The American political system has faced the long cause of Covid.
In Washington and the states, and in both political parties, expectations that the virus could be wiped out this summer and make way for some version of political life as usual have suddenly disintegrated. The resurgence of the disease, driven by a rapidly spreading delta variant, threatens to halt both parties’ plans to shift their attention to other matters before midterm elections Next year.
President Biden’s hopeful message that happy days are here again is on hold because the administration’s first blitzkrieg vaccine has been launched slowed down to a relative crawl New debates are erupting around public health mandates about vaccination and mask-wearing. There are already divisions in his party, particularly among labor unions, over how far government and private companies should go in requiring employees to get vaccinated.
even in breakthrough In this week’s Senate negotiations over a major bipartisan infrastructure deal were jammed in the news by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Contrary to his previous instructions On the masks of vaccinated people, and with new vaccine instructions issued by major companies such as google And Facebook and for public servants In states including New York, New Mexico and California.
On Thursday, Mr. Biden took the broadest measures yet to make vaccination or continued testing mandatory for millions of people, including federal workers and the military. While stressing that the country has made significant progress since his inauguration in January, Biden acknowledged that America’s escape from the virus had been made arduous by the country’s large, vulnerable minority.
“America is divided between the majority of eligible people who have been vaccinated and those who are not,” Biden said. “And I understand that many of you in the majority are frustrated by the consequences of the minority’s failure to get vaccinated.”
For Biden’s Republican opponents, the resurgence of the virus threatens to divert public attention from issues that conservatives are eager to crack down on — like crime and inflation — and fix it hard once more on the disease the Trump administration has been. Mishandled dire consequences.
Hostility to basic mitigation measures among conservative voters and politicians has stymied efforts to contain the virus from the start, states where vaccination rates are lowest and new outbreaks are strongest. Republicans lean almost uniformly. The prolonged plague disproportionately afflicting American red states could become an embarrassment to the Republican Party even as anti-government language on public health matters becomes an increasingly central strain of Republican messaging.
On Thursday, as Mr. Biden applauded Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, encourage people In his original state to take the vaccine, a crowd of House Republicans was organizing a raucous demonstration on Capitol Hill against the re-imposition of a mandate mask in the chamber. House vaccination rates vary widely between parties, with many Republicans Proudly flaunting an arrogant attitude towards disease.
But even for political leaders who are not concerned with the coronavirus, the coronavirus is clearly interested in them.
“I think this week it has become inevitable for all of us to feel the heat is rising again,” said Amy Acton, former chief health adviser to Ohio Republican Governor Mike DeWine. “We are once again approaching a kind of inflection point.”
Governor Michelle Logan Grisham of New Mexico, a Democrat who this week issued a new vaccination requirement for public officials and urged new Mexicans to wear masks indoors, said she was “with the president at a thousand percent” in his tough approach to vaccine distribution. (She puts her views on the issue more frankly: “Shame on you if you haven’t been vaccinated.”)
Ms Logan Grisham, president of the Democratic Governors Association, said she expected the issue of pandemic management to remain “at the heart” of governance and campaigning statewide through 2022.
“I think that will certainly be the cornerstone of all of these campaigns,” said Ms. Logan Grisham. “How you responded to Covid, and what impact it has on the economy, will be front and center.”
The midterm elections are still a long way off, and the pandemic will likely diminish somewhat in the nation’s political consciousness before the fall of 2022.
Biden’s ambitious legislative agenda is making its way through Congress, giving the president an opportunity to announce major successes in 2022 that have nothing to do with the pandemic. Despite the rising numbers of infections and deaths, the losses are still a fraction of what they were in 2020 before the arrival of many highly effective vaccines.
However, at the moment, it can be difficult to conduct a mass communication campaign on issues not closely related to the ongoing public health crisis, including topics such as voting rights And immigration These are high priorities for Mr. Biden’s party. The complexity of resuming personal business and education this fall could grow exponentially if cases continue to rise and vaccination rates do not rise, potentially irritating parents and employers impatient to transition from the restrictions of 2020 and early 2021.
In the poll, conducted by the Democratic opinion research group Navigator, there were signs of growing pessimism about the course of the pandemic. In early June, the group found more than seven in 10 voters saying the worst of the pandemic was in the past. By late July, that number had dropped to 55 percent.
Polls have found that Mr Biden has continued voter support for his handling of the coronavirus, and his determination to stamp out the pandemic has been at the heart of his successful campaign.
Understand the state of vaccine mandates in the United States
But his administration held off for months on using the strongest available steps to compel reluctant Americans to take the vaccine, including strengthening aggressive vaccine mandates or creating a passport for a vaccine of the kinds devised in countries like France and Israel.
The mayor of London was born from San Francisco, a Democrat Vaccine authorization issued For public servants more than a month ago, he said, it wasn’t an option for regions like hers to wait for federal action. She said she has been studying ways to expand her vaccination orders, perhaps by imposing mandates on companies receiving contracts or grants in the city.
“We need to be assertive. We can’t wait to see what happens,” Ms. Breed said. “It’s almost like Covid is retaliating, and we need to make sure we don’t back down.”
The split among Republicans over how to deal with the coronavirus was painfully visible in Washington this week, where McConnell issued the latest of several personal pleas to Americans to ignore “bad advice” and vaccination, while his House counterpart, Kevin McCarthy of California, shot conspiratorial tweet He said the new CDC concealment guidelines have been “invoked by liberal government officials who want to live in a perpetual pandemic situation.”
An equally informative split-screen photo came out of a Senate Republican press conference on Tuesday: Roy Blunt of Missouri, a longtime party champion retired After his current term, he has appealed to Americans to get vaccinated, reading news articles out loud about unvaccinated Missouri residents with the disease. Looked at his side, Rick Scott of Florida, chair of the party’s Senate campaign committee, who introduced legislation banning passports for vaccines, and at Interview with Fox BusinessAbstaining from vaccination is called a personal choice.
A growing number of Republicans running for office have tried to harness conservative discontent by pledging their opposition to the new election, including Sarah Huckabee Sanders, a former White House spokeswoman. Run for Governor of Arkansas, which this week simultaneously encouraged voters to take what it called a “Trump vaccine” and vowed not to enforce mask or vaccine requirements in the office.
Former Utah Governor Mike Levitt, who served as the federal health secretary in the George W. Bush administration, said the country’s leaders should recognize that they are still in the “early days” of the pandemic, as a matter of policy — a frustrating warning to those hoping for a light on the end. the tunnel.
Mr. Levitt added that after twelve years of partisan warfare over the structure of the health care system, it should come as no surprise that a pathogen that has killed more than 600,000 Americans would lead to another version of this bitter debate.
“When you sum it up, it’s the same problem: What role should government play in our lives?” Mr. Levitt said.
It became tragically clear that a large part of the country was unwilling to do its part to speed an end to the pandemic, said Peter Kaufman, a Democratic strategist who advises Mayor Bill de Blasio on New York City’s response to the pandemic.
“There isn’t going to be the ‘aha’ moment we’ve all been waiting for,” Kaufman said. “Those of us in the responsible wing of the country just have to keep clogging up.”