Weak Republicans Hedged On Banning COVID Passports, And Now They’re Back With A Vengeance

Weak Republicans Hedged On Banning COVID Passports, And Now They’re Back With A Vengeance

Defending the vulnerable from private pressure to surrender control over their own medical treatments apparently doesn't fit into some Republicans' philosophies.
Christopher Bedford
By

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began to tighten loosening mask recommendations Tuesday — even for vaccinated people — largely based on rising COVID-19 among the unvaccinated.

The governments of Australia, Israel, and Portugal are reinstituting lockdowns. In the United States, certain health officials are increasingly hinting at that possibility, while corporate media cheer them on.

After months of President Joe Biden promising no federal vaccine mandates, Veterans Affairs reversed course, becoming the first portion of the federal government to require vaccines for all employees. The mandate applies to all employees, and follows New York City’s and California’s expansions of requirements to all state employees, plus a slew of new private businesses demanding customers show proof of vaccination.

On Wednesday, CNN reported Biden is expected to demand vaccination (or regular testing and mask mandates) on all federal employees and contractors.

“The floodgates,” Axios reported Monday, “have opened for vaccine mandates.”

“To Defeat Delta Variant,” a satirical headline on the Babylon Bee read that same day, “Experts Recommend Doing All The Things That Didn’t Work The First Time.”

But why all the panic? Why the reversed mask mandates, renewed lockdowns, and suddenly draconian vaccine demands?

Are there rising death rates? No, no change is noticeable.

Are we lagging other Western countries in our efforts to vaccinate everyone who seeks it? No, we’re doing rather well considering our vast size: comfortably in the middle of the pack, with complaints about lack of access to the vaccine virtually nonexistent.

The real problem here is that some Americans are choosing not to get a vaccine that is new, still experimental, not U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved, and whose long-term effects are completely unknown. Also, just as Big Tech is willing to censor even scientists and doctors who raise objections, both the federal and state governments appear increasingly willing to put people under duress, threatening their jobs and their futures over compliance.

Just a few weeks ago, things didn’t seem so dire. A series of victories by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis had paved the way for cautious Republican governors to follow Florida’s path and defend their citizens’ medical freedom. While 15 other states followed in different-but-limited capacities (banning the state from requiring or providing vaccine passports, taxpayer funding going to businesses that do, etc.), only Montana, Alabama and North Dakota joined the Sunshine State in outright protecting their citizens from having to provide proof of vaccination to most private businesses.

So why would Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming all decline to go further? Many Republicans believe telling private businesses what to do is an attack on their freedom — and an overstep of government power.

In practice, this means the owner of a factory in a one-factory town can fire everyone who refuses an experimental injection. A lot of those families might not have the resources to move and might be financially ruined, but that’s freedom, they reason.

If a private university wants to expel young women who are worried about the long-term impacts a vaccine might have on their fertility, well that’s just liberty, it seems. Defending the vulnerable from private pressure to surrender control over their own medical treatments apparently doesn’t fit into their philosophies.

Still other governors and legislators believe COVID passports won’t come to their states anyway — that it’s not a problem. “It’s not going to happen in Texas,” or some such thing. They must think they live in a magic bubble, immune to panic or corporate and federal pressure; that abuses of private power don’t happen there.

But once again, the pressure is building, enlisting smaller businesses (both voluntarily, and under duress), as well as the powers of Washington. From federal contracts to highway funds, the room to build on that pressure is nearly unlimited.

But can states even stop it? Probably, but not on their own. They need major private businesses on their side, and the way to do that is rather than let frightened corporate leaders (and their activist minders) lead the state, let the state and her people lead the corporate leaders.

Corporate leaders are largely motivated by profit but also afraid of causing a stir; by banning them from requiring passports to do business in your state, states can enlist them as influential lobbyists on their side for once. An alliance of conservative voters and lawmakers with the Chamber of Commerce and broader Big Business would have a good shot at withstanding passport pressures. They’re not going to want to constrain their business operations to just California, Massachusetts, and New York, losing out on large swathes of the country.

This alliance was already nearly accomplished, and a few more states joining might have pushed it over. Now instead, thanks to a Delta strain panic, opponents of a national passport regime are fighting from a disadvantage. Remember: Every new “variant,” regardless of whether it’s even leading more deaths, will be weaponized by those who want this system in place.

Republicans worth a damn must tell private companies and universities that, in their state, no one can force free citizens to submit to experimental vaccines in exchange for work or trade or education, nor can they demand access to medical records for the same. If they don’t, they risk their citizens — including the wealthy, but especially the working classes — living under the boot of a new system, complete with second-class statuses for the noncompliant.

And we know it will never stop. New waves, new goal posts, new variants completely untethered from meaningful metrics will be thrown at those who want to remain free from corporate or federal passports.

Don’t forget, the same people who want to use this system to defeat all risk of COVID want to use similar emergency powers to control the climate. But I guess that won’t ever happen in your states either, right?

Christopher Bedford is a senior editor at The Federalist, the vice chairman of Young Americans for Freedom, a board member at the National Journalism Center, and the author of The Art of the Donald. Follow him on Twitter.

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