Journalist wonders 'how dumb' America can get during a pandemic 'and still survive'
Anti-vaccination protest (Joseph Prezioso/AFP)

As much as there is to criticize about Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, the right-wing Republican senator made perfect sense when he recommended getting vaccinated for COVID-19 during a recent speech at a GOP event in his state. But anti-vaxxers in the crowd responded by booing, jeering and heckling him, and liberal Washington Post opinion writer Eugene Robinson — discussing that embarrassing incident in his October 8 column — poses the question, "How dumb can a nation get and still survive?"

It's a perfectly legitimate question in light of the fact that Graham, in August, was infected with COVID-19 — which, according to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, has killed more than 4.8 million people worldwide, including over 710,000 in the United States. Graham had been fully vaccinated for COVID-19 but was infected anyway; he was an example of what medical experts call a "breakthrough" case. However, it wasn't a really serious or life-threatening infection; the senator didn't need to be hospitalized and was never on a ventilator — and during his speech in South Carolina, he attributed the vaccine to the fact that his case of COVID-19 wasn't more serious.

But anti-vaxxer wingnuts didn't want to hear that, and they responded by booing him loudly.

Robinson writes, "COVID-19 is a highly infectious disease that has killed more than 700,000 Americans over the past 20 months. The Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines all but guarantee that recipients will not die from COVID. I have, or had, an acquaintance who refused to get vaccinated, despite pleas from his adult children to protect himself. He got COVID-19, and it killed him. Most of the deaths the nation has suffered during the current Delta variant wave of the disease — deaths of the unvaccinated — have been similarly needless and senseless."

The Post columnist points out that Graham, unlike his unvaccinated acquaintance, is still very much alive — and he slams the booing of Graham by anti-vaxxer Republicans as "just plain stupid."

Robinson writes, "How did we become, in such alarming measure, so dumb? Why is the news dominated by ridiculous controversies that should not be controversial at all? When did so many of our fellow citizens become full-blown nihilists who deny even the concept of objective reality? And how must this look to the rest of the world?"

The booing of Graham isn't the only example of "droolingly stupid" behavior by Republicans that Robinson calls out in his column — he also slams Republicans who play "frequent games of chicken" with the United States' debt ceiling, obsess over Critical Race Theory and promote the Big Lie.

"Conservatives in state legislatures across the country are pushing legislation to halt the teaching of 'Critical Race Theory' in public schools," Robinson explains. "I put the term in quotes because genuine Critical Race Theory, a dry and esoteric set of ideas debated in obscure academic journals, is not actually being taught in those schools at all. What's being taught instead — and squelched — is American history, which happens to include slavery, Jim Crow repression and structural racism."

Robinson adds, "I get it. The GOP has become the party of white racial grievance, and this battle against an imaginary enemy stirs the base. But the whole charade involves Republican officials — many of them educated at the nation's top schools — betting that their constituents are too dumb to know they're being lied to. So far, the bet is paying off. And then, of course, there's the whole 'stolen election' farce, which led to the tragedy of January 6."