Vaccine Mandates: Whose Business?
The Arkansas governor will put "the employer's right to provide a healthy workplace" before an employee's right to choose.
Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson wants you to know he’s not with Gregg Abbott. Or Ron DeSantis. In fact, he’s never even heard of them. They’re in his party? Tut tut.
If you are a normal person who doesn’t spend his whole life on Twitter, allow me to catch you up: In the wake of Texas’s Greg Abbott becoming the second GOP governor to issue a statewide ban on vaccine mandates, following Florida’s Ron DeSantis, Hutchinson jumped to join the likes of Kristi Noem in insisting it is not the job of government to regulate businesses. While he says he opposes mandating the Covid-19 vaccine at the federal level, Hutchinson spoke in favor of companies adding the shot as a new condition of employment for their employees, because vaccine mandates are OK as long as they’re from the private sector.
In case you are lost, the argument goes like this: The government can’t prevent employers from mandating the vaccine because they can’t prevent them from doing anything. That would hinder freedom—the freedom of businesses, that is. Pay no attention to the American people behind the curtain.
Libertarian in his leanings, Hutchinson has history of vetoing bans, including the Arkansas legislature’s bill to stop gender-conforming treatments for gender-confused youth in April of this year, which he also called “government overreach.”
He told NBC Sunday:
I am a defender of the employer’s right to provide a healthy workplace. You would have just as many workers say, ‘I don’t want to work there because it’s not a healthy workplace, because not everybody’s going to be vaccinated.’ The employers are in a tough position. They would have the prerogative to make those decisions and I support that.
This employer’s right Hutchinson speaks of, to provide a healthy workplace, is a new one to me, but I am only an average citizen. The other one, an employer’s sovereignty over his own business, is an important one to protect—how many governors shut down businesses last year, as an aside?—but hardly at the expense of more basic human rights.
He is right that employers are in a tough position, however. That is, those employers who manage more than 100 employees, and who take a press release for the supreme law of the land. For these business owners who fail to mandate the vaccine for their employees, exile from a certain class of people and their parties almost certainly awaits—and so too for Hutchinson. A real pity. They have told their employees to face the music out of self-preservation, as it turns out.
What of the role of government, to protect the rights of the people from those who would infringe on them? Well you see, the rules of free association trump them, even when the terms of the association change after Americans have already signed the papers.
Don’t worry, if Republicans stay out of business, Democrats will too. Vive la liberte!
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The End Result of ‘Karen’ Panic
This is what happens when you keep ruining people’s lives for the crime of calling 911.
Last week a woman was raped by a stranger on a Philadelphia train for eight minutes and none of the other passengers intervened or called 911. Security footage shows the suspect, Fiston Ngoy, sitting down next to the victim and trying to talk to her briefly before, in the words of Upper Darby police superintendent Timothy Bernhardt, “he just completely overpowered the woman and forcibly raped her.”
According to a statement from the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority, “The assault was observed by a SEPTA employee, who called 911. … There were other people on the train who witnessed this horrific act, and it may have been stopped sooner if a rider called 911.”
Last summer saw the national spread of the pejorative term “Karen,” which denigrates the supposedly entitled behavior of calling authorities on a person of color.
Now we see the fruits of that meme.
Should we be surprised that no one called 911 when, again and again in the last 18 months, ordinary citizens have had their lives ruined for doing just that?
A lot of Karen-ish behavior is actually laudable, exactly the kind of informal enforcement of public norms on which public safety and social cohesion invisibly rely.
Christopher Cukor, who made headlines in 2019 for hassling a black man who slipped in the apartment complex door behind him, was only doing what many buildings’ policies require, making sure only residents and their guests are allowed inside. San Francisco is a high-crime city, so keeping out unauthorized trespassers who claim to be visiting someone in the building is not a pointless legalism.
The man, Wesly Michel, taunted Cukor during their encounter, “I’m recording you right now. You’re just going to be the next person on TV.”
