The Morning Jolt

U.S.

An American Summer Meltdown

A student receives a dose of a coronavirus vaccine on the campus of the University of Memphis in Memphis, Tenn., July 22, 2021. (Karen Pulfer Focht/Reuters)

On the menu today: I return from vacation to find the whole country on fire; America’s cities include a lot of unvaccinated Americans, and, defying the popular perception about the unvaccinated, the odds are good that most of those unvaccinated urbanites are Democrats; and an easily overlooked, spectacularly implausible bit of spin from Beijing about the origin of COVID-19.

A Bold New Era of Ignoring Problems

Thanks to Alexandra DeSanctis for sitting in for me last week. Now, what the heck happened while I was gallivanting around New England?

Hospitalizations for COVID-19 increased 32 percent in one week, mask mandates came back in a few cities, the U.S. Department of Justice decided to not investigate Andrew Cuomo’s policies for nursing homes, the Taliban is beheading Afghans who formerly served the U.S. military as interpreters, the Biden administration effectively surrendered on Nord Stream 2, Democratic pollsters are warning the party that fears of inflation are hitting Americans hard, the president insists that the way to alleviate inflation is to pump a lot more money into the economy in the form of federal spending, the administration is canceling border-wall contracts, and the Cleveland Indians are now the painfully generic Cleveland Guardians?

My return from vacation has become this gif.

It is now clear is that the Biden era will feature a lot of administrational focus on problems that Democrats think is convenient for their agenda — climate change, the perennial complaint about our “crumbling infrastructure,” and the unvaccinated (further thoughts on that below). This presidency will feature minimal attention on problems that Democrats think are inconvenient for their agenda — inflation, crime, the continuing migrant surge at the border that in some places is 288 percent higher than a year ago, the Taliban taking over Afghanistan and reverting to the pre-9/11 status quo, the Russians hacking everything in sight, the Chinese hacking everything in sight, American companies groveling before the whims of Beijing. . . .

But a problem you ignore is not a problem that is likely to solve itself.

A president who is elected with a mandate to just not be like his predecessor is a president who wakes up every morning and cruises along on the vibe that his mission is already accomplished.

Biden travels around the country and the world giving speeches declaring that “America is back!” and waits for negotiators on Capitol Hill to work out the details of yet another massive spending bill.

Biden insisted that the surge of migrants at the border was part of a regular seasonal pattern. It wasn’t.

Biden insisted that “There’s nobody suggesting there’s unchecked inflation on the way — no serious economist.” You don’t have to look that hard to find worried economists, in part because they thought prices would have stabilized by now.

Biden insisted that he trusts “the capacity of the Afghan military, who is better trained, better equipped, and more re- — more competent in terms of conducting war.” Afghan troops are deserting their posts and fleeing across the border to Pakistan.

Biden turns 79 in four months. Today, he’ll be making remarks to commemorate the 31st anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. That’s a perfectly fine thing to do, but it is not particularly connected to any of the pressing issues in the country right now. If the administration wants to argue that the pace of the president’s schedule will naturally slow in midsummer, fine. But if the Biden team is wondering why a majority of Americans are pessimistic about the coming year after being much more optimistic just two months ago, perhaps our fellow citizens are realizing that this White House’s first response to a thorny problem is to insist it isn’t really a problem.

But hey, it’s great weather for ice cream. (Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised to find a ice-cream-obsessed presidency in a man whose campaign spent $7,724.64 on institutions with “ice cream” in their names during the 2020 campaign.)

America’s Unvaccinated Big Cities

“The people who aren’t getting vaccinated are Trump voters” is an oversimplification. Yes, broadly speaking, those who are unvaccinated and who adamantly refuse to get vaccinated are more likely to have voted for Trump or self-identify as Republicans, and the data indicate that more Republican-leaning states and areas have lower vaccination rates. But significant percentages of the residents of the deepest-blue cities in America are still unvaccinated, and simple math demonstrates that there just aren’t enough Trump voters around to make up the not-yet-vaccinated-and-in-no-hurry demographic in those places.

