Jake Tapper: Why is Biden scolding the unvaccinated people who are being lied to instead of the liars?

If you don’t know what he means by “scolding,” you must have missed this post from last night. I used the word “snarling” to describe Biden’s demeanor at one point during his remarks.


Tapper asks a fair question. Why has Biden declared war on the unvaccinated instead of on the propagandists who’ve led them to risk their health, from Robert Kennedy Jr on the left to Tucker Carlson and Alex Berenson on the right?

Why is a U.S. president picking a fight with his own constituents?

I think there are a few impulses behind Biden’s approach, some strategic, some more … visceral. The White House has both a long-term strategy and a short-term strategy with its new policy. The long-term one, as I’ve already said, is to try to align Republicans with anti-vaxxers by having a proxy fight over mandates instead. Biden’s gambling that the 65 percent of adults who’ve had their shots will side with him on a national employer vaccine mandate notwithstanding the legal and political concerns about a federal power grab over public health.

The short-term strategy, though, is to stop the bleeding in his job approval and give Democrats and left-leaning independents something they can relish. He’s been shedding support for weeks due to his Afghanistan withdrawal debacle. He’s grasping for ways to get voters who are otherwise sympathetic to him back in his corner and the most obvious way, by passing the infrastructure bills in Congress, has hit a Joe-Manchin-sized snag. His alternative is to drop a federal vaccine mandate and lay the blame for the current state of the pandemic right in the laps of the unvaccinated, whom Biden’s base imagines to be uniformly rural and Republican even though plenty of black and Latino Democrats are still holding out on their shots for now.


In other words, he’s using a Trumpy tactic of consolidating support among his base by conspicuously brawling with their enemies. And they’re enjoying it:

“He’s going as far as he can in calling out the true enemy. The true enemy is one wing of his opposition,” said Paul Maslin, a pollster and consultant — using stark language reflecting Democrats’ rising level of fury and frustration with the vaccine holdouts.

“He’s saying to us now: ‘I’m getting tough with them,’” Maslin added. “And it’s about time.”…

It was a bringing down of the hammer that some Democrats have been urging. For some, Biden still took far too long to get there.

“I don’t know why we’re here weeks later as if some light bulb just went off last night. It’s been a 1000-watt bulb for months now,” said Philippe Reines, a Democratic operative and longtime Hillary Clinton hand, who noted that it was the first time he’s been critical of Biden or his White House in two years. “I think there are a lot of people who are huge fans of the administration who question why they didn’t do this 30, 60, 90 days ago?”

He’s venting the Democratic id in the belief that some supporters who’ve grown lukewarm about him lately will heat up again.

Still, we haven’t answered Tapper’s question. Why attack the unvaccinated instead of Tucker or RFK Jr? Well, for one thing, would attacking those two achieve anything? I think it’d backfire inasmuch as fringy types savor having their influence recognized by mainstream political figures and they don’t get more mainstream than Biden. It might backfire a second way by inadvertently promoting peddlers of anti-vax propaganda to vaccine skeptics who haven’t discovered them yet. And calling out any of those people wouldn’t do a thing to shame them or silence them, needless to say. Rather the opposite.


But there’s a deeper reason. I suspect most vaccinated people resent the unvaccinated in a way they don’t resent the svengalis who’ve misled them. Why? Because we all have access to the same information. Countless millions of Democrats have stumbled across RFK Jr’s or Louis Farrakhan’s anti-vax nonsense and gotten their shots anyway, just as many millions of Republicans have been immunized despite absorbing Tucker’s and Berenson’s “just asking questions” shtick. If we could see through it and do the right thing, why can’t everyone? The pied pipers can play their tunes but it’s your choice whether to dance to it or not.

That is to say, I think many of the vaccinated would reject Tapper’s suggestion that the unvaccinated are fundamentally victims rather than victimizers. They’ve weighed the same pros and cons as the rest of us and decided that they’d rather run the risk of becoming severely ill and straining the health-care system than get the same shot 177 million other people have gotten. That decision has killed people who should be alive today. Why shouldn’t they be reminded of the consequences of their actions?

And by the way, anyone who thinks this is a purely top-down phenomenon is kidding themselves. (Which is not to imply that Tapper does.) I’ve made that point before vis-a-vis Trump urging his fans to get vaccinated repeatedly and at least once being booed in response. It’s comforting to believe that if only Tucker and RFK Jr and every other influencer got on board with the pro-vax project that we’d be on our way to herd immunity. We wouldn’t. Anti-vaxxers would continue to “do their own research” until they find what they’re looking for. Anti-vax influencers are symptoms of a cultural problem more than they are a cause of it.


I’ll leave you Biden advisor Cedric Richmond, demonstrating what I mean about Biden venting the Democratic id as a way to bring liberals back onside.

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