Have you heard the new Republican conspiracy theory about the Omicron variant?

Roughly 24 hours after most people in America first heard about the Omicron variant of Covid-19, Texas Rep. Ronny Jackson (R) offered a conspiracy theory to explain what was happening.

“Here comes the MEV – the Midterm Election Variant,” tweeted Jackson, who, not for nothing, is also a physician. “They NEED a reason to push unsolicited nationwide mail-in ballots. Democrats will do anything to CHEAT during an election – but we’re not going to let them!”

And then there was this from Fox News personality Pete Hegseth: “Count on a variant about every October, every two years.”

The idea here is clear: The emergence of Omicron is a political gambit by Democrats designed to aid them at the ballot box.

That is, in a word, dumb.

Start here: Variations of Covid-19 don’t, um, follow the laws of politics. The Omicron variant — of which we still know very little beyond the fact that it has a number of mutations from past cycles of the disease — appears to have originated in southern Africa. Which, last time I checked, isn’t the political base of Democrats — or Republicans for that matter. I’m pretty sure those countries aren’t thinking about how this will impact vote-by-mail in the United States in then 2022 election.

Then there’s this: The rise of Omicron — and the fear it has already engendered among the public — is, without question, terrible politics for President Joe Biden.

Biden ran on a single message: Competence aimed at reducing the prevalence of this virus. That was the sine qua non of this campaign: I will get Covid-19 under control — and that will allow us to return to some semblance of normal.

“We are entering what may well be the toughest and deadliest period of the virus,” Biden said in his inauguration speech in January. “We must set aside the politics and finally face this pandemic as one nation.”

That grand vision has run directly into the abrupt reality of an infectious disease. The emergence of the Delta variant over the summer in the United States triggered another surge in cases — and a subsequent dip in Biden’s approval ratings. In a June Fox News poll, 64% of Americans approved of the job he was doing in handling Covid-19. By November, that number had sunk to 48%.

What Biden badly needs right now is some good news on the virus, some evidence that this long national nightmare is (finally) beginning to abate. Instead, on Monday, Biden was speaking to the country about his decision to ban travel from a handful of African countries that have seen the bulk of the Omicron cases.

“Sooner or later we’re going to see cases of this new variant here in the United States,” Biden said Monday. “We’ll have to face this new threat just as we face those who have come before it.”

While that is an acknowledgment of reality, it’s the exact opposite of where Biden (and his team) wanted to be at the end of November 2021. It suggests that Biden doesn’t have all the answers on this new variant (in truth, no one does) and that the pandemic isn’t nearly done with us yet. For a man who based his entire campaign on the idea of using leadership and competence to end or significantly curtail a virus that has killed more than 776,000 Americans, today was a very bad day — politically speaking.

Why can’t the likes of Jackson understand that? Because they have been fed lies for so long that the truth seems strange to them now. But this is the truth: The Omicron variant is absolutely awful for Biden’s political prospects — even if Jackson and his ilk are too blind to see it.

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