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Tipsheet

Youngkin: I Won't Mandate It, But Please Get Vaccinated

Contrast this with the top-down, sneering, coercive approach employed by certain leaders -- as well as the evasiveness of others.  In my mind, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin is on the right footing for moving his state past the pandemic: He's strongly encouraging citizens to get the vaccines, doing so in a friendly and neighborly way -- without haranguing them or forcing them.  He's also politely declining to wear masks where they're not required (virtually everywhere in Virginia, at this point), while going to battle to protect children against anti-science and anti-parent forcible masking policies.  He's winning:

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Despite some bipartisan support in the State Senate, every House Democrat in Virginia voted against this measure.  But thanks to their own previous power grab, they're now powerless to stop the new statute from being implemented very soon.  I recognize some of the governor's decisions will never satisfy many progressives, whose default setting is hyperbolic hysteria.  Similarly, some elements of the conservative base will decry his anodyne pro-vax messaging.  But for a growing majority of people who remain concerned about COVID to some extent, but are prepared to live with it as an endemic disease that no longer uproots their lives, Youngkin occupies a sweet spot.  His balanced posture represents good science and good politics.  Here's his new PSA.  This is the way:

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"I'm asking you" is different than "I'm telling you."  I'll note that some of the surprise being expressed online in response to this spot is misplaced.  Youngkin campaigned as a pro-COVID vaccine candidate, cutting a previous public service announcement to make that clear.  He was accused of being "anti-vax" by the Democrats because he wouldn't impose mandates; Youngkin's attitude, shared by many, is that one can support something and think it's a good idea without requiring it for others.  That stance was assailed by Terry McAuliffe, who repeatedly smeared Youngkin (taking a pass on shooting a joint vaccine PSA) and warned that the Republican would lift mask requirements in schools.  The defeated Democrat was correct on the latter point, thankfully.  Allahpundit had the same thought I did:

Having just beaten Democrats in the great mask death struggle, [Youngkin] is leveraging his newfound COVID credibility among MAGA populists in Virginia to nudge them to get the shot. He’s also showing Virginia Democrats that he’s not opposed to precautions as a rule, just precautions whose costs may outweigh their benefits. Essentially he’s offering the same culture-war compromise that Democrat Jared Polis has offered in Colorado. Mass vaccination can get us back to something resembling pre-pandemic normalcy, so let’s focus on that and not sweat the non-pharmaceutical interventions.

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I'd argue that he's making that case not just to Virginia Democrats, but to independents and a lot of traditional/moderate Republicans, as well.  I suspect a lot of voters would be attracted to this balance, which Youngkin could ably articulate in a State of the Union response, if he's afforded that opportunity. Meanwhile, though it's true that vaccines did not prevent a huge torrent of 'breakthrough' cases among the vaccinated, especially during the Omicron wave, the shots are extremely effective at preventing hospitalizations and deaths caused by the virus:

I highlighted this data because it's important.  The vaccines have not been the infection-ending silver bullet we were promised.  But they have been extremely good at keeping people out of hospital beds and out of the morgue.  That's a really, really big upside:

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An overwhelming majority of people survive COVID without any vaccines, but the jabs generally make cases less severe and unpleasant, and drastically reduce the (already small) risk of death (which increases with age and underlying conditions).  As usual with this virus, the risk factors are dramatically lower for children.  I'd also add that no discussion of COVID vaccines would be complete without addressing natural immunity, which is very powerful and important.  The effectiveness of the shots and boosters do wear off.  Natural and hybrid immunity are longer lasting and more robust:

For most of last year, many of us called for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to release its data on reinfection rates, but the agency refused. Finally last week, the CDC released data from New York and California, which demonstrated natural immunity was 2.8 times as effective in preventing hospitalization and 3.3 to 4.7 times as effective in preventing Covid infection compared with vaccination...The CDC study and ours confirm what more than 100 other studies on natural immunity have found: The immune system works. The largest of these studies, from Israel, found that natural immunity was 27 times as effective as vaccinated immunity in preventing symptomatic illness.

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Finally, I mentioned Youngkin shooting the gap between the coercives and the evasives above.  What do I mean by the latter moniker?  I'm thinking of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who was outspoken and very effective in the realm of encouraging vaccines in his state, where they've never been mandated.  But when he was directly asked whether he's been boosted, DeSantis deflected away with a strange turn of phrase.  This reply likely spurred pro-vax, pro-booster Donald Trump to zing unnamed others for being "gutless" by not answering the question.  DeSantis has cultivated huge credibility among the populist Right, winning deserved praise for opening his state, following the science, and steadfastly refusing to descend into mandate madness.  He's also been more successful at getting his population vaccinated than literally every other governor of a 2020 Trump-won state, and outcomes matter a lot.  We'll see if he tries to stick with unresponsive elusiveness on his personal booster decision.  I tend to think he should just tell the truth and explain what informed his decision.  That's worked pretty well for him thus far. 

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