He was right about that, although his taunts were in bad taste. Cukor later revealed that his father was murdered in 2012 after calling 911 on a man who was “hanging around” his property and “says that he lives here” and “is looking for someone named Zoey,” according to the call transcript. The man fatally struck Cukor’s father in the head with a flower pot before police arrived.
What would have happened if someone had called 911 on Fiston Ngoy? According to police descriptions of the security footage, he ripped the victims clothes off. You would think any bystander could see that a crime was in progress and a 911 call was justified.
But when Ma’khia Bryant was shot by police in the act of attempting to stab a girl with a knife after saying (as caught on video) “I’m gonna stab the fuck outta you, bitch,” commentators in the Washington Post and NPR leaped to defend Bryant as the latest martyr to blue violence. The officer was accused of overreacting to a teenage knife fight.
If it had turned out that the Philly train passengers were witnessing the misdemeanor of open lewdness rather than the felony of rape, anyone who called 911 could have been turned into the next Karen, which, depending on the circumstances, can lead to public shaming, losing your job, and being prosecuted for a hate crime.
The original Karen of 2020, Amy Cooper, was accused of committing literal violence against Central Park birdwatcher Christopher Cooper because the police could have shot him when they arrived in response to her 911 call. But calling 911 on someone is not literal violence. Raping a woman on a crowded train car is.
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The Myths We Tell Matter
Archetypal representations of the ideal American identity reveal to posterity the wisdom and virtues of our nation.
Since I decided to pick up and move out east last October, I’ve tried to make a point to visit the homes of our nation’s founding fathers. I spent the morning of the Fourth of July at George Washington’s Mount Vernon, which I’d been to many times prior, and last weekend visited Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello for the first time. Next up: James Madison’s Montpelier.
Thankfully, our founding fathers receive much better treatment in the museum exhibits of their homesteads than they do on university campuses, and even some of the Smithsonians. Obviously, the predominant source of controversy is that some of the founding fathers owned slaves. I think Mount Vernon treads this line exceptionally well. It has an extensive exhibit about the lives of slaves at Mount Vernon presented alongside Washington’s increasing economic and moral criticisms of the slave trade dating back to the early days of the American Revolution. Mount Vernon’s museum also addresses some of the myths that have been told about our first president throughout our nation’s history, such as the legend of a young George Washington and the cherry tree.
I’m sure you’re familiar with the story, but when I heard the story for the first time when I was just a tot, I believed it was true. Many of you probably did as well. Then, we headed off to grade school and continued to learn about Washington, but this time, that snotty, know-it-all kid in the front of the class interrupted our teachers to inform the rest of the class that the story of young George and the Cherry Tree was just a myth! We were all taken aback. Why would the adults lie to us about a story that teaches us good Americans tell the truth?
We continued living and learning, and eventually came to find the important role this mythology plays in our lives. We learned classical history, where historical events are taught side by side with mythology and legend, and that it’s very difficult for historians to parse out what exactly is fact or fiction—even in some of the most well-read accounts of Greek or Roman history. However, classical historians don’t just throw out these great stories of antiquity simply because they can’t verify every nitty-gritty detail. Rather, they embrace teaching the fable and folklore of such great ancient civilizations precisely because these dramatized accounts reveal something profound about the society from which it came.
In other words, the myths we tell ourselves as a nation, and teach our children, matter. Stories like that of Washington and the cherry tree, archetypal representations of the ideal American identity, reveal to posterity the wisdom and virtues of our nation—the very people who have toiled to keep this republic for us. Today, malevolent forces are attempting to erase these stories and dismantle our national inheritance to rewrite it for themselves. And, some who claim to be on the right, are helping them do just that.
Resentment for America, the West, Christianity, and tradition is now being pushed on our students in K-12 education, and has become a flashpoint in American politics over the past year because of critical race theory’s proliferation in K-12 schooling in response to 2020’s “summer of love.” Some journalists, such as Christopher Rufo, have done extraordinary work exposing critical race theory, often packaged and sold as teaching tolerance and empathy, for what it truly is: a framework to view every social movement, even personal interactions, in terms of race to facilitate radical societal change.
