On Thursday, President Joe Biden took the sensible step of announcing a new vaccine mandate for large businesses, requiring them to ensure their workers have gotten COVID-19 shots or are being tested weekly. Conservatives have some feelings about it.
That funnyman is Indiana Rep. Jim Banks, whose initial election to the House was supported by its famed “Freedom Caucus.” Freedom was the keyword of the GOP’s response to Biden’s announcement, showing up in statements by party thought leaders ranging from South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (“South Dakota will stand up to defend freedom”) to Texas Rep. Dan Crenshaw (“I’ll take risk and freedom over a paternalistic government any day”) as the right-wing backlash built upon itself. It was also the implied theme of whatever this was by Ohio Senate candidate Josh Mandel:
I’m going to be honest—I did not click the video to see what Josh was saying in the corn. If I find out later it was really sensible and persuasive, I’ll amend this post and apologize.
Corn hideouts aside, freedom is definitely an interesting concept to be applying to the subject of COVID. Nearly 80 percent of Americans have either gotten vaccinated or say they plan to do so. Because of breakthrough cases and the lack of an approved vaccine for anyone under the age of 12, members of that sizable contingent are constrained in their freedom to travel, work, educate their children, and engage in recreation unless they want to assume a well-above-normal-times risk of serious illness. Those who do choose to assume that risk are still limited in what they can do by COVID-related shutdowns, as well as by supply and staffing shortages that may be attributable to the hesitancy of American workers to return to environments where they would have to interact with unvaccinated customers and co-workers during a pandemic.
Despite its purported support of freedom, moreover, the Republican Party’s legislative response to COVID at the state level has been to prohibit local governments from exercising their own right to require that students and other members of the public wear masks in situations in which doing so would help reduce the spread of the virus. Some states have gone so far as to ban private businesses from requiring proof of vaccination from their customers. The only principle of liberty at work is the individual’s right to do the opposite of what’s being asked of them, a framework that was known to the great French political philosophers as le three-year-old.
As a consequence, most people in the United States are rounding the turn toward a third cursed year in which their freedom will be severely limited on account of a minority that has consistently gotten to do whatever it wants, wherever it wants. And yet the bozos in the completely unrestrained minority are the ones who never stop complaining!