It’s been more than a week since I read that Andy “Handgun” Harris opposed the University of Maryland’s decision to require most students to get the COVID-19 vaccine before returning to college this fall. I was gobsmacked by the news. Harris is a doctor. I thought he should know that students getting vaccinated is in everyone’s best interest. It is the best means of preventing an outbreak of infections that could result in the university returning to virtual teaching.
I subsequently learned that Harris does understand that everyone should get vaccinated. He is just against UMD requiring it. He is fully supportive of voluntary vaccinations and even helped administer shots here on the Eastern Shore. He also appeared in a public service announcement intended to persuade those afraid of the vaccine of its safety.
So why would Harris speak out against our premier state university requiring the vaccine? The answer is ideology. Harris doesn’t like the government telling people what to do, even if it’s in their best interest. In the case of the vaccine, Harris’ ideology trumped his knowledge as a doctor. He thinks that if someone doesn’t want to get the vaccine and still attend the University this fall, it’s OK. He’s OK if that student infects other students with the virus. Harris’ “principles” are more important than the health of the unfortunate student.
To be fair to Congressman Harris, here is his statement of the UMD vaccine requirement:
“As a physician, I have administered many COVID-19 vaccines – and I continue to encourage everyone, especially our most vulnerable, to get vaccinated. However, government mandates to require an individual to have an Emergency Use Authorized (EUA) vaccine flaunt the very federal FDA requirement that EUA products be optional, and that informed consent recognizing the unapproved nature of such products be obtained.”
Technically, I suppose, Harris is right, with “optional” being the key word. He is still wrong, however in opposing the vaccine requirement. If his view were to prevail (it won’t), some students could die or spend months in hospitals as a result. That’s what putting ideology over science will get you.
I thought Harris’ rationale for his position sounded disingenuous. That’s a bit unfair, but I doubt Harris is as much of a stickler for technicalities on things like gun laws.
Although Harris statement on the UMD is unlikely to prompt any change in policy, it tells us a lot about how he develops positions on legislation. Ideology first, constituents second. I do not want my representative in Congress to be driven by ideology where it means that common sense and science are ignored. Unfortunately, he is an “ideologue.”
Merriam-Webster defines Ideologue as an “often blindly partisan advocate or adherent of a particular ideology.” The dictionary offers the following synonyms: crusader, fanatic, militant, partisan, and true believer.
How does that fit with the Congressman? Harris’ ideology is best exemplified by his membership in the Freedom Caucus; his ardent support for President Trump, including skipping the second impeachment vote; and declaring that “Trump’s brand of populism is the future of the Republican party.”
Although the “principle” that led him to attempt to carry a handgun onto the Floor of the House of Representatives is hard to understand, that too, apparently, was a gesture of Harris’ ideology—unless, of course, you assume that he worried about Nancy Pelosi or some other Democrat shooting him there.
If all this strikes you as unnecessarily harsh on Andy Harris, you are forgiven. I admire his helping to administer COVID-19 vaccines and speaking out on the safety of the vaccine. That’s not enough to excuse everything else he does. He has a long history of poorly representing the first district.
We deserve better representation. We all need to continue to monitor what “Handgun Harris” is up to in Washington and hold him accountable. He should be representing us, not Donald Trump. He must go.
J.E. Dean of Oxford is a retired attorney and public affairs consultant writing on politics, government, birds, and occasionally goldendoodles.