President Biden finds himself in a difficult position: campaigning for ideas that he had the team to deal with a pandemic and that his five-decade career as a deal maker in Washington was just the thing to reverse political polarization of the land to overcome.
That doesn’t happen, not even a little.
Not only are Republicans opposing Mr Biden’s push to end the pandemic, some of them are actively obstructing it. The Republican governors have slowly pushed ahead with vaccination efforts and lifted the mask requirement early. In Washington, GOP leaders like Steve Scalise, the second-tier Republican in the House of Representatives – who was vaccinated only about two weeks ago – mocked public health guidelines that even vaccinated people should wear masks indoors as “government control”.
There is little that Mr. Biden can do. Almost a year and a half of pandemic life has shown exactly who will and will not adhere to public health guidelines.
It was only last week in my Washington neighborhood, which has one of the highest vaccination rates in the city and 92 percent voted for Mr Biden, people started re-masking people in supermarkets and even outdoors in parks.
In places like Arkansas, hospitals are congested with Covid patients and vaccination rates remain persistently low. The anti-mask sentiment is so strong that the General Assembly of the state has passed a law banning any mandate that requires it. On Thursday, Governor Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, announced a special session of lawmakers to amend the anti-mandate bill he signed in April to allow schools to require masks for students who are too young to receive a vaccine. Good luck with that, replied his Republicans in the legislature.
That leaves the President at a loss. With the Delta variant proving to be far more contagious and dangerous than previous iterations of the virus, the people he needs most to hear his message about vaccines and masks are the rarest.
Six years of Donald J. Trump largely hiding all other voices in his party left Republicans without a credible messenger to push vaccines forward, even if they wanted to. Senator Mitch McConnell, the minority leader, may use his campaign money to advertise vaccinations in his home, Kentucky, but he is barely a popular figure within the party and is viewed by its grassroots as just another member of the Washington establishment.
Coronavirus Pandemic and Life Expectancy in the United States
There are certainly other communities of vaccine resistance out there, including the demographics of people who have been mistreated by the federal government in the past (and also a small but noisy minority of professional athletes and Olympians), but it is Republicans and Republican-run states that proved turns out to be the biggest hurdle in the US vaccination effort.
Without the ability to convince the vaccineer and the party he had pledged to work with, Mr Biden and the federal government were left with a step that he had been fighting for weeks: making the lives of the unvaccinated difficult to try for them to force them to change their minds.
That brings us to the President’s press conference on Thursday. Mr Biden said that for the first time, all federal employees would be required to provide evidence that they have been vaccinated (or wear a mask at work), undergo weekly tests, and maintain social distance.
He stopped short of a vaccine mandate, saying such a requirement was a choice for local governments, school districts and businesses. He said if things got worse and those who opposed vaccines were denied access to workplaces and public spaces, maybe things would get better.
“I suspect if we don’t make further progress, a lot of companies and lots of companies will need proof in order to attend,” said Mr Biden.
This maneuver – essentially a shift of responsibility away from the federal government – is in line with the way Mr Biden often tries to project a hopeful tone while airbrushing the reality of a highly divided nation.
July 31, 2021 at 11:42 a.m. ET
The disinformation market in America is bigger than ever with Mr Trump, despite starting the program that resulted in the full vaccination of 164 million Americans, leading to charges of discrediting the same program during the Biden administration.
But it wasn’t Mr Trump and the Republicans who ran to end the pandemic last year – it was Mr Biden and the Democrats who successfully turned the election into a referendum on how to tackle a once-in-a-century global public health crisis.
Now, just weeks after celebrating the great strides made against the pandemic, Mr Biden is facing a new wave. And it probably won’t be long before Republicans, who did everything in their power to resist counter-measures, blame the president for failing to get the country out of the crisis he promised to resolve .
“SO EXCITED. SO PROUD,” wrote Ka Lo, a Marathon County board member, in a series of cheering text messages Thursday, “IT’S SOOOOOO GOOD !!!”
It remains to be seen how much Ms. Lee’s triumph will give a boost to local efforts to gain recognition for the Hmong in Wisconsin. Both the district marathon and the city council of Wausau have rejected the resolutions “community for all”, which led to the spread of “community for everyone” – throwing marks and a further attempt to pass the measure in the district board.
The next vote of the executive committee of the district board is planned for August 12th.
Sometimes even presidents get a bit of dirt on their chins.
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