Well, shucks! Now I have to burn my “Joe Biden is a moderate” t-shirt that I paid $35 for from the joint Lincoln Project-Bulwark gift shop. I’d ask Bill Kristol for a refund, but he’s probably busy ringing up his c-suite friends at Boeing, trying to gin up the courage to drop a few more ordinances on Panjshir.
All through the 2020 election, Joe Biden was advertised as a Harding-esque return to normalcy and maturity after the unchastened, freewheeling Trump years (of course, the like quality between Teapot Dome and the President’s crack-pipe-addled son’s dealings with a Ukrainian energy concern were elided by our historic-echo-hearing media).
We were told Biden was reasonable, not ideological. “Surprise! Joe Biden is a moderate institutionalist!” snarked CNN bouffon Chris Cillizza. Jill Biden, who brandishes her gimme doctorate like a bloody scimitar, referred to her husband as “moderate.” In one of those customary pieces of in-kind-donation journalism masking as objective analysis, USA Today pushed the le-bourgeois-Biden narrative with this headline months before the Election Day: “The Trump campaign wants to paint Biden as left-wing, despite his moderate record”.
Of course, Joe Biden, long-time senator of a tax shelter bounded by beaches on its eastern shore, was never a full-throated Marxist, nor is he read up on woke intersectionality. His three-plus-decade congressional record is more Chico than Karl. But the past month should have paid to the notion of Biden as a deliberate centrist. Whatever Biden’s proclivity toward a mild, congenial politics has been swapped for energetic executive domination. Put another way, when kitchen-table-politic Joe said he wanted to be the next FDR he wasn’t kidding. Out with the old fork and butter knife, in with the Mixmaster with a whirly “top-down-boot-stomp” setting.
The first sign Biden was ditching his moderate brand was his unilateral extension of the Trump Administration’s eviction moratorium. That couldn’t withstand the Supreme Court’s strict scrutiny test and was summarily interdicted. But now Biden’s really pushing the parchment in constitutionality by requiring private employers with large workforces to either mandate COVID-19 vaccination or implement weekly testing. From the official White House memorandum:
This is, to put it gingerly, so head-spinningly unconstitutional that the most liberal judge on the Ninth Circuit should immediately banish it to the island of misfit executive directives. So it’s no surprise the rule is getting a serious airing by our press, who couldn’t tell the Constitution from the Cafe Milano menu. Some liberal rags are defending Biden’s vax order by citing state inoculation mandates for school children—as if public-school attendance is at all correlative with an adult employed by a private business. Sarah Isgur of The Dispatch confusingly claims the vaccine mandate is above legal questioning, but it’s the Occupational Safety and Health Administration enforcing it that will be subject to judicial inquiry. (Obviously, if the Board of Geographic Names was imposing a medical mandate on more than its topographers, that would plainly exceed its congressional remit. But OSHA doing the same for every time-card puncher? That’s the real question!)
New York Times health-policy newshound Sherly Stolberg defended the mandate, telling MSNBC, “Getting vaccinated is not a personal choice, it’s not… your personal choice ends where my right not to get killed by an infectious disease begins.” Has Stolberg ever thought about sitting down with SARS-CoV-2 and explaining the non-aggression principle and negative rights? Why assume a virion with a million-plus body count is so unamenable?
The strangest “defense,” while not a full-throated defense per say, of Biden’s extra-legislative command comes from Jonah Goldberg, the right-wing writer most famous for authoring a book that violated Godwin’s law via mustached emoji. Goldberg concedes that a national vax-or-test rule is “illegal and unconstitutional.” But, he chides a sizable chunk of Americans for not opening their bloodlines to a novel mRNA vaccine. You see, it’s not Biden who’s the problem, despite overstepping his lawful authority; it’s the jab-hesitant who have yet to be persuaded by the administration’s contradictory, to-and-fro messaging on the shot’s effectiveness. “Whether you think what Biden’s doing is a sincere/legal/noble effort to fight the pandemic or a tyrannical outrage or a cynical media strategy, IT WOULDN’T BE HAPPENING IF EVERYONE WAS VACCINATED,” Goldberg tweeted (his caps, not mine). This is post-hoc-ergo-propter-hoc blaming, and there’s a reason why it’s a classic logical fallacy.
Biden failed with his carrot, i.e. persuading people to open their brachium to the new variolation. Now it’s on with the stick, using state compulsion to force pokings or swabbings until morale improves.
Biden’s choice to exert executive force is as much of a choice as those who’d rather not intake an experimental, albeit green-lighted, mimetic vaccine that was never mass-marketed before. But Biden is trying to compel action through his administration’s own volition. The vax holdouts aren’t forcing anyone to do anything. The onus should fall on the former, to convince and cajole those who have reservations over a measure that no longer restores pre-COVID social standards.
Goldberg, a well-respected conservative wordsmith with bylines in all the best fish wrappers, should know how to properly weigh individual responsibility against government coercion. But what do I know? I thought Andrew Cuomo would never have the dreaded “former” before his gubernatorial title until after his fourth consecutive term.
My improvidence aside, it seems a foregone conclusion that Biden’s vaccine mandate for large, multi-state private employers will wither before the courts. Even the broadest, most flexible, most generously open reading of the Commerce Clause doesn’t equate buying and selling widgets to jamming an immuno-booster into your arm. The pre-Trump Supreme Court wouldn’t even approve the Obamacare insurance mandate. What hope is there for requiring ingestion of Pfizer’s cash crop?
Not much. But, like divorce, authoritarianism is the triumph of hope over deadly, failing experience. President Biden should take it twice from Dr. Johnson, who said inoculation “has saved more lives than war destroys.” Proclaim it across the land and let the people decide for themselves.