Critical race theory defenders chalk up any criticisms of using critical race theory as the lens through which we teach our children as, at best, whitewashing history, and at worst, white supremacy. Of course, it’s a ridiculous straw man of the anti-critical race theory position. The purveyors of critical race theory don’t particularly care about a full and accurate telling of American history.
As is their modus operandi, right liberals used their alleged position within the “conservative” movement to affirm the framing of the debate over critical race theory of those who peddle and profiteer off of it. They predictably served their familiar purpose of politely asking the left to go about its radicalism a little more discreetly, and defanging the right from responding by making grand appeals to choice. Schools should be free to choose what they teach children! If you don’t like it, send your children to a different, or private, school! Teach them the right version of American history at home! Just move!
If you don’t have the means to send your child to a private school, have the option to teach your kid the right version of American history because you and your spouse both have to work, or uproot yourselves from your community and move, that’s too bad. You should push your state legislature to pass more school-choice laws. In the meantime, learn to tolerate having your kid indoctrinated with an ideology that ascribes guilt based on race!
By no means am I shaming school choice policy. I don’t think a child’s zip code should be determinative of the educational opportunities available to them, although conservatives should recognize these policy choices can harm those who have paid large amounts in property taxes to provide resources for a good public school; but, that’s besides the point. The point is the continued obsequiousness of right-liberals to the left ultimately brings about the destruction of things they claim to hold dear.
It’s not just right-liberals who often find themselves falling into left-wing plots to bring about the country’s demise. There’s a good number of folks on the right who have bought into a kind of scientism in their politics. Conservative pundit and author Ben Shapiro’s slogan, “Facts don’t care about your feelings,” summarizes the ethos of these individuals quite well. On the surface, this seems fairly obvious, especially when you’re Shapiro, who is often addressing college-aged students who feel eminently passionately about a certain political issue, but are blatantly ignorant of the facts. If you dive a little deeper, reducing what is good and true to purely that of facts crowds out values, traditions, and narratives from having their proper place in politics. I don’t mean this as a swipe at Shapiro. He’d certainly agree with the sentiment that human reason can’t deliver the ends we desire on its own, because he wrote a book about it.
Nonetheless, some people who call themselves conservatives do the bidding of our enemies by accepting the more dogmatic version of “Facts don’t care about your feelings.” In doing so, they crowd out the cultural—what our nation’s great myths are meant to preserve—and reduce our national heritage to a materialism that can be found in facts and figures (like our GDP). Their failure to actively defend what our forebears fought to preserve is also acquiescence in the left’s attempt to get rid of the great myths of George Washington and replace them with myths of George Floyd.
So, become proactive defenders of our national heritage, including its myths, for they have more wisdom than any university humanities department could ever hope to hold.
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Let’s Go Braves
Rob Manfred handing the Commissioner's Trophy to Atlanta would provide the taste of sweet, petty justice the way only sports can.
Baseball is a game best summed up by Yogi Berra’s famous lines—Yogisms. Any true baseball fan can recount a couple of them, and most Americans can recite a few without even knowing the source. As a known baseball hater, Commissioner Rob Manfred can’t recount any of them. If he could, he would know that “it ain’t over till it’s over.”
Manfred ignited a media storm earlier this year when he perverted his role in baseball and entered the usually apolitical MLB into the election integrity debate. After Governor Brian Kemp signed Senate Bill 202 into Georgia law, the MLB moved the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta to Denver, Colorado. The move was stunning and elicited a ferocious backlash from Atlanta locals counting on the economic payoff associated with the annual game. Roger Dow, CEO of the U.S Travel Association, estimated it cost Atlanta businesses nearly $70 million in lost tourism revenue. Some estimates placed the cost as high as $100 million.
