Mississippi COVID vaccine hesitancy stems from GOP messaging

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4/17/2021 4:04:00 PM

Opinion | Mississippians' unwillingness to get vaccinated stems from a distrust of government rooted in decades of Republican messaging. By wralpheubanks.

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,"I believe in states' rights … And I believe that we've distorted the balance of our government today by giving powers that were never intended in the Constitution to that federal establishment." On that distant hot summer afternoon Reagan's message resonated with the audience since it was something they had heard before."State's rights" was the same phrase used to justify Jim Crow segregation, poll

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, and literacy tests for Black voters. In the words he chose, Reagan showed that he spoke Mississippi's language.Reagan's speech was also thinly-disguised racism — and utterednot far from wherethree murdered civil rights workers were buried in an earthen dam in the summer of 1964 — yet its sentiment of brash independence rang true with those who heard it. 

Today the Republican party dominates Mississippi politics. After a period of racially-integrated governance from 1980 to 2000, Mississippi has now entered a second phase of disenfranchisement — much like the period that followed the two decades of Reconstruction — in which the legislature's mostly Black Democratic minority has been locked out by the entirely white Republican majority. The idea that government can help Mississippians, with policies such as Medicaid expansion, is immediately dismissed. The same can be said about the state's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has largely avoided government support and public health guidelines during the crisis.  headtopics.com

Although the rallying cry of state's rights has not been used to justify the way the COVID crisis has been handled in Mississippi, it might as well have been. The language used by Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves and those in his circle of Republican legislators echoes the belief that government cannot interfere in anything, even if it is during a pandemic that threatens the lives of every last citizen of the state. Yet the question remains, can the good the government is seeking to do during this crisis overshadow years of Republican messaging to the contrary?

States rights and COVIDEver since COVID cases began to rise in Mississippi a year ago, the state has handled the crisis with a complete lack of consistency, with one message from the governor and Republican state legislators and another from local officials who have been seeking to keep their communities safe. Initially, the governor's

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