Politico: Don't look now, but Dems "souring" on vaccine mandates

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

Gee, I wonder why Democrats might want some daylight between Joe Biden and themselves these days — especially on unconstitutional exercises of executive power? With Biden’s vaccine mandates getting shot down in federal courts, the political risks of angering vast swaths of the electorate for no good purpose have become apparent to Biden’s allies. For now, Politico reports, but it’s true inside and outside of the Beltway:

In recent comments, several high-profile Democrats have stated their opposition to vaccine mandates, specifically applied to private businesses. The most recent Democratic lawmaker to voice her concern was Michigan Gov. GRETCHEN WHITMER. Once considered to be Biden’s vice president, Whitmer said she opposes mandates, citing the impact on the state’s workforce — as Michigan grapples with upticks in cases and residents are split on whether or not to get the vaccine.

“We’re an employer too, the state of Michigan is,” Whitmer said on Monday, according to the Daily News in Greenville. “I know if that mandate happens, we’re going to lose state employees. That’s why I haven’t proposed a mandate at the state level. Some states have. We have not, we’re waiting to see what happens in court.”

Whitmer isn’t the only Democrat now sounding these notes. Sen. JOE MANCHIN (D-W.Va.) has said he does not support requiring businesses with over 100 employees to ensure that their workforces are vaccinated from Covid-19. Sen. JON TESTER (D-Mont.) has thrown a bit of shade on it too.Gov. PHIL MURPHY (D-.N.J.), shortly before an unexpectedly close re-election win, shied away from embracing a strict vaccine mandate for teachers and other public workers. Gov. KATHY HOCHUL (D-N.Y.), who is running for election after taking over for disgraced former Gov. ANDREW CUOMO (D-N.Y.), has stated her opposition to a “broad-based mandate for all private-sector workers in New York.”

What changed? Gavin Newsom’s win in a recall election had momentarily emboldened Democrats to pursue heavy-handed policies to mandate vaccinations, Politico notes. His campaign advisers told Democrats across the country to embrace vaccine mandates unapologetically. And perhaps that might have worked at the state and local level, where Democrats might have more legal jurisdiction to order such policies.

At the federal level, Democrats now find themselves stuck with the worst of all situations — backing an unpopular and unworkable policy that will never take effect:

The souring of some Democrats on the mandate comes as the courts strike legal blow after legal blow against a series of vaccine mandates President JOE BIDEN unveiled in September, and it’s prompting concerns in the party that they’re ending up with the worst of all worlds: a blunt policy that won’t go into effect but that will saddle them politically.

Indeed. Even if such a policy would have paid off in the end — and that’s no sure thing in a pandemic with moving-target variants — the benefits might have taken months or years to become apparent. Now, all Democrats have to show for it is a string of court losses at both the state and federal level, and the stench of authoritarianism and elitism.

This is a more profound setback than just on political standing, however. Before Biden and Democratic governors became mandate-happy, uptake of vaccines had actually begun to improve in the upswing of the Delta variant. Imposing the mandates threw gasoline on a diminishing partisan and cultural divide, generating even more resistance to the vaccines and losing pro-vaccination allies who had tried to reach out to the skeptical and convince them to vaccinate on their own. Instead of a scientific and public-health conversation, the mandates transformed the debate into that of politics, exclusion, and governmental overreach.

The injudicious abuse of executive authority has a real cost, not just a political cost. Biden set back the vaccination effort to a degree that may never quite be measured. And that will cost lives, just as much as vaccine misinformation does.