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Perspective: Trump’s narcissism could help promote the vaccine — and so could Biden’s

AP

Even fans of former President Donald Trump can admit: He’s a narcissist. The boasting at rallies; the boasting in his tweets (and now, his press releases emailed sometimes five times daily to the media); the boasting in his public statements — the man thinks highly of himself, and he’s not shy about sharing that self-pride.

The former president’s supporters have adopted that prideful boasting as well, in part because if Trump and his supporters don’t toot his horn, nobody else in a position of influence will. But maybe there’s a way to harness it for good.

Recently we witnessed one of these boasts from a Trump affiliate. Trump’s former press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders recently wrote an opinion piece in a local Arkansas newspaper about her decision to get vaccinated in a bid to encourage others to do the same in the state (where she is running for governor). In the first sentence of her piece, she explained, “A few months ago, I decided to take advantage of President Trump’s Operation Warp Speed and get vaccinated.”

She went on to further tie the vaccine to the former president in a state where the majority voted for his reelection: “I was also reassured after President Trump and his family were vaccinated. If getting vaccinated was safe enough for them, I felt it was safe enough for me.”

Over the past several weeks, we have heard about what’s standing between Americans and herd immunity: Those idiotic Republicans in “red states” who refuse to sign up for the COVID-19 shot. In an attempt to make vaccination a point of pride for Republicans (and paint “blue America” as the true villains) Sarah Huckabee Sanders flipped the narrative. She explained:

The New York Times ran an opinion piece claiming that whatever the Trump administration released would likely be a dangerous political stunt. CNN did the same. But no one did more to undercut public confidence in the vaccine than Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Biden doubted that the vaccine would be “real,” while Harris said in a nationally televised debate that she would not take any vaccine the Trump administration had a hand in creating.

We all know what happened after the first vaccines were announced on Nov. 9, right after the presidential election. Scientists quickly began to praise the results of Operation Warp Speed, but by then the damage was already done. Because of what they heard from politicians and TV “experts,” many Americans were scared the vaccines were not safe.

If President Biden, Vice President Harris, and others on the left truly care about increasing the vaccination rate and saving lives, they should admit they were wrong to cast doubt on Operation Warp Speed and give President Trump and his team the credit they are due for the development of a safe and effective vaccine in record time.

Sanders is right on the history. But her liberal counterparts are doing all they can to politicize the decision to put off or abstain from taking the vaccine. According to liberals the problem is in rural and conservative America where they bill vaccine hesitancy as malicious and anti-science. But in urban areas, where vaccine numbers are also lagging, it’s discussed in terms of a “lack of access.” In reality the decision to abstain from the COVID-19 shot (and basically every other contentious issue in America), is far more complex.

What could politicians like President Biden and Republicans like Sarah Huckabee Sanders be doing to actually encourage more vaccinations? For starters: Stop painting hesitation as a politicized decision and work to more deeply understand and acknowledge what’s truly driving it. But furthermore, don’t use the vaccines to beat up on the opposing side.

The former president is boastful and the current president, while not as overt as his predecessor, is too. For the sake of the country, what if the two joined forces on public statements, aired PSAs and even made public appearances? The former president loves holding rallies; what if President Biden makes a guest appearance? Both the current and former presidents have narcissistic streaks; we could use their narcissism for good.

Former President Trump oversaw and fast-forwarded the development of the vaccines and President Biden is still rolling them out; we couldn’t have one without the other. Republicans can claim credit for the medical miracle that is Operation Warp Speed and Democrats can take responsibility for executing its complicated subsequent rollout. Politics in America has morphed into a sports competition — it’s a game between the Red and Blue. It’s an unfortunate reality, but one we can potentially reap benefits from. Team Red and Team Blue both have achieved great success, and we can give both sides of the aisle something to cheer for as we write the history of this time period.

As in a war, this is one of those moments we can and should come together. We’re all trying to achieve the same goal: mass vaccination to keep more surges at bay. We’re close to beating the virus, but we may need to do the unthinkable — work as a united nation, not as members of a partisan tribe and party. Our leaders have the ability to work together to erase hesitancy, and they don’t even have to let go of their pride to do so.

If President Biden and his liberal associates truly think former President Trump’s supporters are the ones standing between us and herd immunity, it’s time to bring Donald Trump himself in to help with the fight. Bring him in to boast about the Trump vaccine. Sanders’ op-ed is a great start. We’re stronger together.

If we truly believe vaccines are our best shot at a return to normalcy (and we should believe that, because they are), we need to do everything possible to achieve the highest vaccination rates we can. To do that, each side needs to do a remarkable thing and actually work together. It might even do our society some good on more than just vaccines.

Bethany Mandel is a contributing writer for Deseret News, editor at Ricochet.com and a contributor to the Washington Examiner blog and magazine.