Regardless, the cost was enormous and even caused resident voting rights hack Stacey Abrams to eat her words and express her disappointment in the MLB’s decision to heed her racial demagoguery. At the time, there was much hand-wringing over the MLB’s evident hypocrisy. The Georgia voting-integrity bill featured regulations that were not only standard, but nearly identical compared to the laws in the MLB’s replacement in blue Colorado. Politics, not justice, drove the decision to move the game. But Commissioner Manfred got his pat on the back from President Biden and the praetorian journalists at ESPN. He was surely pleased, and after a week of culture warring, the controversy faded from the news cycle.
Baseball, however, is a game that marks the time. When America rolls by like an army of steamrollers, baseball reminds us of all that was once good and could be again. So, with the Braves set to battle for the National League Championship, let’s cheer for a good reminder. Game One of the NLCS is set for Saturday in Atlanta. Rob Manfred stole from Atlanta during the regular season. In October, the Braves can repay him ten times over by defeating liberal Los Angeles’ Dodgers and advance to the World Series.
Forcing Rob Manfred to stand on Atlanta’s field and hand the Commissioner’s Trophy to the Braves in front of a frenzied Georgia crowd would provide the taste of sweet, petty justice the way only sports can. Writing this, I can’t help but have a sly grin thinking of the commissioner squirming as the fans let off a defiantly politically incorrect tomahawk chop. We can only hope for an additional chorus of boos and a stadium-wide “let’s go Brandon” chant.
In a nation where political recourse is hard to come by for the average American, humiliating a progressive elite on national television for his reckless political activism is a chance too good to pass up. So, at least for the next few weeks, I’m a Braves fan. Conservatives and Americans fed up with the politicization of our cultural institutions ought to be as well.
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Up in the Air: What We Know
The media continue to smother whatever happened at the Jacksonville airport, but public opinion seems unconvinced.
What actually happened to Southwest Airlines last weekend? There’s a lot that remains unclear, but one thing that doesn’t: The media seemed determined to keep it under wraps.
Here’s what we do know. Southwest Airlines canceled more than 28 percent of its flights over Saturday and Sunday—upwards of 1,800 routes—in a snowball of problems which began with staffing shortages in Jacksonville, Florida. Just a week before the flight fiasco, the airline told its employees they had to be vaccinated by December 8 in order to keep their jobs. The Dallas-based company said the decision was due to Biden’s mandate for government contractors, yet Southwest and several other Texas-based airlines have insisted they will continue with the mandate even after Texas Governor Gregg Abbot banned any Texan entity from compelling employees or consumers to be vaccinated.
As canceled flights and stranded passengers added up, rumors spread that the delay was caused by employees and pilots protesting the vaccine mandate by calling in sick. A provocative image of the Gadsden flag flying from a Southwest jet added fuel to the fire.
On Monday, Southwest issued a press release saying the cancellations were “primarily created by weather and other external constraints.” Elsewhere, they cited air traffic control issues, but denied that the operational challenges were due to Southwest employee demonstrations. The Federal Aviation Administration told a Jacksonville paper that the large number of cancellations were “due to a combination of severe weather, active military training in the airspace, and unexpected limited staff at the Jacksonville facility,” but said that air traffic control issues were resolved Friday. Meanwhile, the media obliged the public relations people, reporting press releases and CEO’s statements without a single quote from an effected employee.
As several on Twitter pointed out, the weather and other factors seemed only to target Southwest. Odd. Neither Southwest nor any official statement offered an alternative explanation for the staffing shortages, if it wasn’t due to the mandates.
Casey Murray, president of the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association, told the New York Times Monday that sick calls from pilots remained at a normal rate over the weekend, and those who stayed home did not do so to protest the company’s vaccine mandate. Yet in a typical day, according to Murray, about 10 percent of pilots are reassigned from the flights they are scheduled to operate; on Saturday, 71 percent of pilots were reassigned, and on Sunday that number reached 85 percent. For this, he offered no causal explanation.
