Biden’s sweeping mandates curb COVID and right-wing Republicans
Amazon had to be dragged, kicking and screaming, by its workers into providing protection for them against the coronavirus. Now, under pressure from Biden, they are sending out at cost the inexpensive test kits that the president has ordered, under the Defense Production Act, be mass produced for everyone. Republicans are finding that big corporations like Amazon don't want to sabotage the fight against the delta variant because disease hurts their bottom line: profits. | Bebeto Matthews/AP

WASHINGTON—Joe Biden put his reputation as a president committed to protecting his people on the line Thursday by lining up all the powers of the presidency in a full frontal attack on COVID-19 and on Republican obstructionists determined to derail his administration at any cost.

Biden is betting that vaccination mandates will curb the delta variant and also that the people of the United States are in his corner on this issue and support his moves to end what he has been calling a “pandemic of the unvaccinated.”

“We need to do more,” he declared, addressing the unvaccinated. “This is not about freedom or personal choice. It’s about protecting yourself and those around you,” he said, slamming GOP governors and Republicans who he said were acting disgracefully. “They and other elected officials are actively working to undermine the fight against COVID-19. Instead of protecting their people,” Biden said, “they are ordering refrigerated trucks to use as morgues to store the bodies of the dead.”

Biden’s program includes a direct order for all executive branch employees to get vaccinated, an emergency Labor Department rule requiring companies to mandate shots for their workers, and orders ensuring that all school employees are vaccinated.

Republican critics, many of whom have resisted mask mandates and vaccinations, are hoping, probably in vain, that Biden has gone too far and that they can seize on his mandates to whip up more attacks on his administration.

They are likely wrong about this for many reasons, the first of which is that Biden will be judged heavily by voters on whether he keeps his campaign promise to bring the pandemic under control.

By taking the action he took Thursday, he will be seen as using all of his powers as president to do just that.

The Republicans are wrong, too, because the public is ahead of them in having concluded that control of the virus is the key to maintaining economic recovery. People widely see last month’s dip in job creation as having resulted from the surge of the delta variant. Biden is expecting that success at controlling the virus will overcome the usual problems that the parties of sitting presidents face in midterm elections.

Those elections are coming next year, and it is quite possible that Biden will be able to point to his announcement of sweeping mandates Thursday as a turning point for the better in the fight to contain the virus and salvage the economy.

Half of U.S. workers favor vaccination mandates in their own workplaces, according to an AP-NORC poll released last month, while only about a quarter oppose them, so it is only common sense that Biden would take radical action considering the rising contagion caused in recent weeks by the delta variant.

Millions of vaccinated Americans, who are now the majority in the country, are impatient with and even angry with the unvaccinated, whom they see as not having done their part to fight the virus. Biden mentioned that in his speech. “Many of us are frustrated with the 80 million Americans who are still not vaccinated,” he said.

Another factor working against Republicans determined to use the presidential mandates against Biden is the fact that they are losing the support of major corporations who, above all else, want a strong economy to generate profits.

One of the quick coronavirus test kits that Biden has ordered be mass produced. | AP

Even Amazon, which had to be dragged kicking and screaming into protecting its warehouse workers against infection, has now agreed, under pressure from Biden, to ship out at cost quick testing kits to the public. Another part of the Biden plan rolled out Thursday was the use of the Defense Production Act to produce 300 million of those kits at cost for the American public. Walgreens will also sell the kits at cost.

Even without corporate support, however, the GOP naysayers are there. No less an advocate of good public health than Donald Trump, Jr., asked on Twitter, “Do we even live in a free country anymore?”

The hope among all the forces of common sense is that because of the Biden mandates, the numbers of those vaccinated will increase rapidly now, taking off from their current levels.

That point, according to the Centers for Disease Control, is that 53% of Americans have already been fully vaccinated, and 9% more have had one shot. Millions of those without shots are not in that category by choice. They are young children for whom the vaccines haven’t yet been approved, and Biden said yesterday that only 25% of the eligible population is totally unvaccinated. The number of people who can be misled by the GOP then is shrinking by the day.

Divisions have now started to break out among Republicans on the issue of vaccines. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is running ads telling people to get the shots. The other reality is, of course, that most GOP leaders, hypocrites that they are, have been vaccinated themselves.

It can only be hoped that on the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, the speech by Biden helps the nation overcome one of today’s biggest attacks on its security—the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.


CONTRIBUTOR

John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward, as a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee, and as an activist in the union's campaign to win public support for Wal-Mart workers. In the 1970s and '80s, he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.

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