Joe Biden and Kamala Harris walked back the Democrat mask mandate in separate Sunday interviews, reversing course on a campaign promise delivered with gusto during Biden’s keynote DNC speech, and eliminating the only actual difference between the Democratic plan and the one President Donald Trump has executed over the past year.
“No miracle is coming,” Biden angrily insisted on an empty stage in Delaware just a few weeks ago. That evening, he blamed the president for the coronavirus, saying, again angrily, that “the president still does not have a plan, but I do.” The former vice president’s plan, he promised, is to make and distribute tests, “to take the muzzle off our experts,” and to “have a national mandate to wear masks,” describing it as “a patriotic duty.”
“But here’s the deal,” he later admitted in a possible moment of clarity, “the federal government — there’s a constitutional issue whether the federal government could issue such a mandate. I don’t think constitutionally they could, so I wouldn’t issue a mandate.”
It’s worth emphasizing that the mandate declaration was made during his acceptance of the nomination. It was the most important general-election speech he’s given so far, painstakingly crafted to generate excitement, unveil a broader agenda, appeal to voters of both parties, showcase grit and determination, and, finally, reassure operatives and voters nervous about his publicly slowing cognitive state.
It was not off the cuff or casual — it was pored over by policy experts from all over his campaign. Did no one at any point wonder about the constitutionality of it? Did they care? Or did they know a President Biden would lack the authority but decided to say it anyway to show how super serious they are?
Candidates make a lot of promises. It’s sadly common to see them eventually not do what they said they’d do, although usually only after they’re elected. So why the change now? It’s certainly possible poor polling numbers were coming back, as with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and other prominent Democrats’ sudden and total turnaround from their unending school-closure policies.
But what of the rest of the Democratic plan to tackle the Chinese virus? Its other policy planks were 2) distributing tests and 3) taking “the muzzle off our experts.” But the government has distributed tests, and the United States is still ramping up testing at a dramatic rate.
While a Wednesday report from the Rockefeller Foundation and Duke University’s Margolis Health Policy Center was not satisfied with the impressive 25 million monthly tests currently being administered, based on current production the report predicted this number to hit 70 million by October and 200 million by January. Two hundred million is the magic number these experts declare necessary to stop the disease, and January is the month a Biden administration would begin. Imagine that: President Donald J. Trump satisfying the ultra-leftist Rockefeller Foundation.
The final part of the Biden plan is to un-muzzle the experts, but disease experts have dominated the White House response from the start, with Dr. Anthony Fauci even fashioning himself into a grotesque pop culture icon. In fact, many conservatives argue disease experts have led politicians in the White House and states at a ridiculous and unstatesmanlike level.
Additionally, experts are currently working hard at a vaccine that vice presidential candidate Harris said she won’t even take because it comes while a Republican is president. Biden would what, add more experts to the White House? Maybe more liberal experts than all the liberal experts already there? Would he give tech companies even more leniency to censor dissent from experts his experts don’t like?
No matter what this final bit means, the plan is not quite as strident as it was just a few weeks ago, and even then there wasn’t much difference entailed for actual public health.
Trump, in contrast, is running on “Promises Made, Promises Kept,” a surprisingly true statement for a second-termer. His opponents hate how many of the things he’s done that he’d said he’d do, conservative Trump-skeptics are happily surprised at how many of their hopes he’s accomplished, and while many Trump supporters would like him to go further than he has, they are satisfied a second term will deliver more of their policy aims.
Biden is running on not being Trump. He’s the safe bet, he says, although it took three months for him to even acknowledge the violence in American streets. The entire DNC, to some amazement, went by without even a single mention. And he still has refused to denounce Antifa or Black Lives Matter, both organizations at the center of every riot of this past year. It’s a tough platform for the safety candidate.
And now his coronavirus plan is virtually identical to the president’s.
This week’s mask mandate polls must not have been the only feedback to come back to the campaign this month. Last week, after leaking to newspapers that they thought President Trump was making a mistake going to Kenosha, Wisconsin, he followed the president’s lead and went to Kenosha.
This week, following a growing number of successful Trump political rallies, tightening polls, and other subtle reminders there’s a presidential race going on, Biden decided he should campaign for president too. What a world, what a year.