Murray’s union has asked a Texas court to prevent Southwest from enforcing the vaccine requirement, however, saying the mandate unlawfully imposes new conditions for employment. The union filed the request last Friday, four days after Southwest announced to its staff that further employment would be dependent on their vaccine status, and right before the debacle—one of the many reasons the internet rumors have seemed plausible, at least. Hundreds of American Airlines employees staged a protest outside the company’s Fort Worth headquarters last Thursday, too, so the move would not have been unprecedented.
United Airlines, the first to impose a mandate on its employees, put those who did not comply on unpaid leave. On Wednesday, a federal judge in Texas blocked the airline from continuing in this tactic for anyone who requests a religious or medical exemption from the mandate, after the airline was hit with a flurry of employee lawsuits. Meanwhile, Delta remains the only major airline to decline to mandate the vaccine, and instead found a way to profit from the situation, charging unvaccinated employees an additional $200 per month in healthcare.
One news outlet did get a comment from a Southwest pilot, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. According to him, the shortage wasn’t an organized protest, but rather a loss of goodwill toward the company after the mandate was announced.
That newfound ill will manifested itself over the three day weekend, not with an organized strike, but with many disgruntled employees calling in sick, or not signing up for overtime to help the airline fulfill the increase in flights typical for a holiday weekend.
Regardless, Southwest CEO Gary Kelly came out Tuesday to clarify that no employees would be fired over the vaccine mandate, making it a good deal less toothless, at least. Whatever actually happened over the weekend, Kelly knows where the wind is blowing.
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Football and America’s Religion
The resignation of Raiders coach Jon Gruden shows us once again what the high priests of liberalism really care about.
Last night the Las Vegas Raiders forced out legendary football coach Jon Gruden after a slew of his private emails containing “homophobic” and “misogynistic” language were leaked.
The story is the same as thousands that precede it. Gruden is just another scalp on the woke culture warriors’ walls. The New York Times is proud of their reporting that brought down the Super Bowl-winning coach. There’s nothing new to these cancellation tactics, and we’ll see the cackling hyenas in the left-wing press pursue more scalps in the near future. This story does, however, reveal the warped moral structure the secular-woke left has adopted to replace America’s Christian tradition.
The NFL is an unscrupulous business. It has long been an institution that hides the health impacts of football, engages in predatory behavior against competition, and tolerates cheating. Worse, it is a business that tolerates abject criminality. Ben Roethlisberger, Tyreek Hill, and Antonio Brown are all active players in the NFL. Each of them, like Gruden, has won a Super Bowl. Unlike Gruden, they have all been credibly accused of sexual assault or domestic violence. Unlike Gruden, they won’t be pushed out by the NFL. The complete list of active NFL players with violent criminal histories would fill the entirety of TAC’s next print edition. It’s appalling.
Tellingly, the New York Times won’t be investigating those players or the league that enables them to make millions of dollars playing a sport. That’s not the Times’ job. The charlatans who work for the gray lady are not tasked with reporting on men who harm women but with reporting on men who make distasteful jokes about women. Sexual assault harms women, but Gruden’s language is an affront to feminist ideology. To the woke press and the NFL, the latter is much more egregious.
The NFL’s Gruden saga is a lesson for the right and for the broader set of Americans who still hold fast to decency. Shoplifting, drug possession, rape, and all other crimes law-abiding people understand to be wrong go unpunished under the woke regime’s policeless dystopia. In this anarcho-tyranny you might even be rewarded with a Super Bowl ring if you’re athletic enough. But thought crimes against the secular catechisms of LGBT tolerance and third wave feminism? Prepare for a public flogging and a scarlet letter.
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Woman in Charge
Sinema is sticking to her guns, and good for her.
Joining the ranks of bathroom protesters, the New York Times has written a fresh new editorial scolding Kirsten Sinema for betraying the more progressive wing of her party. The onetime Ralph Nader campaign volunteer senator is now “cocooning” herself, ready for a big transformation into a full-blown Republican, according to the Times.
