Terry H. Schwadron
Nov. 28, 2021
Of all the Republican instincts to Blame Joe Biden, the one that rings the emptiest is that it is Biden who has failed to end the covid pandemic.
There are plenty of challenges with which to face Biden but this one seems weird coming from Republicans who have resisted mask requirements and vaccine mandates for months.
Even in the first moments of a new strain emerging in South Africa, we can hear the drumbeats of protest that somehow Biden has failed. Breitbart News sarcastically criticized Biden for moving to stop air traffic as being a flip-flop from two years ago, when Donald Trump was seen as xenophobic in his anti-China tirades, and analysts were already warning Biden away from any new mandates and lockdowns– all before we even know whether current vaccines are effective.
The blame-Biden-for-continuing-covid refrain is one we’re hearing a lot from Republicans as we move into a congressional election year, most prominently last week as part of House Minority Leader Kevin D. McCarthy’s eight-hour filibuster in a futile attempt to stop a vote on Biden’s big spending bill for social service improvements and climate change. Some were reflecting that McCarthy was auditioning for his desired role of Speaker-next, a campaign running into trouble with his own even further-right bench of members.
Breitbart News was quick to jump on a New York Times comparison of Thanksgiving Day covid death totals from last year and this to quote Biden as saying then that a president who allowed so many covid deaths should not remain in office.
Rejecting science and reason, McCarthy insisted that allowing and encouraging non-vaccine alternatives, including discounted animal de-wormers for those who prefer them, would have proved more effective.
Indeed, antipathy towards mandates and an insistence on seeing public health measures as a manifestation of personal liberty have left a demonstrable partisan cast to the map of where covid cases, hospitalizations and deaths continue to break out most. Those anti-vax, anti-mask emotions are crossing into culture wars at school boards and local partisan elections, and Biden’s poll numbers consistently have dropped 15 points or more since summer.
“Republicans have hit on a new line of attack: The president has failed on a central campaign promise, to tame the pandemic that his predecessor systematically downplayed,” said The Times.
What We Know
As reported in The Times, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) shows 386,233 coronavirus related fatalities in the U.S. so far in 2021. In all of 2020, the U.S. recorded 385,343 fatalities.
The same trend is true in Europe and globally, which McCarthy and Republicans omit in their zeal to both blame Biden for all that is bad and their short-sightedness at looking at any need to control contagion. But rather than preach voluntary vaccination and masking, Republicans, including Republican governors like Ron DeSantis in Florida, Greg Abbott in Texas, Kristen Noem in South Dakota and others, are openly hostile to public health measures and have passed laws to bar localities from enforcing them.
Essentially, public health experts have told many news outlets, many Americans are behaving as though covid is now a manageable disease rather than a crisis. The anti-vax effort means we don’t get the numbers nationwide to stop covid, its mutations, or even the economic effects like supply chain delays and rising prices that plague us.
At 59 percent “fully vaccinated,” a definition that is changing with boosters, the United States has the lowest vaccination rate of any Group of 7 nation. As of mid-September, 90 percent of adult Democrats had been vaccinated, compared with 58 percent of adult Republicans.
The so-called Thanksgiving wave followed by the CDC is the latest surprise in a pandemic that is nearing its two-year mark, despite efficacy of vaccines and the extension of jabs to school-aged children and new booster shots. The nation’s 14-day average of new infections is up 25 percent, to over 94,000 new cases a day, with the upper Midwest again the hottest of hot spots. Unvaccinated people are 5.8 times as likely to test positive than fully vaccinated people, and 14 times as likely to die if infected.
In August, Biden said, “Make no mistake,” he said. “The escalation of cases is particularly concentrated in states with low vaccination rates. Just two states, Florida and Texas, account for one-third of all new COVID-19 cases in the entire country. . . if some governors aren’t willing to do the right thing to beat this pandemic, then they should allow businesses and universities who want to do the right thing to be able to do it.”
Of course, that was just before those same states began suing in court to challenge federal law authorizing mandates. We would rather spend time court-shopping than pushing public health — and then complain about it in the same partisan fashion that is pushing the anti-vax effort.
People I know no longer try to persuade others to take the vaccine, and just avoid putting themselves in potentially contagious situations. It is a personal issue now since my wife is undergoing cancer treatments and is immune compromised.
It seems fair game to challenge Biden about faltering and changing messaging, and about whether the administration recognizes covid challenges early enough in policies affecting immigration, education, health access and economic issues. Florida’s DeSantis is among those who say Biden has driven the current coronavirus surge because he “imported more virus from around the world by having a wide open southern border.” PolitiFact reviewed the claim and found that DeSantis short on evidence, at least on the scale that he asks us to believe.
The point is that no one is being served by blaming Biden for a contagious disease; this administration’s response has been muscular and mostly effective, but continuing growth of cases, hospitalizations and deaths among the unvaccinated have simply turned portions of the country into a lab for continuing mutation, to say nothing of the rest of the world.
McCarthy and other Republicans continue to flail at mandates, at the media, at Biden and Democrats for all sorts of social and health policies; Americans who vote understand that Republicans generally oppose a larger federal government. But attacking Biden for trying to do what they will not do and blaming him for higher covid numbers hardly seems useful or fair.