The New York Times stated that Covid has become a virus afflicting Republicans, but their methodology was deceptive through inexplicable omissions
“But my biggest frustration is that this causes us to be unkind. These articles and tortured charts drive people to believe that COVID is the fault of their political enemies or that it is a disease that afflicts the outgroup. This is a view being explicitly promoted and it damages everything from national social cohesion to individual family relationships. It’s something worth fighting against.”
Being a bit lazy on vacation, so recycling a previous comment of mine to Eugyppius, but it highlights and provides source that this “analysis” that Leondhardt has been trying to push is no different than the outcome if run in any prior year. It’s been known for decades that for several reasons people in rural areas die at higher rates of the 5 leading causes of death than their urban counterparts. It shouldn’t take much imagination to figure out why.
“For the full effect, you have to follow him regurgitate this story on a monthly basis the last year, each iteration, inching slowly to the obviousness of it all. 
I feel bad for the guy, because the final piece of the puzzle is right in front of him... if only he should for a moment re-run his "Trump counties have slightly higher mortality than Biden counties" for, say, 2019 or 2009 and discover the same pattern was there all along. He is SO CLOSE....
Or maybe he can just google "why do people die at slightly higher rates in rural areas compared to urban areas" and maybe he will find the answer all along, right from his favorite institution:
 (one such iteration of his "journalism" https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/08/briefing/covid-death-toll-red-america.html
An honest question: How can we be certain that COVID vaccines saved many lives? The original safety studies showed no mortality or hospitalization benefit. With so many old and vulnerable people vaccinated, one would think that the death rate and average age of death would have dropped substantially. Yet, they are nearly unchanged.
For MA, last year's COVID mortality peak was around 1/10/2021 with an average age of 79. This year it was 1/24 with an average age of 77. There is a huge gradient of vaccination rate vs. age. If a fully vaxxed 80-year-old really has the same COVID risk as an unvaxxed 50-year-old (as was said in an earlier post here), there should be a larger drop in age-of-death. Admittedly I haven't calculated this effect, but the pro-vaccine story does not seem to hang together when considering age-of-death. https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-response-reporting#covid-19-interactive-data-dashboard-
Note also that the many claims of high vaccine efficiency depend on knowing how many unvaccinated old people there are as a denominator. But this number is not known and according to official statistics often negative and then arbitrarily adjusted to some small number, making the unvaccinated appear to have high rates of hospitalization and death.
You hit the nail on the head observing that some are implying that "COVID is a moral disease and the people who are dying are dying because they did the wrong things." Way way back in the before-times--March 2020--I read a quote from NJ Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli who said, "I'm definitely going to get [covid]. We all are. I'm just waiting." I have not heard one single other public official make as sensible a comment in the 2+ years since. She was right. We were always--every single person on the planet--at some point going to get exposed to this airborne virus, regardless of age, gender, skin color, or party affiliation. (How and why it has affected people differently, away from age and health status, still seems somewhat unpredictable.) But as you point out, some still think it's a moral failing to contract it, and continue to push that narrative. Now that the thing has gone around the globe at least once, and we probably have all been exposed, maybe we should focus our energy and attention on preventing another such world-altering mistake from happening again.