The Massive Political Risk for Biden and the Democrats With Vaccine Mandates

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

When he was elected, Joe Biden was seen by his supporters as a seasoned professional politician, someone who knew Washington, knew how government worked, and knew Congress well enough to break the logjam on the Hill and get things done.


At least, that’s how Biden was sold to the American public.

Not surprisingly, that’s not the way things have worked out. Biden has made a bunch of rookie mistakes — unforced errors on the economy, Afghanistan, and now vaccine mandates — that threaten to derail his party and presidency and bury the Democrats in a Republican landslide in 2022.

Josh Kraushaar, National Journal Daily‘s Senior National Political Columnist, believes that a lack of internal dissent in the White House has resulted in a political operation caught flat-footed when their rosy scenarios on the economy and the pandemic failed to materialize.

Biden and his people believed the $1.9 trillion stimulus bill and its $1400 individual payment that was rammed through Congress using the reconciliation process would be enormously popular. Whatever short-term advantage gained by the president was lost by the resulting inflation that has wiped out wage gains by workers.

They saw polls telling them a retreat from Afghanistan would be very popular. While most Americans agreed with Biden on leaving, he catastrophically botched the retreat, leading to the worst moments of his presidency.

Related: It Looks Like Fauci Was Wrong About COVID Booster Shots Too

Now Biden has imposed a vaccine mandate on 80 million working Americans, threatening their livelihoods if they don’t get jabbed. It depends on how the question is asked, but a majority of Americans generally support the vaccine mandate.


But where Biden and his team saw a slam dunk, the majority is narrow and could change at any time.

But look a little closer at the polling, and the notion that this is a slam-dunk political winner looks a lot less clear. A newly released CNN/SSRS poll, conducted between August and September, found a nearly even 51-49 split between voters who believe requiring proof of vaccination is “an acceptable way to increase the vaccination rate” and those who believe it’s an “unacceptable infringement on personal rights.” The demographic breakdown didn’t fall along predictable partisan lines. Core elements of Biden’s base—the youngest voters (54 percent) and African-Americans (43 percent)—were disproportionately more likely to claim it was an infringement on their rights. Sizable minorities within both parties—college-educated Republicans and nonwhite Democrats—took the opposite posture of their party’s leadership.

Many analysts say that Biden fumbled at the goal line — a clear, decisive winning issue was made mushy by Biden trying to please both sides.

Tactically, Biden turned what was a clear political winner of a message for Democrats—we’re protecting public health against vaccine-denying extreme Republicans—and muddled it. Democrats could easily point to mandate-resistant governors like Florida’s Ron DeSantis or Texas’s Greg Abbott as being well out of step with public opinion. But now Republicans can credibly fight back by arguing that they’re pro-vaccine but don’t believe in jeopardizing someone’s livelihood as a punishment for not getting vaccinated.


There’s also no reason to believe that mandates will result in a lot more people being vaccinated who haven’t already gotten the shots.

CNBC/Change Research poll found that of the 29 percent unvaccinated adults surveyed, 83 percent do not plan to get vaccinated. The incremental gains in vaccination rates from government agencies and private companies that have already mandated vaccines back up the public-opinion data.

The legal basis for denying someone employment because they won’t get vaccinated will also be challenged. It’s expected that it will be difficult to fire federal workers for not getting jabbed, with the likely outcome being putting those federal employees on paid leave — and seeing them remain unvaccinated.

The vaccine mandate is just the latest in a series of catastrophic missteps by this president, virtually guaranteeing that his party will go down to a stinging defeat in 2022 and putting his own re-election in serious doubt.


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