By Katelyn McCarthy
A good general (or king, for that matter) is one who personally leads his troops into battle. He places himself in the same dangers as his soldiers, thus earning their trust. Perhaps we can use this idea to determine whether or not members of Congress should receive the COVID vaccination before the general populace. Should they, like a general, lead the public and be the first to expose themselves to the vaccine and its potential complications, or should they wait in the same line that the public is expected to wait in?
In a sense, for them to take the vaccine before the public is reasonable. As the general rides before his soldiers, a politician might sit on a hospital bench and have a needle driven into his arm. To expect and encourage the populace to do something that a politician might be reticent about would be using the American people as guinea pigs at the service of the political elite. Taking the vaccine prior to the public would show that a politician respects the fears of his people and would also cause some of the citizenry to have faith in the safety of the vaccine.
But a politician is not a scientist. That a citizen would trust a politician to make medical decisions that he or she should emulate doesn’t seem to be the wisest course of action. Simply because a figure possesses authority in some realms does not mean that he possesses authority in all. To trust a politician as to the safety of a vaccine is like trusting a lawyer to pilot your cross-country flight. Politicking and doctoring are not careers which usually go hand-in-hand. While it is true that some people’s concerns might be assuaged by seeing their favorite Washingtonian taking a vaccine, such comfort is not founded in reason but in feelings.
Let’s move to another example. Some say that politicians should be vaccinated so as to be able to more stably preserve the continuity of government by (presumably) being less likely to catch the coronavirus. This view takes the position that the proper workings of government is the most important aspect of human existence. While it is an important one, I do not believe it to be the primary one. The fundamental unit in society is the family. For the continuity of the family to be disrupted (as it has been every time a person has died from the coronavirus) is, in my view, a more pressing concern than that of the continuity of the government.
Is it not a principle of our democracy that all of us are created equal? That no one, be he politician or plumber, is worth more or less than anyone else? Our politicians ought to receive the vaccine, if they choose to, when their turn in line comes. Any comorbidities they may have should be factored in just like everyone else’s. They should receive their vaccine following the plan outlined by their states. Among the categories, “elderly, medical worker, and possessor of comorbidities,” “politician” should not factor in. An elderly plumber with asthma should receive his vaccine before a young, healthy politician; an elderly asthmatic politician should receive his vaccine sooner than a young, healthy plumber.
Ultimately, though, I don’t think that any of our representatives need to worry about where they’ll be placed in line in terms of their inoculations. If anyone can get himself something that he wants, whether or not he is mindful of his duty to respect a public which is of equal standing to him, it’ll be a politician.
Ryan Ford '23,