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Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.) came under fire this week after saying he saw "no reason" to encourage Americans to get vaccinated against the Covid-19 virus. (Photo: Ting Shen/Getty Images)

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.) came under fire this week after saying he saw "no reason" to encourage Americans to get vaccinated against the Covid-19 virus. (Photo: Ting Shen/Getty Images)

It's Time To Destroy the Sick and Twisted Plans of American Maskholes

The calculations by some Republicans is simple but brutal math, and they frankly don't care who it kills.

Thom Hartmann

Well, it's started. The United States has reached the point, in many parts of the country, where there are more vaccines available then there are people willing to take them.

Most of this so-called "vaccine reluctance" is driven by pure politics.

Donald Trump's visceral hatred of Joe Biden, who beat him like a drum in the last election, and the Republican party's commitment to raw power over anything that may help Americans, have brought us this crisis.

If Trump, Fox and the GOP can convince the people who follow them that they shouldn't get vaccines, they can prevent President Biden from getting this pandemic under control. 

If they can prevent Biden from getting the disease under control, they also prevent him from getting the economy back in shape.

And—Bingo!—if they prevent him from getting the economy back in shape, Republicans see victories in the 2022 midterm elections and might even take back the White House in 2024. 

This is their simple but brutal math, and they frankly don't care who it kills. The more the better, in fact, because chaos hurts the (Democratic) party in power. After all, they've already shown us they're willing to kill a half-million Americans just to try to win the last election.

And, as village idiot and GQP Senator Ron Johnson said yesterday as he was discouraging general consideration of vaccine documentation, "Why is this big push to make sure everybody gets a vaccine, to the point when you better impose it, you're going to shame people, you're going to force them to carry a card to prove that they've been vaccinated so they can just stay in society? I'm getting highly suspicious of what's happening here."

Right. It's just a public health emergency that's killed a half-million Americans. No big deal for rich Republicans.

So it's up to us to blow up their plan. And if enough of us take one small, simple step we may be able to pull it off. Here's how:

I'm calling restaurants, bars, stores, and other places of business that I've patronized over the past couple of years. Taking it slow, just one or two a day. Casual.

My conversation goes something like this:

Me: "I see we're getting close to the point where the economy can open back up. I'm so excited about coming back to your (restaurant, store)! I love your (mention dish or product so they know I'm a real customer)! I just wanted to make sure, first, that you're requiring proof of vaccination before you let people in?"

Them: "We don't have any specific policy about that, but you're more than welcome to come. All of us who work here are vaccinated!"

Me: "Well, let me give you my name and phone number and you can call me if you decide to change your policy. For at least the next year, I'm only going to patronize businesses that require proof of vaccination to get in the door. Even though I'm vaccinated, I don't want to be exposed to someone who's not and who might be carrying around one of those weird variants."

Them (usually sounding a bit rattled): "I'll be sure to tell the manager that you called..."

This can work.

The primary imperative of every business is something called "differentiation." When I taught marketing and ran an advertising agency in Atlanta, I'd always ask, "What makes you different from your competitors? What is it you're offering that they aren't or can't? Simply put, 'what is your unfair competitive advantage?'"

More often than not, the answer to that question became the focus of a great marketing campaign.

America is experiencing a mind-boggling amount of pent-up demand right now. People want to go out and eat, drink, celebrate, dance and buy things. But many, almost certainly a majority, want to do so safely.

So, if even a small but meaningful percentage of businesses decide it's good marketing to cater exclusively to people who've taken the time and trouble to get vaccinated, it'll create a social and economic pressure that will begin to wear down those folks Republican politicians and Fox News have convinced that the virus is no big deal.

But big deal or no, they still want to get into the restaurant! And that could get us to the 75%-85% vaccinated herd immunity threshold we need for a safe country regardless of Trump's or Johnson's inane sputtering or Tucker's smarmy "questions."

Back in the 1980s a dear friend of mine, Tom Larsen, owned one of the finest high-end restaurants in Boston, The Pillar House. Every restaurant in town at that time had both smoking and no-smoking sections, but Tom was committed to serving extraordinary food in a clean environment where you could actually smell and taste the flavors his chefs so meticulously curated. 

So in 1986 he banned all smoking at The Pillar House, even in the bar and the bathrooms: his was the first consequential restaurant in Boston, and one of the first in the nation, to do so.

I remember when he made the decision. We discussed it quite a bit, in fact. I was fully expecting he would lose business, but instead, as word spread, his business continued to grow! 

The restaurant got enormous publicity (it was picked up by the AP nationwide!), their non-smoking customers became fanatically loyal, and the few hard-core smokers they lost were insignificant to their business.

As an added bonus, restaurants around the country, reading about Tom's experience, started emulating him. Non-smoking restaurants became a thing in 1986, and within a few years became the norm. Even Boston's Newton-Wellesley Hospital went smoke-free, the first hospital to do so in the area, citing Tom's restaurant as an example.

There are a lot of us out here who don't want to be exposed to GOP- and Fox News-maskholes and the viruses they may be carrying.

They're this generation's version of the selfish smokers in the 1980s, and we're the health-concerned non-smokers. We would very much like safe spaces to enjoy shopping, dining or other activities without smoke or germs being blown on us by inconsiderate people.

For businesses looking for a competitive edge, this "let's all live" marketing prescription is the opportunity of the decade!

And with just a few simple phone calls, you can help make it happen.

This piece initially appeared on The Hartmann Report.

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

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