Vaccine Mandates Are Working. Democrats Should Act Boldly on Other Issues Too.

Even though the exact threat it poses is not known, the Omicron strain of COVID-19 has emerged. This development should serve as a reminder of what’s been clear from the beginning of the pandemic — that the only way to suppress the virus’s spread is to have a truly global vaccination effort. The most obvious way to increase global vaccine access is for the World Trade Organization to adopt India and South Africa’s proposal to waive intellectual property rights of the giant pharmaceutical companies that are claiming a monopoly on vaccine development. Although the Biden administration was opposed to the waiver, they have begun to show some support.

Last Sunday, President Biden’s Chief Medical Adviser Anthony Fauci had warned that it was only a matter of time before the Omicron strain appeared in the U.S. California reported the first confirmed case of Omicron in a South African traveler on Wednesday.

The Delta surge demonstrated that the vast majority of the United States are extremely vulnerable to each new variant, as the summer of 2021 showed. After an initially impressive vaccine rollout, the U.S.’s vaccination rate has dropped off considerably. The United States had the lowestG7 countries have high vaccination rates.

If there is one spot of good news here, it’s that the Biden administration has embraced strong vaccination mandates, and the early data suggest that they’re working. Biden issued an executive directive in September requiring federal workers to get the shot. There are exceptions for limited circumstances. According to a November 23rd report, 92 percent of the federal workers had received at minimum one shot by November 23rd. White House fact sheet.

Biden ordered all employees of companies with over 100 workers to be vaccinated or receive a waiver. All employees must also undergo weekly testing by January 1. At least 27 statesIn different districts and was subsequently blockedby a federal appeals judge. A federal judge is also available. blockedAfter 10 states sued, a Biden order required that health care workers receive the vaccine.

Despite this, 3M (the largest U.S. producer of N95 masks) is still in business. mandated that its employees get vaccinated in response to Biden’s executive order on federal workers. More broadly, Biden’s appeal to corporate behemoths to adopt vaccine mandates has seen some key success, as Procter & Gamble, Tyson Foods, and several airlines have required their workers to get the shot.

Although it is difficult to find national data, there are anecdotally at least some. vaccine-hesitant peopleMany people would rather get the vaccine than risk losing jobs. Both municipal and state mandates have been extremely successful. New York State mandated health care workers. The number of people covered jumped about 5%. 10 percent — from 82 to 92 percent — in the week before the requirement took hold. Even cops, one of the most reactionary professions in the country, are now anti-vaccine. largely acquiesceddespite the fact that their police associations challenged the mandates in court.

The response from the right to the mandates — either those issued by Biden or by Democratic-controlled cities and states — has been predictable. Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves said Biden’s federal mandates were something out of “communist China or North Korea.” A Fox News weekend host said they were the “beginning of a communist-style social credit system.” Right-wing website Red State referred to Biden’s speech as “dictatorial,” and conservative commentator Ben Shapiro said it was an example of the “authoritarianism” of the “administrative state.” After the conservative television station NewsmaxSteve Cortes, host of The View, announced that it would enforce its mandate tweeted that he would not comply with “any organization’s attempt to enforce Biden’s capricious & unscientific Medical Apartheid mandate.”

In the months since Biden issued his federal mandate, the reactionary backlash hasn’t subsided, exactly, but conservatives have found other boogiemen to chase. Most notably, they rallied in a panic against in-school discussions of racism and oppression (which they inaccurately describe as “critical race theory”) in the Virginia gubernatorial race. Republicans have attacked Biden’s Build Back Better social spending plan as a reckless expansion of the welfare state. Rep. Lauren Boebert branded Rep. Ilhan Omara a terrorist, and then refused publicly to apologize. The bottom line is that conservatives are doing the same thing they have always done and what they would do if Biden had not issued his executive orders regarding vaccine requirements.

Democrats will learn that waiting for a backlash to come is not only morally indefensible, but also political malpractice. The constant media refrain in the run-up to the Virginia election was that the Democrats hadn’t done enough with their power, or, in Beltway-speak, they didn’t have “wins” to bring home. Poll after poll shows that Biden’s political future relies on increasing vaccination rates, stemming future waves and inching the country closer to an end-state where COVID is more like the seasonal flu and less like a life-altering pandemic.

Biden, and Democrats generally, will get no help from conservatives. Not only have the vast majority of Republican-controlled states resisted mask and vaccine mandates, but the GOP response to the Omicron variant has been even more mired in lies and conspiracy theories. Ronny Jackson, a Texas Republican and former Trump White House physician suggested the new variant had been invented by Democrats to justify mail-in voting in next year’s midterms. Similarly, Fox NewsPete Hegseth and Will Cain are the hosts half-joked that the Biden administration would invent new variants “every two years” for their political benefit.

In retrospect, it’s now clear that Biden waited far too long to initiate federal vaccine mandates, almost entirely because his administration was afraid of the backlash they might generate. AccordingPeter Hotez, a vaccine expert says that over 150,000 Americans have died of COVID in the United States since June, when vaccines became available for Americans. At least some of those people could have been saved — in some cases, in spite of their own instincts — had Biden pressed for large-scale mandates earlier.

There’s a rough analogy to be made here to another subject Democrats have waffled on for years for fear of sparking a backlash, specifically health care costs. There’s no question that much of the Democratic Party’s opposition to single-payer health care — or even a public option — is due to a genuine commitment to a privatized market, both ideologically and for the material benefit they get from health care sector lobbying. Liberal voters are often told that this commitment will lead to the right chanting authoritarianism or Stalinism. The party’s left flank has long claimed that liberals will accuse conservatives of being socialists regardless of what they do. Therefore, it is important to enact good policies, and deal with the inevitable backlash.

To avoid triggering backlash from Republicans, Democrats have placed strict limits on themselves to prevent them from exercising their power when they have it. This manifests in all sorts of ways — from the Obama administration settling on a stimulus that some advisers knew was too small at the outset of the great recession, to the continuing reluctance from the party’s conservative wing to abolish the filibuster (even as a limited carve-out for voting rights). The Biden administration has been draggingIt has opted to ignore the possibility of taking executive action to lower drug costs and instead focus its efforts on negotiating lower drug prices. Activists also argue that Biden has the legal authority, without the need to go through Congress, to cancel student debt. This is an action the administration appears to have. placedIn a state of permanent review. Some experts believe Biden has the statutory authority to make college essentially free by forgiving “loans equal to average public-college tuition on a rolling basis for two- and four-year public colleges.”

Every single one of these actions — not to mention any legislation Biden signs into law with only Democratic support — will generate massive backlash from conservatives. Federal, state, and municipal vaccine mandates were also rejected. Morally and politically, Democrats face the danger of doing too little, losing power, and being called authoritarians.