Democrats should stop trying to save Republicans from themselves
A few weeks ago I argued the Democrats should declare victory over Covid-19 and begin managing it as an endemic disease. I want to flesh out my reasoning and discuss how the emergence of Omicron changes the calculus.
I believe that Biden should make an address to the nation about Covid-19, with three basic points.
First, he should emphasize that vaccines and treatments are highly effective. He should say that for most of us the risks posed by Covid-19 are now manageable, and we can largely return to normal life. He should express his support for keeping schools open.
Second, he should emphasize individual responsibility and the role of state and local governments. He should urge people to get vaccinated, but he should withdraw the OSHA workplace mandate. He should say that social distancing and masking may sometimes be needed to keep hospitals from getting overwhelmed, but these policy decisions should be taken at the local level in response to local conditions.
And third, he should identify contingencies and emerging problems and ask Congress to address them proactively. For example, he should ask Congress to make rapid tests and the Pfizer anti-viral drug freely available. He should ask for money for vaccine and drug research, to increase the supply of vaccines and anti-viral drugs, and to improve ventilation in schools so that closures are unnecessary. He should urge Congress to give the FDA more authority to respond quickly to public health emergencies, and (assuming he does not currently have clear legal authority to do this) to directly authorize booster shots for people after 2 or 3 months in preparation for Omicron. He should ask for money to expand training for new nurses and doctors, and for visas for foreign health professionals.
Vaccine mandates are polarizing debate and putting Biden in a no-win situation
The goal of this messaging is twofold. First, Biden needs to set realistic expectations for success. Covid is not going away. There is no guarantee that the coming Omicron surge will be the last, and people are tired of voluntary distancing, masking, and lockdowns and conflict over vaccine mandates. With reasonably effective vaccines and treatments available, we should begin normalizing life with Covid-19. We cannot panic and close schools whenever someone tests positive.
Second, Biden needs to quiet the rancor over vaccine mandates and shift responsibility for victory over Covid-19 from himself to individuals, state and local officials, employers, and the media. He especially needs to hold Republican office holders and conservative media figures to account.
Biden polarized the debate over vaccines by trying to enact a broad federal mandate. This let Republicans rally their voters against his federal mandate. He needs to shift the focus of debate to the failure of Republicans at the state and local level to manage the epidemic effectively. The debate over mandates is diverting attention from the rising death rates among the unvaccinated in Republican counties and states.
Life is not a philosophy seminar
Yes, the approach I am proposing is not ideal. As I have argued many times, the philosophical case for vaccine mandates is strong, and in a less imperfect world it might well make sense for the federal government to implement a general vaccine mandate of some sort. But life is not a philosophy seminar, and the fight for mandates has been lost politically. Republicans need to decide for themselves, on the state and local level, that they support vaccination. Left to their own devices, they may even decide that they support mandates.
In fairness to Biden and his team, it was not obvious that things would develop this way, but even the best laid plans go awry. It is fine for federal agencies to use mandates where the policy rationale and legal basis is clear, and it is fine for Biden to urge states and private employers to consider vaccine mandates, as long as he also emphasizes that it is up to them. He can even appeal directly to Fox News hosts to urge their viewers to get vaccinated.
But Biden’s effort to implement a general employment mandate through OSHA was a mistake. In addition to polarizing the debate, by pushing a mandate Biden is telling people that the current situation is not acceptable (hence the need for a mandate), and he is tacitly taking responsibility for ending the epidemic. But vaccines are not perfect, and his mandate will be delayed and probably killed by the courts, which will simply make him look weak. His position should be that his main responsibility was to get vaccines produced and distributed, and that he succeeded. It is now the responsibility of individuals to take the vaccines, and it is the responsibility of governors, local government officials, employers, and Fox News hosts to get them to do so.
The coming Omicron surge
What about Omicron?
Biden’s initial statement on Omicron was quite optimistic, and it may well age poorly during the Omicron spike. He needs to get ahead of this.
Much is uncertain, which Biden should acknowledge. He should urge states to give booster shots to nursing home residents and other vulnerable groups on an emergency basis. He needs to do this immediately, given how rapidly Omicron is likely to spread, both because it’s the right thing to do and to deflect blame if there is a major spike in deaths in nursing homes, prisons, and other congregate care settings. And he should urge everyone to get vaccinated, citing the likelihood of a massive surge of infections and the risk that hospitals will be overwhelmed. There is no point in pretending Biden can do more than this. He can’t.
In a perfect world it might make sense to distance and mask to keep Omicron at bay at least until we have time to give third shots to vulnerable people. However, it is not clear that general social distancing and masking will be very effective at slowing the spread of Omicron, given its apparently high infectiousness. In any event, people are shortsighted and tired of distancing and masking. Social distancing has largely been reactive during the epidemic; people distance mostly in response to increases in cases. Given how fed-up people are there is no reason to think that pre-emptive distancing and masking is possible today, certainly not on a national basis. There is no point in advocating for distancing and masking and then presiding over a huge spike in disease. This will just make Biden look ineffectual. When cases rise people will distance and local governments may impose some restrictions, and we will see if distancing is effective with Omicron.
