By Jennifer Rubin [September 12, 2021]
On Thursday, the Biden administration delivered some long-anticipated tough talk on behalf of America’s sane majority. It came from President Biden directly on covid-19 mandates, and from the Justice Department on constitutional order.
With final approval of the coronavirus vaccine now in his back pocket, Biden channeled the sentiments of the 70 percent or so of Americans who have gotten at least one shot. Biden declared in an address to the country, “Many of us are frustrated with the nearly 80 million Americans who are still not vaccinated, even though the vaccine is safe, effective and free.” You could almost read the thought bubble above the heads of 175 million Americans: “Darn right.”
He explained that we must deal not only with the delta variant but with “elected officials actively working to undermine the fight against covid-19.” With an eye toward Florida and Texas, where covid is surging, he lambasted leaders who “instead of encouraging people to get vaccinated and mask up [are] ordering mobile morgues for the unvaccinated dying from covid in their communities.”
Biden did not mince words about the recklessly defiant anti-vaccine crowd. “Nearly three quarters of the eligible have gotten at least one shot, but one quarter has not gotten any. That’s nearly 80 million Americans not vaccinated,” he said. “In a country as large as ours, that’s 25 percent minority. That 25 percent can cause a lot of damage — and they are.” He went on: “The unvaccinated overcrowd our hospitals, are overrunning emergency rooms and intensive care units, leaving no room for someone with a heart attack or pancreatitis or cancer.” He added that “our patience is wearing thin. And your refusal has cost all of us.”
Biden correctly understands that rationality does not work with most of the 25 percent of stubbornly unvaccinated Americans. While numerous enough to sustain a covid-19 surge, they are a distinct minority tormenting the rest of us and delaying our recovery. Biden’s wide-ranging vaccine mandates for employees working for the executive branch, government contractors and companies with 100 or more workers were music to the ears of the frustrated majority. Together with his threat to sue “states undermining protection that local school officials have ordered,” he signaled an end to the era of catering to the irrational and coddling the selfish. For a country suffering from the tyranny of a minority (one determined to rewrite the history of Jan. 6, block every recovery initiative and wink at political violence), it was intensely satisfying — a confirmation that up is up and down is down.
Former Republican strategist and co-founder of the Lincoln Project Steve Schmidt put it well: “I think the overwhelming majority of the country is going to be deeply appreciative of somebody standing up at long last and saying to the small minority of nuts in this country: Enough.”
And in the category of “enough already,” Attorney General Merrick Garland announced a suit against Texas’s abortion bounty law, which seeks to deprive women of access to constitutionally protected abortions and to their right to challenge the law in court. He declared, “The obvious — and expressly acknowledged — intention of this statutory scheme is to prevent women from exercising their constitutional rights by thwarting judicial review for as long as possible.” He added:This kind of scheme to nullify the Constitution of the United States is one that all Americans — whatever their politics or party — should fear. If it prevails, it may become a model for action in other areas, by other states, and with respect to other constitutional rights and judicial precedents.Nor need one think long or hard to realize the damage that would be done to our society if states were allowed to implement laws that empower any private individual to infringe on another’s constitutionally protected rights in this way.The United States has the authority and responsibility to ensure that no state can deprive individuals of their constitutional rights through a legislative scheme specifically designed to prevent the vindication of those rights.
Constitutional scholar Laurence H. Tribe tells me, “By emphasizing the affront to federal supremacy and the rule of law inherent in S.B. 8’s intentional blockage of women’s ability to vindicate their own rights, the complaint reaches beyond Roe v. Wade to encompass a structural attack on the basic design of the extraordinary Texas law.” In laymen’s terms: Enough is enough. Texas simply cannot do this.
In reminding the irresponsible minority of the unvaccinated and the constitutionally destructive far right (who would usher in an era of spying, harassment and coercion by outsourcing law enforcement to rabid ideologues) that they do not make the rules, the administration restored some common sense and order to our political environment. Governments can protect their people against pandemics. States cannot create their own system of vigilantes to undermine the Constitution.
Given popular revulsion at vigilante bounty hunting and widespread anger at unvaccinated spoilers, Biden probably helped himself politically, too. Sometimes good policy is good politics.