The gray lady certainly picked the right metaphor to describe the transformation from radical social justice warrior to woman, regardless of whether it accurately describes Sinema’s own story. In the process of becoming the butterfly of the smaller chamber of Congress, the Arizona senator has been the subject of countless media attacks, as well as personal ones, because if they won’t join you, beat them, seems to be the party’s mantra of late. Among her greatest sins, aside from defending the filibuster, Sinema has stood between the Senate Democrats and Biden’s Build Back Better plan, which includes a wad of progressive social policy and quite radical immigration changes, to the tune of $3.5 trillion. Amid all this, the left seems determined to break Sinema, more to prove a point than anything else.
It’s unlikely Sinema actually becomes a butterfly; she still votes, by and large, with her party, despite her strong stance on Biden’s $3.5 trillion spending package. And yet, the Arizonan has shown some political virtues of late that make the moderate Democrat look more principled than some of her colleagues across the aisle.
Most notably, she has stood her ground amid a storm of opposition from her own party—at least so far. The Times speculated this has to do with appeasing her donors or, heaven forbid, following the wishes of the purple state’s more moderate voters. To which anyone still sensible of the purpose of the functioning roles of our elected officials would respond, “Yes.” That is quite exactly the point. She won her U.S. Senate seat by styling herself as a would-be collaborator with then-President Donald Trump; if those voters’ voices are as loud in her ear as the progressives’, she’s firmly in her lane of bipartisanship by stopping the record-breaking appropriation.
The same goes for the filibuster. Sinema was mocked and derided for her op-ed defending her decision to favor keeping the relic of parliamentary procedure because, she argued, the temporary victory would not be worth the long term loss of keeping some power in the minority party. To end the filibuster is to remove the guardrails, she wrote, and to do so just to ram through once piece of legislation would be bad for the long term success of the democratic process. Republican? Just barely. Radical? Only in the sense that she isn’t hardly, in a party of fringe boundary-pushers.
Sinema also voted to cut defense spending back in July 2020, joining the more progressive wing of her party and opposing most Republicans. (Again, it’s unlikely she transitions all the way to the other side of the aisle, as progressive scare-mongerers have suggested.) Beyond mere bipartisanship, it seems moderating Congress’s spending habits is a principle for her, regardless of who promotes it.
And for that alone, at least, Sinema deserves a respectful nod for sticking to her guns. There’s a lesson in that, if Republicans would take it.
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Republicans’ Big Break Up
Republicans just kicked the U.S. Chamber of Commerce out of the House.
Have you ever had a friend who is in a toxic relationship with a not-so-great person, but the pair just keep on dragging it on and on until the wheels completely fall off. And, once they do break up, you’re finally able to have a candid discussion with your friend about the lessons learned from that relationship, and they admit it wasn’t good for them, the other person, and the relationships they have with their friends and family?
This happened to me just this week, actually. You might know the two involved in this intimate relationship: Republicans and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Somehow, Punchbowl News was able to steal this juicy scoop out from underneath TMZ’s nose when they wrote Monday that, after cohabitating for decades, Republicans finally mustered up the nerve to kicked the U.S. Chamber of commerce out of the House… Republicans’ budget reconciliation strategy meetings.
When I informed Helen Andrews, The American Conservative’s magazine editor, that the two had finally broken up, she remarked, “it’s about time.”
Helen is exactly right, because, for years now, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has been coming home late with the smell of Democrats’ perfume all over them. They didn’t even bother trying to cover the scent of Bleu de Démocrate, but still expected Republicans to serve them up a piping hot dish of savory subsidies and tasty tax cuts when they returned from their entanglement. Over the past year, it’s gotten brazenly worse.
Just days after the 2020 election, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Executive Vice President and Chief Policy Officer Neil Bradley did an interview with the Washington Examiner in which he opposed Republican efforts to fully reopen the economy and was fully deferential to Dr. Fauci and public health bureaucrats. “We all want to open things,” Bradley said, “But being open in the midst of a pandemic requires that certain public health measures be taken. It starts with masks. If it’s a choice between mask requirements and shutting down the economy, I would hope everyone recognizes that mask requirements are the common sense choice.”
