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Anti-vaxxers are even more wound up than anti-taxers

Not only did Rep. Jonathan Carroll’s bill to cut off COVID-related health insurance benefits for the unvaccinated predictably stir up a rabble, he rewarded threats of violence with a win.

Demonstrators protest against COVID-19 mandates outside City Hall in October. 
Demonstrators protest against COVID-19 mandates outside City Hall in October. 
Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Just a couple of months ago, more than 50,000 electronic witness slips were filed in opposition to a proposed legislative change to the state’s Health Care Right of Conscience Act.

Whether you believe all of those filings were legitimate or not, that’s still a gigantic uproar about a bill which stopped employees from trying to use state law to sue employers for requiring vaccines or regular COVID-19 tests as a condition of employment.

So, the recent over-the-top negative reaction to Rep. Jonathan Carroll’s (D-Northbrook) bill to cut off COVID-19-related health insurance benefits for the unvaccinated should’ve been no major surprise.

“An Illinois Democrat who claims the unvaccinated are ‘clogging up the health care system’ has proposed a bill that would force them to pay all of their medical expenses out of pocket if they become hospitalized with the coronavirus,” blared the Fox News Channel. And all heck broke loose.

Carroll claims he was threatened with violence and so were his family, his staff, even his synagogue. His home address was posted on Twitter as were photos of his kids.

This monstrous behavior is beyond repugnant, but it’s not new. Ask the Republican legislators who voted to raise the state income tax in 2017 how they were pummeled on Facebook, partly because an anti-tax group allied with then-Gov. Bruce Rauner weaponized its own Facebook page followers against them.

Despite the often-insane levels of harassment, most of those Republicans stuck to their principles and voted to override Rauner’s veto of the tax hike. The future of the state was in peril because one man was insisting he wouldn’t approve restoring desperately needed revenues without first slashing the power of unions here, and those Republicans were not going to be bullied by him or an angry mob into caving.

And, of course, the same sort of thing happened to many Democrats this fall before they voted to narrow the scope of the Health Care Right of Conscience Act to its original intent. They were flooded with calls and bombarded on social media.

The anti-vaxxers, as it turns out, are even more wound up than the anti-taxers, although I’m betting it’s many of the same people who are perpetually angry about pretty much everything.

Rep. Carroll surrendered last week and filed a motion to table his controversial bill, handing a rare Illinois victory to the folks who insist beyond reason that vaccines contain microchips, or whatever their ridiculous conspiracy theory of the moment happens to be.

Members of a Facebook page I regularly track that promotes anti-vaccine theories and tactics celebrated the news of Carroll’s retreat. One member gleefully wrote: “Violence is the only thing tyrants fear and is the only thing that will stop them.”

So, not only did Rep. Carroll predictably stir up the rabble, he rewarded threats of violence with a win.

And this was all about a bill that wasn’t legal in the first place. Federal law prohibits what Carroll was trying to do, an inconvenient fact that was ignored or downplayed by most news media outlets which covered the legislation.

Most of the coverage was breathless and ignorant, fueling the hype on the far right. Only one reporter, Hannah Meisel at public radio station WUIS, got it right: “Unvaccinated COVID patients can’t be denied insurance coverage for hospitalizations as one Dem lawmaker wants, but employers, including Ill., have other options,” was her online headline.

Not only wasn’t Carroll’s bill legal, it also ran directly counter to Democratic Party doctrine, which favors health coverage for everyone. Carroll essentially advocating to destroy the finances of entire families because of the stupidity of a single family member was bizarre.

But, really, all this bill was designed to do was attract attention and get lots of “clicks” and make his allies cheer and his enemies boo. It was a pointless game. Carroll’s bill wasn’t going anywhere, and he knew it.

And Carroll’s behavior is an insult to the people who have bravely stood up to the angry haters for just causes. They couldn’t back down because so much was at stake. Carroll, on the other hand, just walked away with a shrug, claiming despite all evidence that he didn’t intend to be divisive. Carroll taught those angry people the absolute wrong lesson.

I feel horrible for Rep. Carroll’s family, his staff and his rabbi for being put through this disgusting and needless drama. I hope he apologizes to them. And then maybe he should apologize to everyone else for giving the angriest among us a victory.

Rich Miller also publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter, and CapitolFax.com.

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