Nixon tried to prolong a war for political gain; today's GOP may render his actions small-time.
It is said, and widely believed to be accurate, that in 1968 Richard Nixon sabotaged the Vietnam peace talks. He was embroiled in a difficult presidential campaign and feared that an end to the unpopular war would give his opponent, Hubert Humphrey, bragging rights in the campaign. So Nixon, desperate to win, asked his advisors to "monkey wrench" the talks in an effort to keep the war going.
If the peace talks had been successful—and we can't assume they would have been—the war might have ended before 1969. But because it dragged on for several more years, the casualty totals rose. By most estimates, upwards of 25,000 U.S. servicemen died between 1969 and the end of hostilities in 1975. It would be an oversimplification to blame Nixon for the deaths of those 20,000 Americans and the subsequent heartbreak that befell their families, but it wouldn't necessarily be untrue.
Nor is it untrue to accuse some current Republican governors of the same type of grotesque inhumanity when they deliberately sabotage methods of slowing down Covid-19 by employing anti-mask mandates and skeptical remarks about the vaccines themselves. These elected officials desire only one result: that Joe Biden fail in his presidency. Should their tactics cost thousands—even tens of thousands of lives—they appear to view it as collateral damage.
In one such state, Florida, where the governor has forbidden mask mandates, the death total has hovered around 1500 deaths a week. The so-called Sunshine State can now count 44,561 Covid burials since March 2020. Admittedly Florida is large, and its populace is old: one might anticipate high numbers. But the percentages tell the story. In Florida the death rate from Covid-19 is 1.5 per 100,000; in Massachusetts it's 0.12. Even so, Republican leaders in Texas and Arizona (and elsewhere) have embraced the same anti-scientific, anti-medical, and morally indefensible position that a person's individual freedom supersedes life itself. It's as if they've taken that New Hampshire slogan, live free or die, and replaced the or with and.
Death rate in Texas: 0.81. In Arizona: 0.50. in the blue state of Rhode Island: 0.13.
Police officers, firefighters, paramedics, servicemen and servicewomen—they run to trouble while others run from it. We admire that. And if these governors were charging into battle, leading the way to confront the enemy at great peril to themselves, we might admire them also. But the people imperiled by these leaders' actions are their constituents; and as the Delta variant spreads and the victim profiles evolve, many of these constituents—who are far too young to vote—have become seriously ill, have been hospitalized, and have died. Governors like DeSantis of Florida, Abbott of Texas, and Ducie of Arizona are building their political legacy in graveyards and marking their success with tombstones.
It is callousness that borders on treason, and history is unkind to traitors.
Most of us know very little about Benedict Arnold, or Vidkun Quisling, or if you prefer to go further back, Judas Iscariot; but though their lives may be somewhat obscure, we know what they did. Of course they have their defenders—just as the Republicans in Congress have defended the insurrectionists of 1/6/21—but right-thinking people understand and treat traitors with contempt. Maybe there will come a time when these current-day men and women will be called to account for their cynicism and indifference. But so far, their espousal of the Trump doctrine—never apologize—has been their perverse mantra.
But now the academic year has begun and children are getting sick. Maskless and having eschewed the vaccine, they are taking the virus to school and infecting others, or bringing it home and spreading it to younger, unvaccinated siblings, some of them younger than two. Half the young victims have no pre-existing conditions—they're just getting sick. That safety net that seemed to protect the young during the opening salvos of the pandemic has been removed, and state leaders who could replace it with a simple pen stroke refuse.
In less harrowing times, such inaction could be labeled dereliction of duty or malfeasance. In the era of Covid, it's murder. And we know the culprits—we elected them.