6 Takes On The Mother of Mandates

Plus: Justice vs. DeSantis

“Real liberty for all could not exist under the operation of a principle which recognizes the right of each individual person to use his own, whether in respect of his person or his property, regardless of the injury that may be done to others.” — Justice John Marshall Harlan, in Jacobson v. Massachusetts (in which SCOTUS ruled 7-2 that vaccine mandates were constitutional)

As the battle over the new Biden mandates explodes, here are six quick takes:

(1) Biden made no attempt to hide his frustration. The administration’s dramatic about-face on the question of mandates reflects its belief that the Delta variant poses an existential threat to the nation’s health, the economic recovery, and the fate of his presidency. Yesterday, he said:

This is a pandemic of the unvaccinated.  And it’s caused by the fact that despite America having an unprecedented and successful vaccination program, despite the fact that for almost five months free vaccines have been available in 80,000 different locations, we still have nearly 80 million Americans who have failed to get the shot. 

And to make matters worse, there are elected officials actively working to undermine the fight against COVID-19.  Instead of encouraging people to get vaccinated and mask up, they’re ordering mobile morgues for the unvaccinated dying from COVID in their communities.  This is totally unacceptable.

Among other things, Biden’s order:

  • Uses a new OSHA regulation to require all companies with more than 100 employees to ensure that their employees are either vaccinated or tested weekly. (So technically, private sector employees are not mandated to get the vaccine. They retain a choice between getting the shot and getting tested.)

  • Requires vaccinations for all federal workers and for millions of contractors who work for the federal government.

  • Requires vaccinations for 17 million health care workers at hospitals and medical facilities that receive Medicaid or Medicare dollars.

(2) Republicans are going to go all-in railing against the new rules. As Axios reports this morning: Top Republicans are calling for a public uprising to protest President Biden's broad vaccine mandates, eight months after more than 500 people stormed the U.S. Capitol to try to overturn the election.”

(3) The rhetoric in the right-media ranges from hysterical to inflammatory. Via Oliver Darcy:

"BIDEN IS AN AUTHORITARIAN," a banner on Fox declared. "BIDEN DECLARES WAR ON MILLIONS OF AMERICANS," yet another Fox banner read. "FULL TOTALITARIAN," Breitbart's homepage splash screamed. The far-right, but mass consumed, Gateway Pundit ripped the "Biden regime" for its "tyrannical mandates." The Federalist described it as a "fascist move." On and on it went..

And, of course, the leading GOP senate candidate in Ohio:

(4) The vaccine mandates themselves are probably constitutional, but there are genuine questions about the legal authority for the orders to private businesses. Expect immediate legal challenges and the possibility the courts will shut down at least some of the Biden mandates.

(5) The mandates may not change hearts and minds or persuade the recalcitrant, but they will change behavior. More people will get the shots.

And finally…

(6) Despite the murky legal picture, the new mandates will save lives… at least in the short run. So, this is the pro-life position, right?


Justice vs. DeSantis

As we await the Second Civil War over vaccine mandates, the contrast between two Republican governors — West Virginia’s Jim Justice and Florida’s Ron DeSantis — is worth noting.

ICYMI: Governor Justice is really fed up with the resistance to the vaccines: Via the Wapo:

Justice has repeatedly warned of the unvaccinated causing unnecessary deaths.

“A bunch of people will die,” he said Aug. 9. “We could have stopped this.”

“We’re getting there, but it’s too slow,” he said last week. “And as we’re getting there and it’s too slow, we keep reading death after death after death.”

And in late August: “Everything points toward one thing, and that is you have to get vaccinated. … The more that are vaccinated, the less that will die.”

Around the same time, Justice became the rare Republican to push for expediting booster shots for the vaccinated, citing tests revealing his own decreased antibodies six months after vaccination.

“I truly believe without a doubt … that people six months out should be [given boosters],” Justice said on Aug. 18. He re-upped the call five days later.

BTW: Here’s a reminder what West Virginia looks like:

In other words, it is possible for a Republican governor in an uber-Trumpy state to take on the crazies. Here is also what West Virginia looks like:

That may be one of the reasons that Governor Justice has not backed down. At all.

“For God’s sakes a livin’, how difficult is this to understand?” he said Wednesday. “Why in the world do we have to come up with these crazy ideas — and they’re crazy ideas — that the vaccine’s got something in it and it’s tracing people wherever they go? And the same very people that are saying that are carrying their cellphones around. I mean, come on. Come on.”


Meanwhile, in Florida, we get performative assholery and cynical demagoguery.

Suffice it to say, the man is not overburdened with self-awareness.


Speaking of DeSantis…

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Florida’s new “anti-riot” law championed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis as a way to quell violent protests is unconstitutional and cannot be enforced, a federal judge ruled Thursday.

The 90-page decision by U.S. District Judge Mark Walker in Tallahassee found the recently-enacted law “vague and overbroad” and amounted to an assault on First Amendment rights of free speech and assembly as well as the Constitution’s due process protections.

The latest set-back in court led our colleague, Amanda Carpenter to ask a relevant question:

The GOP Then… and Now

On the eve of the 9/11 anniversary make sure you read this piece by Will Saletan: Why the Party of 9/11 Couldn’t Handle COVID-19

When al-Qaida struck America on 9/11, Republicans completely reoriented our government to confront terrorism. The attack had been conceived abroad, but it had been seeded and executed in the United States. So Republicans instituted new measures to track and halt the spread of terrorism at home. They upgraded domestic surveillance and tightened screening at airports and other public places. President George W. Bush urged citizens to rise above their differences and focus on the good of the community.

Today, in the face of a far more deadly enemy, Republicans have done the opposite. They’ve belittled the coronavirus pandemic, scorned vigilance, defended reckless individualism, and obstructed efforts to protect the public.

Why the contrast? Saletan writes:

The simple truth is that Republicans don’t know how to deal with this kind of enemy. It doesn’t speak Arabic, Farsi, or Chinese. It doesn’t invoke the name of Allah. Politicians can’t rile up crowds or raise money by uniting Americans against it, as they did by railing against “radical Islamic terrorism.” In this respect, COVID has been a test of character. It challenged Republicans to decide whether they’re a party of national security, or just a party of grievance and animosity. That question has now been answered.

Quick Hits

1. Tim Miller on WTF Is Going on with the California Recall

Make sure you watch Tim’s latest Not My Party video:

… and his very personal essay of what it was like being a 19-year-old student on the morning of September 11, 2001.

It seems like everyone with a Medium page has written one of these 9/11 accounts, because living through it was so arresting and disorienting. The unexpectedness, the piercing of our bubble, the manifest mass death. It all makes our collective memory so vivid.

But as I reflected on my close-ish call with history, the only feeling I can really summon is a low-key survivor’s guilt.

Looking back on that day, now in middle age, I’m struck mostly by how little a 19-year-old has lived. How much more life was in front of me.

2. From Horror to History

Matthew C. Rees writes in today’s Bulwark about a birthday (his son’s), a tragic bus accident, and a terrorist attack.

[In] the coming years, I will teach my son about what happened fourteen years before he was born, and what happened forty-four years before. Just as my elders’ memories became the stuff of my education, so will my memories become the stuff of his education. On this act of transmission, of conveying through story and history the truth of what previous generations lived through, depends our best hope of honoring the lives forever linked to September 11.

Cheap Shots

Cognitive dissonance.