Biden Makes Like DeSantis and Tries to Bully the Locals
Vaccines are good! Constitutionally dubious mandates, not so much.
When Joe Biden started mandating that military and federal employees be vaccinated, I was with him. Heck, I thought the idea of going door-to-door to encourage vaccines was too timid (why not bring the shots along?). I’m a big booster (no pun intended) of vaccines. But Joe Biden’s new plan to mandate vaccinations (or weekly testing) in companies with 100 or more employees crosses a line that shouldn’t be crossed.
Biden is committing the same abuse of power that I’ve criticized Republican Governor Ron DeSantis for, just in reverse. DeSantis was telling private businesses that they could not implement a vaccine requirement. Biden is trying to use the force of government to compel private businesses to enforce his policy preference.
I’m pro-vaccine and believe they save lives. In this regard, Biden’s objective is much nobler. But in principle, both examples are equally pernicious.
If this outrages you, it’s probably because you are focused on safety and security—but not on liberty. That’s clearly where Biden is. “This is not about freedom or personal choice,” he said on Thursday. “It’s about protecting yourself and those around you, the people you work with, the people you care about, the people you love.”
But both safety and freedom should be considered because both are vital for a flourishing democracy.
Now, I’m not suggesting that the republic is over because of this one mandate. What I am suggesting is that Biden is wrong to do this—and that this exposes his (in my opinion) dangerous worldview.
Let me explain. The formulation of “ordered liberty” is one of the best descriptions of the conservatism that I aspire to follow. It excludes authoritarians, who—with Trump as the exception who proves the rule—tend to excel at safety, security, and law and order, but fall short regarding liberty. It also excludes extreme libertarians and anarchists who embrace liberty, but are weak on maintaining order and preserving public health and safety. A free society demands both, which is why conservatives used to talk at length about limited government.
This balance is frequently unsatisfying. Citizens enduring a massive, violent crime wave may long for a strongman to start cracking heads. They may be disappointed to learn that suspects have rights, too. At the same time, our individualist/independent streak doesn’t want Big Brother forcing us to stand outside to smoke or to wear a seat belt, for fear it’s a slippery slope to the government showing up at your door to confiscate your guns or tamper with your family. They may be disappointed to learn that the government (ideally, via the legislative branch) has an interest in passing sensible laws to protect public health.
This tension doesn’t just divide the nation; it divides the Republican Party (a group that already oscillates between extremes, depending on who’s in power). Democrats, too, often go back and forth on this (substitute fear of COVID with fear of Islamist terror, and watch them suddenly become more concerned about government trampling on liberty).
Both impulses (fetishizing autonomy and fetishizing safety) are dangerous when taken to an extreme. But both are also deeply embedded and necessary ingredients, in moderate doses, for the American way of life. Achieving the proper balance is key and admittedly much harder than just deferring to either extreme while condemning the other.
This brings us back to Biden’s vaccine mandate, which strikes me as the first time he has upset that delicate balance, as it pertains to COVID.
For one thing, his increasingly heavy-handed approach is likely to spark a backlash among people who are already vaccine-hesitant. While I have little patience for humoring or enabling the delusional, I’d rather get ahead than get even; all this does is stoke polarization and conspiratorial thinking.
It’s also worth noting that Biden is yet again reversing course. Back in December, he said the vaccine should not be mandatory. But then again, he also said it was “highly unlikely” that the Taliban would take over Afghanistan—and that congressional action was needed to renew the eviction moratorium (before he issued his executive order).
In both the moratorium and vaccine mandate, Biden used his executive power to do something that is constitutionally questionable, after previously suggesting he couldn’t or wouldn’t do so. The fact that progressives are cheering him on speaks to their hypocrisy (if Trump did it!) and inconsistency.
There is also a sense of foreboding that the American system is so dysfunctional and mired in stasis and gridlock that things like “regular order” and the “rule of law” are niceties we can no longer afford. In other words, the ends justify the means. I rejected that rationale when Republicans were making excuses for Trump’s executive overreach, and I reject it now that the shoe is on the other foot.
After getting off to an impressive start, Biden’s presidency has stumbled badly this summer, as he continues to disappoint.
Change his nickname from “Sleepy Joe” to “The Fonz.” This was the week Joe Biden jumped the shark on vaccines.