A Republican candidate for Senate recently noted that one of the ways politics has changed in recent years is that candidates can “go on Fox News and raise a ton of money from middle-class people” instead of relying only on high-dollar donors.
Patrick popped up Thursday night on Laura Ingraham’s show, where he said that unvaccinated Black Americans are primarily responsible for the recent coronavirus spikes in most states.
Noting that Democrats are blaming Republicans for the latest stage of the pandemic and lagging vaccination rates, he said: “The biggest group in most states are African Americans who have not been vaccinated. The last time I checked, over 90% of them vote for Democrats in their major cities and major counties.”
First, Patrick’s characterization of the unvaccinated is inaccurate. Black Texans are 12% of the state population. And while they lag slightly at 9% of those vaccinated, they are too small a group to make up “most” of the unvaccinated. It’s not even close: Much larger numbers of white and Hispanic Texans have yet to get inoculated. The pattern holds in other states, too.
But more important, racial and political scapegoating isn’t the answer to increasing vaccinations and beating back the pandemic. Large numbers of white Republicans are also choosing not to get the shot. But across all races, ethnicities and political categories, there’s hesitance. Income and education levels are better predictors, particularly given how they correlate with access to health care.
Texas and all states need to do a better job reaching traditionally underserved populations. Leaders should be recruiting trusted messengers who can try to persuade the hesitant, ensuring access to vaccines and transportation solutions, and helping overwhelmed hospitals and healthcare workers get through the delta variant wave.
If Patrick cared less about scoring a political point in the cable news wars and more about helping Texas defeat the pandemic, he could have used his platform to highlight these inequities and offered ideas to address them.
But then, if Patrick wanted to do more to stop the pandemic, he’d also encourage his pal Gov. Greg Abbott to get out of the way of local communities trying to fight it.
That doesn’t get you a standing invitation to Laura Ingraham’s show or land a political blow. But it might help save lives.