You won't find a logical middle ground in the debate about vaccines anywhere on Colorado's political landscape. We're too far gone.
A Politico-Morning Consult poll last month indicated 61% of Americans support President Joe Biden's vaccine mandates, and just 34% were opposed. Just because you've chosen a side, you're foolhardy not to listen to the best ideas of the other.
The trouble with everyone talking is that it leaves nobody to listen.
Take Rep. Richard Holtorf, the plain-spoken Eastern Plains Republican who delivers a ton of political fun without an ounce of polish.
As Prowers County Medical Center prepared to institute federally mandated vaccine requirements for its workers this month, the district's state lawmaker offered his 2 cents, albeit worth a nickel, given his position.
According to the local newspaper, the Prowers Journal, Holtorf told the hospital board it risks a lawsuit, from parties yet unknown, "for denying hospital employees their right to work" and shirking the board's constitutional duty.
Colorado is not a right-to-work union state, so the board could fire all the unvaccinated workers it wants for cause, if the cause is not being vaccinated.
"Which side of the litigation will you be on in the future — you need to consider your liability as this can go before the state Supreme Court," Holtorf told the board.
Unnamed Democratic critics twisted Holtorf’s comments into a veiled threat. Let me report to you, if Holtorf threatens you, he won't do it behind a veil.
“As someone elected by my constItuents, I believe it is my job to stand up for their constitutional rights and civil liberties, regardless of whether or not others share my beliefs,” Holtorf told me, sounding a lot more rational than his critics. “When dozens of constituents reached out in regards to the COVID-19 mandate, there was a clear obligation to act.
“Vaccines are, by nature, a controversial topic. Yet, we are all entitled to our own opinion and deserve to have that opinion respected by everyone and not censored or disregarded, that includes by journalists.”
About the same time, Rep. Tim Geitner, a Falcon Republican, found himself under the wheels of the outrage machine after he called foul on UCHealth's decision to take a Colorado Springs woman off its kidney transplant list, because she refused to be vaccinated.
That laid him open to criticism by the vaccine lobby, exposed further by posting the hospital’s letter to the woman on Twitter and Facebook, including the name, phone number and physical work address of the kidney transplant coordinator, though not the name of the patient.
When he caught flack, he pulled it down and blocked out the transplant coordinator’s name and reposted.
Geitner told me on Tuesday that he's concerned at the loss of nurses and other health care professionals, and not nearly enough discussion about the overall impact zero-tolerance mandates have on quality patient care.
"Across Colorado, and certainly in our rural communities, nurses and other health care workers are in high demand," he said. "State-imposed mandates have created an environment where essential health care workers are fearful of losing their jobs, indeed many already have."
While that hurts on the Front Range, it's critical in rural communities that already were hard-strapped for local health care long before the first Chinese bat gave us COVID-19.
"At the end of the day, we are most concerned with making sure that Coloradans are able to access quality health care and seek the treatment they may need — in a timely manner. Sadly, the vaccine mandate is making this a challenge," Geitner said.
That's a legit concern Democrats and Republicans should be able to talk about and work together to remedy, rather than call each other names like schoolyard children.
After Democratic Gov. Jared Polis was one of the first Coloradans to take a booster shot at Denver Health Medical Center last Friday, he put out a statement urging other Coloradans to step up and roll up their sleeves.
“This is an extremely dangerous time for unvaccinated individuals, so go get vaccinated today or get your booster; it could save your life and the lives of those you love. If you’re unvaccinated, get vaccinated,” he stated. “I eagerly rolled up my sleeve to get the booster, because it’s the best thing to do to protect my family, our economy and our way of life.”
If Holtorf was threatening and Geitner was exposing, then Polis was daring, if political hyperbole's your game.
Polis told me on Tuesday that getting the vaccine just made sense by any objective measure.
He said when he called up former Gov. Bill Owens, a Republican, the other day to invite him along to get a booster shot, Owens said he would have been happy to, but he'd already taken it.
Polis said three-quarters of Colorado's adults have taken it, "so we’re not divided on this," pointing to the vast majority of doctors who got vaccinated regardless of their party.
"So what is it that doctors know that a quarter of Coloradans haven’t figured out yet?” the governor said.
The bug around the issue has infected Washington just as much.
U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, a rock-ribbed Republican from Colorado Springs, cosponsored a bill this week with a Tennessee Republican, pharmacist Diana Harshbarger.
The resolution is a political broadside against the current president. It says so right in the title: The Blocking Joseph Robinette Biden’s Overreaching Vaccine Mandates Act, which would shield federal workers and contractors, as well as private employers, with more than 100 workers from mandatory vaccinations, Lamborn’s office said.
A vote against Biden is a vote for vaccines, the way the congressman describes it.
“President Biden’s vaccine mandate is blatant federal overreach that undermines confidence in the safety and effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines,” Lamborn explained. “I believe it is fundamentally an individual’s right to choose whether or not to get the vaccine. While I am vaccinated and encourage everyone eligible to get the vaccine, we are a country built on individual liberty.
“The decision on whether or not to get vaccinated should ultimately be between an individual and their doctor, not the federal government.”
Facing and Democratic Congress and Biden in the White House, this bill is going nowhere fast.
We can bloviate on the left and right all day long and never go anywhere, so nowhere is where we'll stay.