For example, as of this weekend, 41 percent of New York City residents were not vaccinated. Trump won 22 percent of the vote in NYC.

  • In Chicago, 43 percent of residents are not vaccinated. Trump carried 24 percent of the vote in Cook County.
  • In the city of San Francisco, about a quarter of residents are not vaccinated. Trump carried about 12 percent of the vote in the city last year.
  • In Los Angeles County, just under 30 percent of residents are not vaccinated; Trump won 26.8 percent in 2020.
  • In Maricopa County, Arizona, which includes Phoenix, 52 percent of residents are not vaccinated; Trump won 48 percent of the vote there in 2020.
  • In Harris County, Texas, which includes Houston, about 48 percent are not vaccinated; Trump won 43 percent in that county in 2020.
  • In Philadelphia, Pa., about 37 percent of residents are unvaccinated. Trump won 17.9 percent of the vote there in 2020.
  • In Multnomah County, which includes Portland, Ore., just under 63 percent have at least one dose, meaning that 37 percent are unvaccinated. Trump won under 18 percent in that county in 2020.
  • In Milwaukee County in Wisconsin, 61.6 percent have at least one dose, meaning 38.4 percent are unvaccinated. Trump won 29.4 percent of the vote in 2020.
  • Detroit has vaccinated just under 40 percent of its residents; Trump carried 5 percent of the vote in that city.

Even in the absurd hypothetical scenario where every Trump voter from 2020 in these cities and the surrounding counties refused to get vaccinated, the unvaccinated group would have to include significant numbers of people who voted for Biden or other candidates. (Yes, those who are eligible to get vaccinated now include those under age 18, who couldn’t vote in the election, so this isn’t a perfect one-to-one comparison. But the point stands: A lot of Democrats remain unvaccinated in those cities.)

A lot of social-media users who are comfortable — or even enthusiastic about — showing anger and disdain at Republicans in Florida, Texas, or Missouri wouldn’t allow themselves to show the same sentiment toward unvaccinated Biden-supporting or non-voting residents of New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, etc. A lot of people who sneer or take glee at infections among Trump voters in rural areas would perceive infections among residents of Portland, Milwaukee, or Detroit quite differently. A lot of America’s remaining unvaccinated live in big cities, but most of the news coverage wouldn’t lead you to that conclusion. There are Democrats and independents in America who are not vaccinated — and not particularly interested in getting vaccinated — and they’re at risk, too.

The vaccination effort that looked like the signature accomplishment of the Biden administration’s first year stalled just as a much-more-contagious variant picked up momentum. It is not surprising that a lot of people who were heavily invested in the administration’s narrative of victory are looking for scapegoats.

China’s New Spin: ‘COVID-19 Has Multiple Origins’

Yes, the Chinese Foreign Ministry puts out nonsensical and spectacularly implausible propaganda every day, but the Chinese government’s claim in mid June that “it is an obvious fact that COVID-19 has multiple origins and broke out in multiple places” deserved a lot more public scorn.

Also, while I was away: “Senior Biden administration officials overseeing an intelligence review into the origins of the coronavirus now believe the theory that the virus accidentally escaped from a lab in Wuhan is at least as credible as the possibility that it emerged naturally in the wild — a dramatic shift from a year ago, when Democrats publicly downplayed the so-called lab leak theory.” Welcome to the party, intelligence community.

ADDENDUM: New Englanders, now I understand why you guys love summer so much.

. . . This tweet set off a surprisingly furious reaction. I would just observe that if you’re an independent bookstore and you want people to support independent bookstores and you choose to close on a Sunday in midsummer for “Employee Appreciation Day,” that decision makes it a lot harder for people to support an independent bookstore! You can make any choice you like, as long as you’re willing to accept the consequences of that choice.

With the Olympics in full swing over in Tokyo, you may want to reexamine my imagination of a formal World Corruption Games. . . .

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