Port: Trump knows vaccination resistance is slaughtering his political base

The anti-vaccine movement is literally killing his people.

Donald Trump
President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally in Lewis Center, Ohio, Aug. 4, 2018.
(Al Drago/Copyright 2018 The New York Times)
We are part of The Trust Project.

MINOT, N.D. — Believe it or not, I think disgraced former President Donald Trump does actually know how to do basic arithmetic.

I think that's why so much of his spat with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has centered on COVID-19 politics.

DeSantis has raised his national profile during the pandemic, in part, by pandering to the anti-vaccine crowd. DeSantis has refused to divulge details about the status of his booster vaccination, which prompted Trump to take a thinly veiled shot at him, suggesting that political leaders who keep that information private are "gutless."

Trump, for all his faults, has been transparent about his own vaccination status. He has urged his followers to get vaccinated. And, let's be fair to the man, his administration is owed a great deal of credit for helping to hasten the COVID-19 vaccines to market.

That's an odd thing, given where his political base is on vaccines. There is a heavy overlap between Trump World and the anti-vaccination crowd. Normally, Trump is willing to pander to even the ugliest and most extreme elements of his base, but on vaccines he's taken a stand.


"It's going to be painful, but Republicans can't just turn away from Trump. Republicans have to lead their people away from Trumpism and the morass of conspiracy-addled grievance and unvarnished racism it has become," Rob Port writes.

That may be because dead voters aren't any good to him.

A September study from the Centers for Disease Control found 91% of those dying from COVID-19 were unvaccinated. A November study from the Texas Department of Health put that number in the same ballpark, at 95%.

Vaccination rates break down pretty sharply along political and cultural lines. Surveys are showing us that the Americans least likely to be vaccinated are religious and Republican .

That's Trump's base. And, indeed, other metrics show that resistance to vaccination has resulted in a grim winnowing of that base. In September, columnist David Leonhardt wrote in The New York Times that COVID-19 death rates were about three times higher in counties that voted for Trump in 2020 .

Donald McNeil, a former science and health reporter for the Times, extrapolates: "As of this week, about 1,800 Americans a day are dying of COVID; the CDC expects that number to rise above 2,600," he writes . "Virtually all are adults. If 95% were unvaccinated and we assume that 75% of those were Trump supporters, that’s 1,300 to 1,900 of his voters being subtracted from the rolls every single day."

"Right now, about 60 Arizonans, 36 Georgians, 34 Wisconsinites and 14 Nevadans are dying of COVID each day ," McNeil continues.

If 95% are unvaccinated, and 75% were Trump supporters, that's a loss of about 100 voters per day in the swing states Trump would need to pull off another Electoral College victory.

Now do you understand why Trump is willing to provoke boos from his audience by promoting the vaccines?


The anti-vaccine movement is literally killing his people.

Rob Port, founder of, is a Forum Communications commentator. Listen to his Plain Talk Podcast and follow him on Twitter at @RobPort. He can be reached via email at

Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
What to read next
Members meet monthly to discuss news issues and newspaper policies, suggest story ideas and debate ethical situations involving the newsroom.
Ann Bailey explains why she's thankful for agriculture in professional and personal life.
"Does North Dakota really want women with complicated pregnancies to suffer? Does North Dakota really want a critical shortage of qualified obstetricians and to imprison doctors?" columnist Jim Shaw asks. "The legislature must act."
"I recently asked Lynn Helms, North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources Director for the facts that rarely get reported," columnist Scott Hennen writes. "Helms tells us there is a full-on assault against our oil and gas industry in North Dakota coming from the Biden Administration."