Such pushes from Republicans to fully reopen the country is a “stance does not appear to be coming from public health officials or hospitals or the medical community,” Bradley added, and suggested that small businesses would be happy to oblige with whatever restrictions the experts concocted to avoid full lockdown. The last point is obvious, as these small businesses have to do what they must in order to survive, but Bradley, and those like him, aren’t supporting small businesses by saying this. They’re offering veiled threats. Do as they tell you to, or we’ll help shut you down.
In mid February, shortly after President Joe Biden’s inauguration, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce became one of the biggest cheerleaders for the new president’s agenda. It praised Biden’s nearly $2 trillion Covid relief bill, dubbed the American Rescue Plan, and celebrated the Center of American Progress’s Neera Tanden for her nomination to direct the White House’s Office of Management and Budget, which ultimately failed. Even more scandalous than that, the Chamber of Commerce defended Biden’s decision to reenter the feckless Paris climate agreement, and made the rounds saying it was open to a minimum wage hike—albeit not to $15 an hour.
In September, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce dispatched their legions of lobbyists to win the hearts and minds of Republican House members and save Biden’s infrastructure package. As it is now, the infrastructure plan was being held hostage by members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, seeking more “infrastructure” dollars for a number of extraneous social programs. Rather than knocking on their doors, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce turned its eyes on 57 House Republicans they thought they could win over.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is progressively becoming more supportive of employer vaccine mandates as well. It has published how to guides for employers on how to communicate and enforce a vaccine mandate in the workplace, and mandates the vaccine for its own staff and visitors.
This infidelity on such key issues may have finally given House Republicans the epiphany that capital and the big business interests the U.S. Chamber of Commerce defends actually hate their voters, and would hate them just as much in the absence of tax cuts for corporations.
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Pandemic Leaders Respond To Power, Not Science
What has happened as of late in New Zealand is a lesson for conservatives and right-populists hoping to put the pandemic in the rearview mirror.
Nearly two months into the country’s latest lockdown, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern finally acknowledged what every regular person knew a year ago—Covid-19 is here to stay.
“We’re transitioning from our current strategy into a new way of doing things,” Ardern told members of the media at a press conference Monday. “The return to zero is incredibly difficult, and our restrictions alone are not enough to achieve that quickly. In fact, for this outbreak, it’s clear that long periods of heavy restrictions has not got us to zero cases.”
“What we have called a long tail,” Ardern said, which “feels more like a tentacle that has been incredibly hard to shake.” Ardern then went on to announce that New Zealand would begin to lift some lockdown measures—particularly in Auckland, the nation’s largest city—despite an ongoing spike in cases due to the delta variant. However, the current case spike in New Zealand topped out at 83 new infections in a single day.
In fact, each of New Zealand’s Covid spikes since the beginning of the pandemic pale in comparison to those experienced by most western nations. As it stands now, New Zealand has accumulated just over 4,000 cases and 27 deaths.
When Covid-19 initially made landfall in the island nation of just over 5 million, Ardern’s government acted quickly in an attempt to nip the outbreak in the bud. New Zealand’s borders were shuttered, and just four days after New Zealand unveiled the 4-tiered Alert Level System, Ardern increased the country to Alert Level 4, which placed the country in near-complete lockdown. At the time, New Zealand had just over 200 confirmed cases of Covid-19.
New Zealand’s Covid-19 containment strategy seemed to work. By June 8, 2020, New Zealand declared itself Covid free, as its last active case resulted in recovery and there had not been a new case of Covid-19 in 17 days. As of that date, there had been 1,154 cases and 22 deaths from Covid-19 in New Zealand.
At the time, New Zealand apparently bucking the China bug was certainly cause for celebration. New Zealand became the envy of the world. Journalists from corporate media outlets and Twitter blue checks—particularly in the United States, but in other countries as well—sung Ardern’s praises as a girl boss lady kween and told their readers this is what pandemic leadership looks like. They yearned for other world leaders, not least the evil orange man, to model their countries’ pandemic policies after New Zealand, or at least South Korea.
