Blithely confident that Minnesota voters find chaos, cruelty and misinformation appealing, the antivaxxers assembled.
"It's not a vaccine, it's a death shot," newly elected state Sen. Nathan Wesenberg,R-Little Falls, said of the COVID-19 vaccine. Dozens of people gathered with him in the Capitol Rotunda for the No Forced Vaccines rally nobody asked for this week.
Thursday's rally leaned into the off-putting crackpottery that helped GOP candidates lose every statewide office and their majority in the Minnesota Senate in the last election.
"We should maybe start sending people to jail" for trying to save lives during a global pandemic that has already killed more than a million Americans, Wesenberg added. "Maybe we should start with [Minnesota Gov.] Tim Walz."
Organized by an anti-vaccine group that isn't getting any free ink from me, the Jan. 5 rally featured last year's Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Jensen, who likened vaccine refusal to cancer patients making their own end-of-life treatment decisions.
The focus of their fury was legislation floated in the state Senate last session — by the party now in the majority. The bill would have made it harder for parents to opt their children out of routine immunizations for polio, measles, whooping cough and other childhood killers based on personal beliefs.
"Unfortunately, there are those who want to make vaccines a condition of us living," said newly elected state Sen. Eric Lucero, R-St. Michael.
It is true that still being alive is one of the major side effects of most vaccines. Just ask Gen. George Washington, who had the entire Continental Army inoculated against smallpox — saving lives like a true patriot.
Back at the rally, speakers called the pandemic the "scamdemic." They speculated that maybe it was a vaccine, not an unlucky tackle, that stopped Damar Hamlin's heart during that terrifying Buffalo Bills game.
The false claim that the COVID vaccine is killing athletes has circulated for years, ignoring all proof to the contrary. You may have heard that one from your angry cousin who won't stop talking about the imaginary microchips in vaccines that he learned about on YouTube.
Nobody wanted to sit next to the bitter, conspiracy-spouting cousin at Thanksgiving dinner. Fewer and fewer Americans want to vote for the angry, conspiracy-spouting candidate on the ballot. The kind of candidates who would rather block their own party from taking control of the U.S. House of Representatives than admit that government actually has a job to do.
This year's rally was much smaller and much less heavily armed than the hundreds who turned out for Minnesota's Storm the Capitol rally on Jan. 6, 2021. No one was wearing Trump hats in the crowd this year.
What hasn't changed is that lies won't become truths if you repeat them.
"That isn't to say we can prove anything," Jensen, a doctor, told the crowd, immediately after suggesting that thousands of people probably dropped dead within hours of receiving a COVID shot.
New year. New hats. Same message the voters rejected the last time around.