September 10, 2021 | Reading Time: 4 minutes
With a mandate affecting 100 million workers, Biden becomes a good ‘law and order’ president
Putting an end to the lawlessness.
The big news Thursday is the president laying down the law. Yes, the law. Finally. He’s putting a stop to the gothic lawlessness committed by a renegade minority refusing to do its part in the fight against the covid. Yesterday, Joe Biden “announced far-reaching new federal requirements Thursday that could force millions to get shots,” said the AP’s Zeke Miller. “In doing so, he embraced those who haven’t rolled up their sleeves as a new foe amid a devastating surge in cases that is straining the nation’s health system and constricting its economy.”
Miller has the rest of the details, including what legal authority the president is drawing from. I want to get to the politics of Biden’s announcement. First, yes, it’s constitutional, for one very simple reason. The United States Supreme Court has not weighed in. The high court is the constitutional body that determines all things constitutional. When conservatives wonder if Biden’s vaccine mandate is constitutional, what they’re saying is they don’t think it is. It is. (If you don’t want to get the shot, you can get frequent tests instead. Legal challenges are inevitable. The court will speak soon enough.)
He’s using the government’s authority to protect the life, liberty and property of law-abiding citizens just as police departments use their authority to protect the life, liberty and property of law-abiding citizens from muggers and thieves.
Second, businesses, especially corporations, want this. They are grateful for Biden’s leadership. That businesses welcome mandates might come as a shock. Republicans have been claiming to speak for businesses and private enterprise since forever, and the word “mandate” has become a right-wing trigger. But the mandate affirms requirements already implemented by some corporations, like Apple and Google, while justifying requirements to be implemented. It also takes some of the liability risk off the shoulders of business owners. If an employee gets sick, it’s because that employee failed to comply.
Yes, they will comply. Some of the more fringey Republicans took to Twitter yesterday to warn of violence and revolt on account of the president laying down the law. But the thing about the unvaccinated is that they are authoritarians, and the thing about authoritarians is that they are weak, because they are authoritarians. They don’t have a moral core. They have beliefs — they are the “real Americans” — but they have no convictions strong enough to mount opposition to the law. You will see polls saying they’d rather quit than get shots. No, they won’t quit. Yes, they will get shots. Don’t believe the hype, my friend.
The other thing about authoritarians is that they will be as grateful (silently) for a vaccine mandate as businesses and corporations are. Why? Because mandates allow them to save face. Remember, these people do not fear the loss of their freedoms. Yes, that’s what they say. No, they are lying to you and themselves. What they really fear is humiliation. What they fear is being wrong. (Yes, it’s stupid.) By forcing them to get a shot, they can still lie to themselves about being “right” while at the same time stop robbing the rest of us of our freedoms.
Yes, they’re scofflaws. They refuse to do what the rest have done to end this goddamn pandemic. Given their suicidal tendencies, they can’t be trusted. So the president is laying down the law. He’s using the federal government’s authority to protect the life, liberty and property of law-abiding citizens just as police departments across the country are authorized to protect the life, liberty and property of law-abiding citizens from muggers and thieves. So much of the Washington press corps’ focus has been on the freedoms of the unvaccinated. Yesterday, Biden channelled the impatience and rage of a real “silent majority.”
Here’s the tip jar!
The GOP is not used to that. Neither Presidents Bill Clinton nor Barack Obama spoke with the righteous anger we have come to expect from Joe Biden. Republicans are the party of moral outrage, not the Democrats! Well, things change when a party turns against its country, when lawlessness becomes a feature, not a bug. Moral outrage depends on everyone abiding by the same rules. The whole point of being a Republican these days, though, is being an exception to the rules. The “silent majority” might be willing to overlook that except for the fact that being the exception threatens to get us all killed.
The other thing the GOP isn’t used to is a republican Democrat. I mean with a small “r.” Other Democratic presidents have talked about the importance of moral action, of being a good citizen, especially in times of crisis. But Biden is the only one in my lifetime to draw a line with other Americans, and say to them that there’s wrong, there’s right and you failed. The government is choosing for you now. We have not seen a Democratic president take on the burden of that responsibility since Lyndon Johnson. We haven’t, because every Democrat since then has feared conditions that make the GOP’s anti-government rhetoric sing. Conditions have changed. The rhetoric isn’t singing. A majority is behind a president who believes the government is the American people. Anti-government rhetoric sounds like treason-in-waiting.
Donald Trump was riffing on Richard Nixon when he said he was the “law and order” president. Both, however, meant legal protection of the in-group (Republicans, white people, friends) and legal punishment for everyone else. With a covid mandate affecting as many as 100 million workers, Biden is righting that wrong. Rampant lawlessness is literally killing Americans, damaging the economy and threatening to bring down the republic. The president is laying down the law. Finally.
John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.