Putting the onus on congressional Republicans
Finally, Biden should propose a package of narrowly targeted measures designed to keep people safe (make boosters easily available, vaccinate nursing home residents, etc.), to prepare for new variants (vaccine and drug research), to let people feel safe going back to normal life (ventilation, testing), and to increase the number of nurses and doctors.
He should make clear that his proposals are common sense and can be passed quickly, but only with Republican support.
Republicans in Congress will undoubtedly block whatever he proposes. Of course this is dysfunctional, but at least it will help educate voters about the root cause of the dysfunction. Biden pretending that he can promote bipartisanship when he cannot just makes him look inept.
On the other hand, if Biden proposes, say, emergency visas for foreign medical workers, and Republicans say “no”, he can hold them accountable if a new variant overwhelms our hospitals.
And, no hospital treatments for the unvaccinated. Leet them die with dignity at home.
Since the vaccines are not reliable agents for preventing infection, this would make more sense as blanket denial of treatment for COVID. The vaccinated need less hospitalization, but if they do need it, taking the vaccine clearly was not a factor that needs to be recognized as significant in treatment approach. “You screwed up; you got it.”
This would be a huge shift for the administration. They were counting on this polarization. Their firmest supporters clearly looked at these mandates as ways to punish people they hate. But I think you’re right that they ought to reverse a bit. Get rid of the other federal mandates at the same time. If you back off OSHA “safety” reasoning, just make a clean slate of it.
Them dam libruls just hate real Americans so much they sit around in their ivory towers thinking up ways to punish them.
“This would be a huge shift for the administration. They were counting on this polarization. Their firmest supporters clearly looked at these mandates as ways to punish people they hate.”
LOL! What a load of hooey. Smarter trolls, please.
He is a blight on this blog, and a good indication why Ron Johnson is a Senator.
We do need to see what many in this country are seeing and saying. Otherwise, we are blind to much of what is going on today. It is not an acceptance of their positions either.
You staying up north for Christmas?
Topic change: The new house is coming along well. Clustered in with a bunch of younger people who seem to look at us the same as they did in “Logan’s Run.” Friendly and curious about the older couple amongst them. I can not do Ustinov’s recital of a Cats three names. Bought some tickets to see a play down at the Gamma. Pretty reasonable in comparison to what we paid in Detroit and even mores than Chicago.
Yeah, we’re not going anywhere. I am already boosted, wife gets hers today.
I used to think communication was an essential part of society, but at this point there are so many complete and total ahs that conversation with them is worthless and even counterproductive.
They need to be shunned.
Daughter, son, and son-in-law are coming in. SIL’s family is here.We will eat a Christmas Eve dinner of Lasanga, meat balls, and sausage.. Next day ham and various casseroles. A very few others will join us this year. It is too dangerous having loud and bosterous on their mythical rights to endanger mine. I am already compromised with my blood and it shows up whenever it feels like it.
On another good note, we rescued a young female German Shepard who is sleeping in the den while I type this comment. Pretty dog who is not eating much yet. Displaced, I think. Likes my wife big time. We have been dogless for a year and a half and now I have a walking buddy again to help me stay healthy.
Their not being vaccinated need a saying as they sacrifice themselves. How about this: “Ave Imperator, morituri te salutant” Just a parting gesture in allowing them to go unvaccinated.
via the CDC…
Omicron now makes up almost 3% of U.S. Covid cases, according to the CDC – The omicron Covid-19 variant first detected in southern Africa about a month ago now makes up about 3% of cases sequenced in the U.S., according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. […] The most common symptoms so far are cough, fatigue, congestion and a runny nose. Among those patients, 58% were between the ages of 18 and 39 years of age and 79% were fully vaccinated at least 14 days before symptom onset or testing positive.
meanwhile, at Cleveland Clinic:
Cleveland Clinic estimates that half its positive COVID-19 tests are due to omicron (WOIO) – The Cleveland Clinic said late Friday morning that the hospital system is seeing the number of omicron COVID-19 cases “increase greatly.” According to figures provided by Cleveland Clinic’s corporate communications project manager Halle Bishop, the hospital system is conducting approximately 3,000 tests a day in a 24-hour period. Around 1,000 of those tests usually return positive samples. “… we estimate half of those positive samples are due to Omicron. The daily count of laboratory-confirmed cases is now double what it was one week ago.” The daily count of laboratory-confirmed omicron cases is double what it was a week ago, according to the Cleveland Clinic. “We are learning this variant is more transmissible, and we are seeing evidence of this by the increased spread in our community,” Bishop said in a statement on Friday. “Today, we expect to surpass the highest number positive samples detected in a single day since the start of the pandemic.” The Cleveland Clinic said approximately 80% of COVID-19 hospitalizations involve unvaccinated individuals.
how can that be, you ask?
Omicron infects 70 times faster than previous COVID strains: study –— A new study says that while the COVID-19 omicron variant infects the human body 70 times faster than previous coronavirus strains, the infections appear to be less severe. Researchers from the University of Hong Kong’s LKS Faculty of Medicine found that after 24 hours of infection, the omicron variant multiplied in the human bronchus 70 times faster than the delta variant and original coronavirus strain.