While the media continued cheering New Zealand on from oceans away, New Zealand’s era of zero covid was short-lived. By June 22, 2020, nine cases of Covid-19 were reported in New Zealand with each of those cases put in isolation upon entering the country. For a time, New Zealand was able to use isolation to purportedly keep Covid out. However, on Aug. 9, 2020, the country announced four members of an Auckland family had contracted Covid-19, despite no known overseas travel or contact with quarantine facilities. In other words, it seems New Zealand never actually reached Covid zero. Covid-19, known for its ability to infect and spread asymptomatically, did exactly that, and eventually yielded symptomatic cases.
Since then, New Zealand has added another 2,806 cases to its cumulative total and only five more deaths.
I’m not presenting these numbers as a form of schadenfreude. If I was, I’d be no better than the corporate media journalists hunting for unvaccinated Trump supporters to shame while they’re on their deathbed. Nor does it give me any source of joy to admit that Covid-19 has moved from a pandemic to an endemic.
The numbers show that New Zealand has weathered the disease aspect of the pandemic very well, which is why Ardern and her Labour Party won by a considerable margin in the October 2020 general election. But, as neighboring Australians are learning all too well, the pandemic goes well beyond the virus. After Covid-19 resurfaced in New Zealand, Ardern and her government continued doing what they could to prima facie return to Covid zero with occasional blips of success. All the while, the National State of Emergency declared back in March 2020 meant New Zealand continued to fluctuate between different levels of lockdown.
The latest round of strict lockdowns have essentially remained in place since Aug. 17, when the country moved from Alert Level 1 to Alert Level 4 overnight. Despite going back into harsh lockdowns, cases continued to spike. Alert Level 4 was dropped Aug. 31, but the country has since oscillated between alert levels two and three.
Now, even New Zealanders, who have been generously compliant to their government’s wishes and respectful of its mandates, have reached their breaking point. On Saturday, thousands of Kiwis broke Ardern’s stay-at-home order and protested the government’s Covid-19 containment strategy. The demonstration was New Zealand’s largest anti-lockdown demonstration since the pandemic began, which makes Ardern’s Monday announcement all the more interesting. It wasn’t a new scientific study, revelation, or innovative therapeutic that changed Ardern’s mind about lockdowns.
Nor was it the proliferation of the Covid-19 vaccine. Because New Zealand’s level of Covid-19 infection has been (and remains) low, the government did not start diligently pushing the vaccine until last month. Right now, just over 40% of the country has received two doses of Covid-19 vaccines, and to completely buck Covid-19 pandemic controls, Ardern’s government says that number must go way up.
Rather, it was a show of will and force by some fed-up Kiwis that finally bent Ardern’s ear. It is power, not science, that our Covid rulers respond to.
The pandemic situation in New Zealand is clearly different than in the United States. The media’s use of New Zealand as a model for the United States’ Covid-19 policy early on was ridiculous then as it is now. But, perhaps Ardern was willing to abandon Covid zero more readily because of New Zealand’s parliamentary system. One of the advantages of the parliamentary system is that it makes politicians more keen to respond to public demonstrations in times of crisis. I’m not suggesting the U.S. should consider scrapping the Constitution and adopt a parliamentary system, but the U.S. has had its fair share of anti-lockdown protests in various states with little such effect. Because Ardern could face an ousting at anytime (although that remains highly unlikely right now), she’s constantly concerned about maintaining her position. In the U.S., where if you elect a septuagenarian with failing mental faculties, voters have to wait a full four years to vote him out, or rely on elected representatives to find a clear and extreme reason to impeach and remove them from office.
Neither New Zealand’s Covid-19 policies nor its parliamentary system should serve as a model for the United States. However, what has happened as of late in New Zealand is a lesson for conservatives and right-populists hoping to put the pandemic in the rearview mirror. The pandemic will never be over until we force our leaders to admit it is.