“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive.” –C.S. Lewis
Last week, President Biden, the leader of the free world, stepped up to the White House podium and announced a series of unilateral, federal actions to compel more Americans to get a COVID vaccine. It was a historic speech for a variety of reasons — and none of them good.
At the heart of the forthcoming mandate is the requirement for all private (note: private) businesses with over 100 employees to require workers to either be vaccinated or undergo COVID tests at least weekly. This mandate, which will be issued and enforced by the Department of Labor, comes with an aggressive enforcement mechanism: up to $14,000 in fines per violation.
One expert in vaccine law called the plan the “most substantial federal vaccine mandate in the country’s history.” The forthcoming order will no doubt face serious legal challenges in court — and rightly so.
Now, it’s entirely reasonable for Americans to hold a variety of different views on the COVID vaccines. But, regardless of your personal view on the importance of being vaccinated, all Americans should oppose this tyrannical, morally-fraught, and misguided overreach by the Biden administration.
Here are four reasons why this announcement is deeply concerning and two ways Americans can respond.
Concern #1: Biden’s remarks were divisive
Within minutes of coming to the podium, President Biden began using the world’s most significant bully-pulpit to, well, bully millions of Americans (full speech transcript here). He complained that “Many of us are frustrated with the nearly 80 million Americans who are still not vaccinated, even though the vaccine is safe, effective, and free.” Once this rhetoric began, it didn’t abate. In fact, throughout the speech Biden repeatedly scolded the 80 million unvaccinated Americans, painting them in dark and divisive tones.
He claimed this is a “pandemic of the unvaccinated,” casting himself and his mandates as a type of white knight, swooping in to defend the pure, vaccinated members of our nation from the filthy, unvaccinated hordes. Portraying the unvaccinated as some sort of villain, he promised: “We’re going to protect vaccinated workers from unvaccinated co-workers.” Protect the vaccinated? Really? One can’t help but note a serious, logical question: If the vaccines are effective, how are the unvaccinated putting the vaccinated at risk?
Continuing to vent his frustration and attack millions of well-meaning Americans who have made a choice that a COVID vaccine is not the right course of action for them at this time, Biden placed the entirety of the blame for the continuing nature of the pandemic on the unvaccinated. He said, “A distinct minority of Americans — supported by a distinct minority of elected officials — are keeping us from turning the corner.”
This is dark, dangerous, and divisive language. He is making an “us” vs. “them” distinction, with the “them” — the unvaccinated — somehow morally responsible and personally at fault for the fact that we aren’t at COVID-zero (an unattainable goal regardless). In a threatening, ominous fashion Biden warned, “We’ve been patient, but our patience is wearing thin. And your refusal has cost all of us.”
Make no mistake, there is a deeply lamentable yet growing “class divide” between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated in our nation. The unvaccinated are increasingly being viewed as backwards troglodytes, or second-class citizens, unworthy of free and fulsome participation in our country’s civic life. Just look at New York City’s “vaccine passport.” This rhetoric from our Commander-in-Chief yesterday is like pouring an accelerant on the fire of division already burning across our nation. No good can come of it.
Concern #2: Biden’s threats were despotic
Not only was his rhetoric divisive, but his political threats were despotic. Biden made it clear that he intends to trample over the minority of Americans who have chosen not to be vaccinated, saying, “We cannot allow these actions to stand in the way of protecting the large majority of Americans who have done their part and want to get back to life as normal.”
That is a chilling statement. “We cannot allow these actions.” What are these actions? Again, it’s nothing more than the free choice of millions of Americans, either informed by their faith, or by their conscience, or by their natural immunity from already having COVID, etc., to not get vaccinated. To claim that “we cannot allow” Americans to freely make their own healthcare choices in light of such a complicated dialogue about COVID and the vaccine is tyrannical.
But to make matters worse, he then went after the duly-elected governors in states that have taken a more hands-off approach, like Gov. Ron DeSantis in Florida. In what was perhaps the most despotic, dictatorial, and troubling statement of the speech, President Biden said:
“My plan also takes on elected officials and states that are undermining you and these lifesaving actions. Right now, local school officials are trying to keep children safe in a pandemic while their governor picks a fight with them and even threatens their salaries or their jobs. Talk about bullying in schools. If they’ll not help — if these governors won’t help us beat the pandemic, I’ll use my power as President to get them out of the way.”
Let that sink in. Biden is threatening to use his power to get governors who disagree with his approach “out of the way.” Those are the words of a dictator, a despot, a tyrant … not the words of the leader of the free world.
