Leading voices throughout the public health community have been increasingly candid of late: The United States simply is not winning the fight against Covid-19. The White House has clearly come to the same realization, and as NBC News reported, President Joe Biden is responding with an aggressive new policy.
President Joe Biden on Thursday issued two executive orders mandating vaccines for federal workers and contractors and announced new requirements for large employers and health care providers that he said would affect around 100 million workers, more than two-thirds of the U.S. workforce.
The Democratic president has spent months avoiding such steps. The Biden administration has implemented an effective plan to make vaccines readily available for free nationwide, and it's waged a public information campaign designed to encourage Americans to do the smart and responsible thing, but much of the country still won't roll up their sleeves.
The result is a prolonged pandemic, overflowing hospitals in unvaccinated areas, thousands of preventable deaths and a weakened U.S. economy.
"This is a pandemic of the unvaccinated," the president said in his White House remarks yesterday. "And it's caused by the fact that despite America having an unprecedented and successful vaccination program, despite the fact that for almost five months free vaccines have been available in 80,000 different locations, we still have nearly 80 million Americans who have failed to get the shot. And to make matters worse, there are elected officials actively working to undermine the fight against Covid-19. Instead of encouraging people to get vaccinated and mask up, they're ordering mobile morgues for the unvaccinated dying from Covid in their communities."
Biden added, "We've been patient, but our patience is wearing thin. And your refusal has cost all of us."
In the same remarks, the president went on to say, "[W]hat makes it incredibly more frustrating is that we have the tools to combat COVID-19, and a distinct minority of Americans — supported by a distinct minority of elected officials –—are keeping us from turning the corner. These pandemic politics ... are making people sick, causing unvaccinated people to die."
It was against this backdrop that Republicans rushed to tell the public how desperate they are to block the White House's plan to end the pandemic, embracing the same "pandemic politics" that are making Americans sick.
The Republican National Committee, for example, announced plans to file a lawsuit to derail Biden's policy, which the RNC called "unconstitutional." At the same time, Republican governors in Texas, Missouri, Georgia, Arizona, Alabama, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Wyoming, among others, denounced the president's proposals and vowed to fight back against them.
As best as I can tell, none of the Republicans opposed to the White House's initiative have said it won't work. Indeed, true to the party's post-policy ways, leading GOP voices treated the efficacy of the plan as irrelevant.
It doesn't matter if Biden's policies will save lives. Or ease the burdens on hospitals and morgues. Or help end the public health crisis. Or give the economy a boost. Or even receive a warm welcome from the American mainstream.
What matters for the president's Republican opponents is whether the policies are ideologically satisfying and pleasing to their party's rabid base. The RNC will no doubt seize on its lawsuit as a fundraising opportunity, and ambitious Republican governors are likely preparing to run political advertisements, boasting about standing up to that rascally American president who's daring to help rescue his country from a deadly pandemic.
The question then becomes whether the nation's conservative federal judiciary will side with precedent or endorse the Republicans' political ploy. Watch this space.