TYRANNY OF THE MINORITY
By Mickey Skidmore, AMHSW, ACSW, MACSW
The core base of Trump supporters is estimated to be between 25-30% of the American electorate. While a significant majority do not share their views, the disproportionate amplification of their voices is holding much of their country hostage, not to mention in other countries as well. Their insistency on wild (and often debunked) conspiracy theories; disinformation campaigns; gaslighting; demagoguery; and extreme partisanship have corrupted, distorted, and even taken hostage several significant issues in their relentless efforts to create, cultivate and incite a culture war in America (voter suppression; the Supreme Court; immigration; reproductive health care for women — in particular, abortion; climate change; and long overdue infrastructure initiatives to name a few). This essay will emphasise how such dynamics have also undermined coopted the COVID-19 pandemic.
Based on CDC recommendations there are already a substantial list of vaccine mandates for Child Care and School attendance in many states in the USA. (These are also required vaccines in Australia).
The “Mango Musilini” himself set the tone among those in his political party and his base at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The distortions, misrepresentations, and ghoulish COVID denialism quickly emerged as a foundation to question, challenge, and politicise public health measures and guidance as a threat. This was framed in disingenuine and polarised conflictual contexts: public health vs the national economy; threats to personal liberty and freedoms vs potential death. Today it is largely part of the right wing ethos to oppose recommended public health measures to mitigate the spread of COVID — if not to outright deny the reality of the devastation it has wrecked havoc around the world. Hard to fathom that the outrage of the minority have resulted in the politicisation of wearing a mask to protect from COVID spread.
The delta variant has fundamentally altered the course of this world health crisis into an alarming phase that is becoming known as the “pandemic of the unvaccinated.” President Biden’s recent efforts to be more aggressive (including moving towards increased mandates) has been met with fierce push back and opposition by conservative political leaders. Twenty-Four (24) Republican Governors raced to condemn Biden’s announcement and have threatened law suits against the Biden administration in response to his efforts to protect his citizens. (This is equivalent to half of the Australian MP’s filing suit against the Prime Minister).
What is most curious, is that these Republican Governors are fighting COVID-19 vaccine mandates — despite mandating other vaccines (as outlined above). Experts say there is no legal or substantive difference between mandating COVID-19 vaccines and requiring other kinds of vaccines. There appears to be a certain hypocrisy in mandating childhood vaccines for school children while objecting to employer mandates.
Four years ago, Indiana Governor Eric Holcolm mandated meningitis vaccines for public college and university students. Now, he says choosing whether or not to be vaccinated is a “fundamental” right. The 12 Republican-led states that have banned COVID-19 mandates in the US thus far all require that children receive several vaccines in order to attend daycare and public schools. Many view such opposition to COVID-19 vaccination and mitigation efforts as nakedly political. Political extremists who oppose mandate efforts are twisting, perverting, and warping civil liberties for partisan gain — while holding the majority hostage to their feigned outrage and contradictory nonsense.
The US has a long history of mandating vaccinations (including decades of Supreme Court precedent). Moreover, doctors, public health experts, scientists, and legal experts have praised vaccine and testing mandates as both effective and constitutional tools to promote public health. Yet, GOP Governors have embraced the Orwellian machine; labelling the vaccine and testing mandates “tyrannical,” dictatorial,” and “un-American.” They argue these efforts constitute federal overreach, violate individuals’ personal freedoms, and are unconstitutional. Still others baselessly argue these efforts are not guided by science and are instead attempts to “control” American lives. But many experts say the pandemic has presented a crisis requiring federal action, and that such mandates are warranted because the nation is facing aa medical emergency. The unvaccinated are posing a threat to others’ health and safety when the vaccines are safe and effective.
Such disturbing influence has also reached many other parts of the world as well. While there may be nuances to these issues here, the broad themes that may have initiated in the US are also quite prevalent here in Australia. Many of these views are rooted in being opposed to things: anti-vaxxers; anti-maskers; anti-social distancing; anti-lockdowns or restriction. But flip the scrip. So you’re in favour of getting COVID? You’re in favour of infecting your children or loved ones? You prefer dying rather than any measures that might protect you from this? One can only imagine what the world might look today like if these attitudes were prevalent in the age of small pox or polio?
I have stated in a previous essay (Skidmore, Aug 2021) that casting this as an issue of civil liberty or personal freedoms is a false argument. Following such logic, would we make a political stink over wearing seat-belts or motorcycle helmets? The greater public gain in these instances is well established. And there is no political uproar about this because of the recognition that civil liberties and personal freedoms involve reciprocal responsibility between an individual and the greater society. Reasonable people accept that personal freedoms (free speech) don’t include walking into a theatre and indiscriminately yelling “fire!” because this can incite a panic resulting in untold injury or harm.
While you have the right to be foolish … unwise … even stupid, you do not have the right, in your own personal liberties to harm others … or infect people with COVID. You may have the right to make a personal choice to not be vaccinated; however, as a result of that choice you may be limited in your ability to participate fully in other societal experiences. (If you choose not be vaccinated, you may not be allowed to get on an airplane; or dine indoors at a restaurant; or attend a concert). Again, what is being described in these contexts as civil liberties or personal freedoms is more realistically closer to selfishness; self-absorption; and a profound sense of entitlement.
As I indicated at the outset of this piece; the majority of people do not share these extreme views. Most folks in Australia want and try to do the right thing. But the small minority with oppositional views around the COVID pandemic and strategies to mitigate it effectively hold the majority hostage and only worsen and prolong the lockdown and eventual return to some form of normal life again. The reader can determine for themselves if these tyrannical arguments of the minority is contradictory or hypocritical (hint: it’s both!).
1) Skidmore, M. The Contagion of Misinformation (August 2021).