Why? Well, because a lot of people live in big cities, and big cities are often heavily Democratic. While 55 percent of Republicans live in counties that voted for Trump, 55 percent also live in the 300-odd places that are the most heavily populated 10 percent of counties in the United States. (More than three-quarters of Democrats live in those counties; as a corollary, about 73 percent of Democrats live in counties won by Biden.)
The point is straightforward: Places with more people have more people. This is not what one would call a staggering insight, but it’s worth reiterating since people tend to think of heavily populated places as overwhelmingly Democratic. In fact, the most populous counties in the country are less robustly Democratic than the least populous ones are Republican. The 623 least populous counties preferred Trump by 46 points. The 623 most populous counties preferred Biden by less than one-third of that margin.
(The chart below looks at deciles of counties; that is, one-tenth of all counties, ranked from the least to the most populous.)
He said this on Friday, even as he (thankfully) encouraged getting more people vaccinated. But he did so while clearly attempting to cast blame for the surge on Democrats — trying to reverse the recent emphasis on the surge of infections in heavily Republican areas, since those places are less likely to be heavily vaccinated. In a statement provided to Mediaite, he tried to defend the claim.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s categorization of places with substantial rates of transmission “applies to nearly every major metropolitan area in the United States … Los Angeles, New York, Atlanta, Houston, Miami, St. Louis, etc. … according to the ‘hot spot’ county map highlighted on the CDC website,” the statement said. “Plus, anyone with common sense understands that 3.5M unvaccinated New York residents living within 300 square miles of each other, is more of a so-called ‘hot spot,’ than just 388,000 unvaccinated Wyoming residents living within 98,000 square miles of each other.”
This is pretty lazy stuff, even for Watters. He first cites the CDC’s definition, pointing out that applies to big cities — though without pointing out that it also applies to hundreds of small counties. Then he throws out the CDC’s definition of a hot spot in favor of his own, in which he begs the question by declaring a hot spot to depend on population density.
So let’s look at the actual numbers, shall we?
There is, in fact, a relationship between the average number of new cases in a county and the county population, according to counties for which we have data. Los Angeles County has seen a lot of new cases in the past two weeks (which is the time period indicated on the graph below), but it also has millions of residents.
But the CDC, not new to this, is familiar with how population works. So it defines community transmission relative to population. It uses two metrics — the rate of cases per 100,000 residents and the rate of positive tests — to determine the places with “substantial” or “high” transmission.
If we plot population against the rate of cases per 100,000 residents, the picture shifts. In the least-populated decile of counties, 69 percent have transmission rates above the median. In the most-populated decile, 54 percent do.
We can look at this another way. Over the past two weeks, most new cases have been in the most populous places for the same reason that so many Trump voters live in Biden counties. Adjusted for population, though, the hardest-hit places shift to the middle of the pack.
If Los Angeles was seeing the same rate of infections as the hardest-hit small county — Sullivan County, Mo. — it would be seeing ten times the number of new cases each day.
It’s true, as Watters points out, that more unvaccinated people live in blue states, since those states have more people. But as of two weeks ago, more unvaccinated adults lived in red states even though those states have fewer adult residents. This issue of vaccination is entirely the point, of course, with places that have lower rates of vaccination seeing more new cases per resident.
The vaccination data, compiled by the CDC, are imperfect, but you can clearly see the pattern below. More than a third of the country lives in the 2,300-odd counties in which more than half the population hasn’t received at least one dose of the vaccine.
What’s particularly alarming is how many seniors have not been fully vaccinated. In more than half of counties, according to the CDC data, fewer than half of those over age 65 have been fully vaccinated.
But this is just running Watters’s playbook in reverse. In the most densely populated counties, home to two-thirds of the population, more than three-quarters of those aged 65 and over have been fully vaccinated.
The risk remains high in places with lower vaccination rates, not just places with more unvaccinated people. Those places are generally places that voted more heavily for Trump in 2020. And the correlation between the two makes sense, given Trump’s — and Fox News’s — rhetoric.
“We have to do away with all the politics and just try to get people vaxxed,” Watters said on Friday. Fine. Let’s.
Politics This Morning: Kenney resigns – The Hill Times
Opinion | Abortion and America’s Polarized Politics – The New York Times
To the Editor:
Re “How Roe Warped the Public,” by Ross Douthat (column, May 8):
Mr. Douthat argues that the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision was “an inflection point where the choices of elite liberalism actively pushed the Republic toward our current divisions,” but he ignores three glaring facts.
First, Roe v. Wade still aligns well with the American people’s best sense about the complexity of abortion: that it be safe, legal and rare. Second, it was deliberate decisions by conservative elites that weaponized minority opposition to abortion for their own goals. Third, it is the unyielding minority religious belief that personhood begins at the moment of conception that has been driving the divisive politics of abortion for decades.
To the Editor:
Ross Douthat lays the social divisions of this country at the feet of the liberal elites who foolishly made the mistake of codifying a constitutional right not specifically delineated in our Constitution. He overlooks the deliberate choice of abortion as a politically galvanizing issue by movement conservatives who, seeking to unite a party in disarray after the “Southern strategy” and Watergate, fixed on abortion as a standard to unite under.
Abortion was not originally a significant concern of evangelicals and was simply one tool they picked to create and sustain the quest for political control. Mr. Douthat, while thoughtful, is simply dead wrong on this one.
