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Joe Biden’s unserious pandemic response

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If it were up to Joe Biden, the national shutdown implemented due to the coronavirus pandemic would never end.

When he accepted the nomination for president on the final night of the Democratic National Convention, he promised that if elected, he would pass a federal mask mandate as part of his effort to defeat the virus.

“It’s a patriotic duty,” he declared.

Of course, Biden didn’t bother to elaborate on this proposed mandate or explain how his administration would enforce it — because he knows that such a heavy-handed restriction would be legally dubious and almost impossible to enforce.

Under the U.S. Constitution, states have the primary duty to protect public health and safety. This is why many of them have been able to pass their own mask mandates, while others have simply encouraged residents to follow suit. No president may usurp that authority even during a pandemic. And no president would have the law enforcement personnel necessary to enforce it, either. At a time when there is supposed to be a national reckoning about excessive policing, do Democrats want to create a new policy that, if enforced, would require many more interactions between police and people in minority neighborhoods?

Masks do not fall under any of the president’s listed constitutional powers, nor under those of Congress. Yet, Biden keeps insisting that a federal mask mandate is not only possible, but necessary. Other Democrats agree. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in June that a national mask mandate is “long overdue,” and other congressional Democrats have claimed that President Trump’s refusal to pass one proves he doesn’t take the coronavirus seriously. But Democrats won’t pass such a mandate through Congress because the whole exercise is nothing but an attempt to contrast their supposedly serious coronavirus response with Trump’s. As long as they can see ways to try and make the president look feckless and aloof, Democrats will persist in such attempts and scuttle back to their base and claim they’re the only party willing to act on behalf of the public — even though they’ve never actually followed through.

It has become clear in recent months that Democrats will say just about anything to put themselves opposite of Trump. When Trump shut down travel back and forth to China early this year, Democrats opposed argued it was premature. We know now that this travel ban was probably one of the best decisions Trump has made throughout this crisis.

The same thing happened when Trump encouraged schools to begin developing reopening plans. Democrats accused him of endangering lives, even though the vast majority of health experts publicly agreed with the president that getting children back to school was the right call.

Now that Trump has ruled out a national mask mandate, Democrats have made it a key feature of their coronavirus platform despite the fact that such a mandate would be unconstitutional and maybe even unnecessary, since we don’t know how prevalent this virus will still be in January of next year when Biden would take office if elected.

The fact is that the Democratic Party has no real plan to combat the coronavirus. Every policy they’ve suggested has been a reaction to something Trump said or did. There has been no initiative, no substance, no thought outside anti-Trump punditry. If Biden hopes to be president, he’ll have to do better with a realistic platform that takes account of constitutional restrictions, the limited nature of the presidency, and the economic and social costs this pandemic has caused.

But that kind of approach would require humility. Because it would force Biden to admit that Trump’s hands-off approach has not always been unwarranted and that this crisis has been far more complicated than most would like to admit.

 

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