and Democrats – fueled how Americans responded to the pandemic through behaviors and policy preferences.
Gadarian points out the irony of Republicans fighting vaccine mandates or questioning the safety of the coronavirus vaccine when it was created by a Republican administration under President Trump.
“There was a moment when Republicans could have touted the vaccine as unlocking economic recovery or praising how it was quickly developed to fight the pandemic. However, Trump politized it early on. He did receive the shot, but didn’t do it publicly like other world leaders. He publicly accused Pfizer of delaying positive vaccine trial results until after Election Day. The Republican Party could have embraced vaccinations as a central Republican achievement, but it chose another path,” said Gadarian.
Gadarian is also the co-author of the book author of “Anxious Politics: Democratic Citizenships in a Threatening World.”
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