Perhaps it would be more accurate to state that Democrats looking at a midterm abyss want an actual, coherent strategy from Joe Biden on COVID-19. Politico reports that grumbling has grown so loud from Biden’s allies on Capitol Hill that a few of them are willing to state on the record that whatever Biden’s doing on the pandemic isn’t working — medically or politically.
The problem is that Biden’s continually playing checkers in a three-dimensional chess world, and it shows:
Record hospitalizations. A nationwide scramble for tests. Entire school districts forced to shutter.
As a brutal surge of Omicron infections hits an exhausted nation, a growing number of Democrats are urging the Biden White House to reset its Covid battle plan to prevent what they fear could mushroom into a crisis of trust in public health authorities as cases spike in virtually every state.
Democrats acknowledge that the latest Covid-19 variant is the most vexing to date, with plenty still unknown about its severity and resistance to treatments. But many are warning that some messaging from agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is fueling more confusion, and the government needs to evolve in its response to keep up with a dramatically changing virus.
Even some Democratic leaders say the Biden administration should do more to clarify its Covid guidance after several weeks of whiplash.
The “whiplash” in question has resulted from the entirely reactionary responses from the Biden administration from the beginning. After first pretending that he didn’t have any vaccines on Inauguration Day when well over 20 million inoculations had already taken place, Biden then tried tweaking the distribution system that Donald Trump had already established without improving matters at all. And after correctly and accurately calling out the failure to mass-produce COVID tests during the presidential campaign and then repeatedly promising to rectify it after taking office, Biden and his team completely ignored the potential for self-regulation that massive testing availability would provide and its ability to blunt sharp spikes in community transmission.
In fact, about the only strategy Biden has pursued on COVID-19 has been to generate mandates that are not just unworkable without robust testing capabilities but are almost certainly unconstitutional to boot. Just in practical terms, how does a vaccinate-or-test-weekly mandate when you can’t find a test at all? The impact of these mandates — and the rapidly vacillating CDC’s guidelines — is to sideline lots of workers in the middle of an already-extant supply chain crisis.
And it’s not as if no one foresaw the need for test access. The New York Times reports that large firms began stockpiling them for their workers when Biden began signaling that he would impose mandates on workplace access:
Without an adequate federal system for developing and distributing rapid tests, companies have put their own testing services in place.
Google will send full-time employees in the United States free at-home tests that deliver results within minutes and retail for more than $70 each. BlackRock, an investment firm that manages nearly $10 trillion in assets, offers tele-health supervision as employees self-administer rapid tests for international travel. At JPMorgan Chase, bankers, including those at its retail sites, can order at-home rapid tests from an internal company site.
Some companies are using the tests to call their staff back to the office. For others, at-home Covid testing has become the newest wellness benefit, a perk to keep employees healthy and working — even from their couches — while providing peace of mind.
The testing available to a small number of white-collar professionals underscores the difference between their pandemic experience and that of other Americans, putting them at an advantage over many, including workers at small businesses without the means to procure testing kits for their staffs. Like personal protective equipment and vaccines, tests have become the latest example of how a tool to battle the pandemic can exacerbate social and economic divides.
This is the difference between tactical thinking and strategic thinking. These firms looked at the issue strategically, assessed what resources needed to be on hand, and prepared for an outcome that might have otherwise had tremendously negative impact on production. Biden and his team never look past the first step on any policy decision nor do they prepare logistically for the obvious consequences. Hence, we have mandates requiring testing with no tests, CDC guidance for isolation that changes with every criticism, and Biden continually talking about shutting down the virus to pander politically long after the science has concluded that COVID is now endemic and a permanent part of the human experience.
If Google, Black Rock, JP Morgan Chase, and other private-sector firms can think this strategically, why can’t Biden and his White House?
Democrats have good reason to panic. Biden started off with strong voter support, especially on the pandemic. That has collapsed in the general confidence-crisis cascade, but the chaos around COVID-19 is akin to inflation — it hits Americans every day in one way or another. If it’s not workplace access, it’s grocery shortages. If it’s not grocery shortages, it’s supply chain delays and service wait times. As the midterms approach, Democrats have already begun to panic about pandemic fatigue, along with inflation, the border crisis, and so on. It’s morphing into Biden/Harris fatigue, and perhaps even more broadly into Democrat fatigue as party leadership focuses on hobby-horse agenda items rather than what truly plagues voters, pun very much intended.
By November, if Biden doesn’t grab a clue about his terrible performance, Democrats won’t even get to play checkers in a 3D chess environment. They’ll end up playing tic-tac-toe … and losing.