Concern #3: The mandate is unethical
While his rhetoric was divisive, and the threats against his political opponents despotic, the substance of the speech is even more concerning. The core of this mandate, the forthcoming emergency rule from the Department of Labor to force private businesses with more than 100 employees to require a vaccination or weekly negative tests, is unethical. It goes against a rightly-ordered moral understanding of human rights and individual agency.
This mandate is unethical for a variety of reasons, but primarily because it tramples over the fundamental principle of bodily autonomy and individual agency when it comes to personal health care choices. Yes, the vaccine by and large seems safe and one can make a reasonable case that getting vaccinated is an arguably good choice. But it should be just that: a personal choice. And while this mandate doesn’t absolutely require individuals to get vaccinated to continue working to provide for their family, it coerces them under the threat of missing work, or even losing their jobs, in the event that they do test positive for COVID.
Furthermore, this mandate ignores the importance of conscience rights, faith-based objections, and our civil liberties.
Concern #4: The mandate is unconstitutional
Finally, the mandate is unconstitutional because there is no basis in Article II of the Constitution, which creates the Executive Branch and delineates its power and authority, to compel private businesses to take these actions. The President, and by extension, the Executive Branch agencies, like the Department of Labor, are not legislative bodies. They have no power — let me repeat, no power — to make laws. Their job is to faithfully execute the laws duly enacted by our legislative body: Congress.
Thus, like the CDC’s attempted unconstitutional eviction moratorium, which the Supreme Court blocked, claiming that it “strains credulity to believe that this statute grants the CDC the sweeping authority that it asserts,” it more than strains credulity to think Biden has the constitutional authority to coerce private businesses, at the threat of hefty fines, to force their employees to get a COVID vaccine.
So, how should American citizens respond?
Americans should immediately resist
Private business owners should refuse to enforce this mandate and dare the federal government to take them to court over it. Employees everywhere should immediately reach out to their employers and encourage them to take this stand. Consumers should support the companies that refuse to comply, and vote with their wallet against those who do, taking their business elsewhere.
John Wesley Reid, editor-in-chief for the Standing for Freedom Center, said:
“Private-sector employers, President Biden has just given you a golden opportunity to prove your leadership.
If your employees want to get vaccinated, support their choice.
If your employees don’t want to get vaccinated, support their choice.
If the Federal government says they have no choice, remind the government that your employees don’t work for them. Stand up, show ownership, be a protector, be a leader, and remember that this great country was literally founded on telling the government ‘NO!’”
Second, Americans should remember their unalienable rights
As indelibly enumerated by that famous line from the Declaration of Independence:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
This mandate is a violation of all three of these unalienable rights.
It threatens your life, by compelling you against your will to receive a medical procedure, an injection of chemicals, into your body that may not be the best choice for your health.
It threatens liberty, by extending the reach of the Leviathan of government into the private business practice, coercing compliance at the threat of a massive fine.
Finally, it threatens the pursuit of happiness. Remember, within the “pursuit of happiness” is the understanding that it includes the right to labor and the fruits of your labor as a free American. This order threatens that right – the right of all free men and women to work and provide for themselves and their families.
One can’t help but notice how fast it went from “15 days to flatten the curve” to “three jabs to feed your family”
So, let’s remember that our unalienable rights come from God, not the government. And when they are threatened, we don’t give in or give up without a fight. Rather, like our Founding Fathers of old, we say: “Come and take them.”
A closing quote from C.S. Lewis
It’s amazing how much C.S. Lewis is truly a “man out of time.” By that, we mean that Lewis understood the reality of our fixed, fallen human nature so well that he reads not just as a critic of his time but like a prophet for time immemorial. He was particularly gifted when it came to putting his finger on mankind’s almost limitless ability for self-justification, even of the most oppressive actions.
Here he is, with a quote from decades ago (found in God in the Dock) that might as well have been penned in response to yesterday’s announcement:
“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. This very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be ‘cured’ against one’s will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals.”
Originally published at the Standing for Freedom Center.
William Wolfe served as a senior official in the Trump administration, both as a deputy assistant secretary of defense at the Pentagon and a director of legislative affairs at the State Department. Prior to his service in the administration, Wolfe worked for Heritage Action for America, and as a congressional staffer for three different members of Congress, including the former Rep. Dave Brat. He has a B.A. in history from Covenant College, and is finishing his Masters of Divinity at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.