President Joe Biden hoped his authoritarian vaccine mandate would take the heat off his administration’s disastrous Afghanistan withdrawal. While his political calculation was not a complete success, it certainly reminded Americans about some fundamental ideological divides. A sentiment Biden expressed during his speech announcing the mandates crystalized these differences.
This is not about freedom or personal choice. It’s about protecting yourself and those around you. The people you work with. The people you care about. The people you love. My job as president is to protect all Americans.
Biden swore an oath to uphold the Constitution when he entered office. While the president is undoubtedly responsible for national security, he is absolutely not responsible for assuring our personal safety. Biden is responsible for securing our freedoms. With that freedom, Americans are responsible for making decisions that keep them safe.
The COVID-19 pandemic has turned this foundational idea on its head for many Americans. They dramatically overestimate their risk from the virus, thanks to hysterical media coverage. Looking to the experts on television, they are so petrified that they can’t even see the apparent contradictions in Biden’s speech. He told vaccinated Americans they needed protection from the unvaccinated. A moment later, he told them their vaccine protected them effectively. If Biden believes the latter, his mandate is a hammer in search of a nail.
You can see the contrast in these two views about the role of government in how Americans view vaccine mandates. There is not an overwhelming majority of Americans who agree with President Bident, but the views certainly break down along ideological lines.
According to a Rasmussen poll on Thursday, 51% of Americans support the executive order for all private companies with 100 or more employees to require vaccination or weekly testing. Forty-eight percent oppose the mandate. Those who oppose include 71% of Republicans and 57% of unaffiliated voters. Astonishingly, 68% of black voters agree with the order, despite being the least vaccinated demographic group, according to the CDC.
The Trafalgar Group and Convention of States released a poll the same day with a different take. Their poll found that 58.6% of respondents do not believe Biden has the constitutional authority to issue the mandate for private employers. This result includes 83.5% of Republicans and 68.2% of those not affiliated with the major parties. Only 27% of Democrats feel Biden is overstepping his boundaries.
Governors across the nation are challenging Biden’s authority to issue the mandate. At last count, 27 governors or attorneys general have announced they will oppose the mandates. Legal challenges are certainly on the way. Among likely general election voters, 56.1% agree with their efforts to halt the mandate, while 40% oppose. It is not surprising that this result breaks along party lines, but it’s important to note that 62.3% of voters not affiliated with either party support opposing the mandate.
Related: Reason to Fear a Vaccine Mandate
The pollsters asked if respondents felt the vaccine mandate set a precedent that future presidents could abuse. A majority, 55.5%, share this concern. The total includes 79.5% of Republicans and 58% of unaffiliated voters. Only 30% of Democrats are concerned. Either they do not see the precedent as dangerous because they agree, or they assume a Democrat they agree with will be in office for the foreseeable future.
The vaccine mandate gambit—meant to divide Americans following bipartisan condemnation of the Afghanistan debacle—largely worked. However, the majority of unaffiliated voters are breaking with Republicans on this issue in both polls, which gives Republicans a messaging advantage. Being pro-vaccine and anti-mandate seems to be the winning position. The vaccine mandate issue will linger much longer than the current surge of the Delta variant.
A federal judge already temporarily halted New York’s mandate for healthcare workers because it does not allow religious exemptions. The state has to respond to the lawsuit filed by 17 healthcare workers by September 22. Natural immunity will become an issue, and there is already a lawsuit at Michigan State University on the subject. The mandate will stay in the headlines after OSHA issues the emergency rule and lawsuits challenge the agency’s authority to issue it.