As of mid-January, the coronavirus vaccine is finally getting out to first responders — police, firefighters, EMTs — joining some health professionals and others who have priority. But there is a long, long line of people in Massachusetts still waiting.
However, there is an elite group of folks that is not waiting. Departing Boston Mayor Marty Walsh just joined that group and got his first vaccine shot.
For members of the Bay State congressional delegation, the first vaccine shot is well in the rearview mirror. They got it a week before Christmas. They’re now ready for the second shot — or maybe they’ve already quietly gotten it — long before the rest of us can get the first one.
Congresspeople and certain mayors serve themselves before the citizens they’re supposedly serving. They eagerly gate-crash to the front of the line — even ahead of others confronting COVID directly. (Their congressional staffers also got vaccinated.) Maybe they all think they’re one of the “underserved communities” they’re forever prattling about.
It being unseemly to admit to blatant self-service, someone concocted a scripted excuse for members of Congress. They’re getting their shots for government “continuity.” Rep. Katherine Clark said there’s a vaccine for Congress “because of the need for continuity of government operations.” Sen. Elizabeth Warren said she took the shot “for the continuity of government.” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez claimed her shot was “part of a continuity of governance plan.”
The “continuity” argument implies that if any congressperson dies or gets sick, government will suffer some intolerable discontinuity or stop altogether. But this is nonsense. People frequently leave Congress — because of illness, death, retirement, scandal. The government and the nation carry on — with full continuity. Our representatives know that; they’re being disingenuous as well as inaccurate. “Continuity” is a face mask covering up “self-serving.”
Remember that Warren just ran for president and until recently was seeking and being considered for a position in the Biden administration. Apparently, any discontinuity she would inflict by leaving the Massachusetts congressional delegation for personal gain caused her no concern.
Rep. Ayanna Pressley said, “Candidly, I did not expect I would be able to receive the vaccine this soon.” (It’s nice when Ms. Pressley is candid.) She said she intended to get the vaccine “later in 2021.” But she sacrificed herself and got it now — ahead of her constituents, who are undoubtedly joyous that she, at least, will be protected even while they’re not.
Pressley also said she’d gotten the shot after consultation with her family. One wonders what she would have done had the family said, “No, Ayanna, don’t do it!”
Mayor Marty, 53, hasn’t yet given his invented priority for placing himself above and ahead of health care workers and older and/or immuno-compromised Massachusetts citizens. We’re looking forward to his creative excuse. (Suggestion for the good mayor: Spare us the overused “setting an example” trope.)
On the other hand, credit goes to those politicians who refused to brandish the fabricated excuse of “continuity” or “example setting” and didn’t join the “me first” brigade. Rep. Stephen Lynch said he’d wait until after the vaccine had been offered to health care personnel, first responders and vulnerable seniors in his district.
Gov. Charlie Baker stated, “The folks who work at our hospitals generally and in our health care system generally getting vaccinated is a lot more important than me.” He didn’t think he “should get vaccinated before I actually qualify as an individual.”
Their honesty is laudable but, regrettably, in minority display amongst our elected officials.
We get the political characters we vote for, and character comes to the fore when there’s a crisis. Moral: If you go on a cruise with “continuity” or “example” politicians, make sure there are enough life boats for everyone. You won’t be in the first ones that leave the ship.
Avi Nelson is a Boston-based political analyst and talk-show host.