With few exceptions, Republican governors in the United States are more scared of alienating their “base” than having them die of COVID-19. West Virginia’s Jim Justice is not one of them.
While Ron DeSantis, Greg Abbott, Kristi Noem and other GOP chief executives act as if the coronavirus pandemic is behind us, Justice is full-throated in his pleas for West Virginians to get vaccinated. The governor instituted a lottery in which residents who got vaccinated could win cash, guns, lifetime hunting and fishing licenses and more. That effort has yielded poor results; the state ranks 48th in the percentage of people vaccinated.
Justice is undeterred. Commenting in February on the low percentage (37%) of long-term care workers who refused to get vaccinated, he said, “Now I don’t know how in the world anything could be more asinine than that.” Not getting a shot, he said, is like “entering the death drawing.”
Some of his other very un-political straight talk to West Virginians about getting vaccinated:
“If I knew for certain that there was going to be eight or nine people die by next Tuesday, and I could be one of them if I don’t take the vaccine!? What in the world do you think I would do? I mean, I would run over top of somebody.”
“The red states probably have a lot of people that, you know, are very, very conservative in their thinking. And they think, ‘Well, I don’t have to do that.’ But they’re not thinking right. I hate to say this is what would put them over the edge: is an awful lot of people die. The only way that’s going to happen is a catastrophe that none of us want.”
“We’ve got to someway realize that we’ve got to get vaccinated for all — not just for you, but for everybody — we’ve got to do this.” That comment in particular is a stark contrast to DeSantis, who falsely said last week that a person’s decision not to get vaccinated “really doesn’t impact me or anyone else.”
Justice also has no patience for those who subscribe to and spread conspiracy theories about vaccination, such as the one that posits it implants microchips in people.
“For God’s sakes a livin’, how difficult is this to understand?” he said Wednesday. “Why in the world do we have to come up with these crazy ideas — and they’re crazy ideas — that the vaccine’s got something in it and it’s tracing people wherever they go? And the same very people that are saying that are carrying their cellphones around. I mean, come on. Come on.”
Amazingly, Justice has not lost the GOP base that his fellow Republicans are so afraid of alienating. A recent poll for MetroNews shows his approval-disapproval split at 61-25 overall, and 69 percent of Republicans approve of him, compared to just 15 percent who disapprove.