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Vaccination issues, slow political concessions and voting challenges round out 2020

The first COVID-19 vaccines for LDS Hospital employees are pictured at the hospital in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Merry Christmas to all our readers. We hope you have a safe and happy holiday.

Although our country suffers from too much partisan conflict, all 320 million Americans can agree on one thing: This has been one of the strangest and most difficult years in our lifetimes. 2020 is soon to (thankfully) expire, but some key issues remain, plenty for us to discuss.

We’re are grateful we can see a light at the end of the pandemic tunnel as vaccinations roll out over the next several months. This modern medical miracle is driving numerous discussions regarding vaccination priorities and mandates. What decisions will health officials and political leaders have to make to vaccinate as many Utahns as quickly as possible?

Pignanelli: “Vaccine policy is political by its very nature” — Rene Najera, doctor of public health

Sugary confections are unavoidable during the holidays, as are politics-smothered health policies — especially vaccinations. Human dynamics dominated inoculation procedures for generations, and are on hyperdrive in response to the coronavirus.

The potential for arguments are endless. First, Americans and Utahns are not New Zealanders or Scandinavians. We are suspicious of authority and a government mandate to vaccinate will be overwhelmingly resisted just on principle alone. But studies reveal voluntary participation would be greatly enhanced through endorsements of recognized leaders in the health, entertainment, corporate and political (if bipartisan) arenas. Allowing businesses to require vaccinated employees may help but also breeds issues.

Determining the priority of recipients is a recipe for intense bickering, yet an opportunity for statesmanship. When left-wing progressives attacked Utah officials for an alleged elitist approach, Democrat and Republican lawmakers defended the current transparent process. Such mature bipartisanship was warmly received.

This welcome recent development may be a harbinger of 2021. As with many aspects of society (economic development, technology, lifestyles, etc.) Utah will again have to shoulder the burden of being an example to the nation. An application of our always successful “Utah Way” to vaccinations will not only deliver a healthy population but enlightenment to the rest of the country.

This promises a nice sugar high of politics.

Webb: All involved in Project Warp Speed, including the much-vilified Donald Trump, deserve credit for the amazingly rapid development and deployment of effective vaccines that promise to end this scourge. It has been devastating both medically and economically.

Utah and national leaders are implementing an excellent logistics and prioritization system to get the vaccines first to those who need it most. As always, there will be grumbling, but we ought to trust our leaders.

We will now have a great debate over vaccination mandates and private-sector requirements. I would strongly oppose any government vaccination mandates. But can airlines, restaurants, retail stores, etc., require proof of vaccination for service? What about incentives to encourage vaccination? And what will constitute proof? A card? A mobile app? A tattoo on the forehead? It’s going to be a heated discussion.

Many Republicans were slow to concede that President-elect Joseph Biden won the election. Some pundits are predicting this deference to Trump will hurt GOP reputations for years to come. Is this true?

Pignanelli: Regardless of ideology, political commentators cannot avoid the temptation of ignoring history and predicting dire consequences. Therefore, they are usually wrong. Modern society moves fast and memories fade. Twenty years ago, pundits predicted high profile Democrats who refused to publicly distance themselves from a president disgraced for his extramarital conduct and selling pardons would face recriminations. Still waiting.

Webb: Throughout Trump’s presidency, there has been much handwringing and histrionics among those who hate him, they say he was destroying democracy, destroying the environment, selling out America to Russia, bringing the country to the brink of war, and on and on. Most of these accusations were vastly overwrought and have become monotonous and ridiculous.

Trump should have conceded long ago, but America is not being torn apart.

Many federal and state courts ruled the Trump campaign did not have standing to challenge election results, or did not provide evidence of massive fraud. But did irregularities occur that need to be examined and not so easily dismissed?

Pignanelli: Consistent with 2020 bizarreness, the Trump assault on elections actually strengthened the republic by allowing the judiciary to reaffirm integrity in the process. But balloting procedures understandably rushed to promote voting during the pandemic require a thoughtful review.

Webb: Many states with no experience in mail-in voting rushed to implement it to ease voting procedures amid the pandemic dangers. They made serious mistakes and were sometimes inconsistent in applying voting procedures and regulations.

Clearly, problems occurred with election procedures in a number of states, enough to warrant legal challenges. But I doubt there were enough illicit votes to turn the election around. Some courts declined to hear cases on procedural grounds. Some didn’t want to put the country through a harrowing ordeal. At this point, it makes no sense to fight on. It’s over. Let’s make sure the problems get cleaned up before the next election.

Republican LaVarr Webb is a political consultant and lobbyist. Email: lwebb@exoro.com. Frank Pignanelli is a Salt Lake attorney, lobbyist and political adviser who served as a Democrat in the Utah state Legislature. Email: frankp@xmission.com.