To the Editor:
Ross Douthat’s column about Roe was exceptionally brilliant. In an age when so much opinion content is designed to simplify complex issues, to create easy distillations that fit into previously established convictions, it takes courage to present issues with nuance and complexity and trust that readers will reward you for it.
Well done, Ross!
Mount Desert Island, Maine
To the Editor:
I am a strongly pro-choice feminist, and I understand and respect the perspective of people who are opposed to abortion. However, opposition to abortion has taken on an element that is not pro-life. Not making an exception for instances of rape and incest suggests a lack of compassion, rather than reverence for life. Criminalizing and instigating vigilante injustice suggest not just lack of compassion, but also punishment and vindictiveness.
Where in this response is the love and mercy that are at the heart of the message of Jesus?
A Threat to Democracy
To the Editor:
“Running for Office to ‘Stop the Steal,’” by Barbara McQuade (Opinion guest essay, Sunday Review, May 15), should strike fear in the heart of every patriotic American.
Between now and November, honest Americans of every political stripe need to get the word out that Donald Trump is working frantically to elect “his” state legislators, secretaries of state and election officials who will replace the honest bipartisan ones who said there was no election fraud in 2020. His apparent goal is to have Trump electors tallied instead of legally chosen ones in what could be our last free election.
People need to be reminded how Mr. Trump attempted to cajole officials — even his own vice president — into overturning an honest election. Now he’s learned a better way to do it, and only the voters can prevent this electoral calamity and national tragedy.
Two years from now our democracy could be in as much danger as Ukraine’s is now, but without one missile being launched or one shot being fired.
U.S. Should Focus on Diplomacy, Not Arms Shipments to Ukraine
To the Editor:
Re “The Perils of 2 Ukraine War Endgames” (column, May 15):
Ross Douthat is right to envision these endgame scenarios. He fears that if the Ukrainian military (with U.S. weapons support) should come close to expelling the Russian forces, “nuclear escalation suddenly becomes more likely than it is right now.”
If the Russians should decide to end a protracted war with a tactical nuclear strike on Ukraine, the U.S. might be tempted to retaliate against Russia with its own nukes. Both sides have put the nuclear option back on the table.
Even short of World War III, a continuing military stalemate in the Donbas would likely have serious consequences: global grain shortages, starvation in poor countries and eventual upheavals and mass migration. U.S. arms aid would also come with high domestic costs, including the likely abandonment of needed social programs.
The U.S. and NATO should make the reduction of nuclear war risk a top priority. They should stop stoking the conflict with arms shipments. Instead, they should encourage Volodymyr Zelensky to engage in meaningful negotiations with Vladimir Putin, even if it means territorial concessions in the Donbas region.
President Biden’s objective should now be peace through diplomacy, not endless war through the continuing supply of weapons.
L. Michael Hager
The writer is co-founder and former director general of the International Development Law Organization.
Don’t Name the Gunman
To the Editor:
According to the F.B.I. expert who spoke to my synagogue on Sunday about how to survive an attack by an “active shooter,” we should not encourage mentally ill bigots by giving them heroes, that is, by naming other shooters they can emulate.
In other words, every time the news media repeats the shooter’s name, sick folks will have another person to admire. So stop saying those names. What is horrific to us is cool to them. Don’t name them.
‘A fine leader:’ Reaction to Alberta Premier Jason Kenney resigning after UCP review
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said Wednesday he is stepping down as leader of the United Conservative Party after the party announced he had won a leadership review with just 51.4 per cent of votes. Here is some of the political reaction:
“He was a fine leader. He worked so hard for this province, uniting us Conservatives together back in 2016 and his heart was in this province. And now he’s gone. He’s going to do wonderful things with his life and his career, but it’s a loss to our party.” — Janis Nett, secretary of the United Conservative Party
“There are obviously many things about which we don’t agree, but that doesn’t negate the time and sacrifice that goes into taking on the role of Premier. The work is never easy. The days are long and often difficult, as I’m sure today is. I wish Jason the best.” — Alberta Opposition NDP Leader Rachel Notley
“I respect Jason’s decision. It’s going to be tough going forward for a little bit … but we need to unite as a party and we need to find a leader who can do that, because right now we are divided.” — Conrad van Hierden, constituency association president for Livingstone-Macleod
“No one understands political traditions and conventions more than Jason Kenney and I want to thank him for his decent and honourable concession.” — UCP MLA Brian Jean
“Thank you @jkenney for all your contributions. Through the challenges of the past two years and decades of public service, you’ve been a voice for Alberta and Albertans, and I wish you all the best in the years ahead.” — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
“Thank you to my friend Premier @jkenney for everything you have done to unite Alberta conservative voters into a new party, defeat a destructive NDP government and lead Alberta through a very challenging time.” — Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe
“@jkenney my friend, the people of this province owe you a debt of gratitude. You took a province economically ravaged by the NDP & turned it into a thriving place to live and work again. B/c of you less kids will leave our home for jobs somewhere else. I’m so proud of you.” — Former federal Progressive Conservative leader Rona Ambrose
“@jkenney has dedicated his career to serving the people of his province and country. Proud to call him a friend and colleague. Wishing him all the best in his next endeavours.” — Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson
“Sad tonite to see @jkenney step down. Under his leadership, Alta found a way thru dark times and is now better positioned to thrive than any other prov. Thx for your work PJK. You always tried to do the right thing not just the popular one. Canada is a better country bc of it.” — former B.C. premier Christy Clark
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 18, 2022.
The Canadian Press
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