It's Not A Vaccine Mandate, It's A Testing Mandate

[ Posted Monday, September 13th, 2021 – 15:36 UTC ]

Republicans, as they are wont to do, have been falsely framing President Joe Biden's order to medium-to-large businesses last week as a "vaccine mandate" or "vaccination mandate." House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy even tweeted it out in all caps yesterday: "NO VACCINE MANDATES." On the Sunday morning political chat shows, this framing was presented by other Republicans with little or no pushback from either the hosts or even the Democratic guests. But it is false. It is highly misleading. What Biden ordered for the private sector was not a vaccine mandate. It was a testing mandate. Nobody's going to get fired for not getting vaccinated -- but people could get fired for refusing to submit to weekly testing. That's a big difference. Republicans are trying to obscure this reality by framing it as a "getting fired for refusing a vaccine" issue. And so far, at least on television, this seems to be working for them.

In print, there are a few who are calling this misdirection out. The Washington Post column "The Fix" probably had the clearest example of this (emphasis in original):

[F]or all the pushback on vaccine mandates, this isn't truly a vaccine mandate at all; it's a mandate to either get the vaccine or get tested weekly. You could even call it a testing mandate with a vaccination opt-out, if you wanted to. People who don't want the vaccine needn't get injected with anything or forfeit their job. To the extent this is "authoritarianism," it's the tyranny of a brief-if-relatively-frequent nasal swab.

Republicans are much more comfortable making the anti-vaccine argument than they are about making a similar argument for the "freedom" not to get tested. The anti-vaccine argument has been raging for a while, so they already have their talking points down pat. Somehow, a lot of them have become convinced that being pro-COVID is a winning political argument for them. Time will tell whether they are right or not, but I would guess that the harder they fight to not take preventative measures in schools and in the workplace, the more suburban moms are going to notice. Since this is the big demographic the GOP has lost for the past few elections, it seems particularly self-destructive to stake out a position that puts schoolchildren at risk of death -- but that is exactly what governors like Florida's Ron DeSantis are now doing.

Anti-vaccine arguments are one thing. Anti-mask arguments are another, since nobody really enjoys wearing masks everywhere -- they're uncomfortable and an annoyance, to be sure. But anti-testing arguments? How can anyone even take that position? Undergoing a nasal swab to prove that you have not been infected is some sort of gigantic affront to freedom and liberty? Really? What about the freedom of all the other workers not to be exposed to deadly illnesses in the workplace? The question of being pro- or anti-testing hasn't even been adequately polled at this point, but my guess is that support for testing is going to be higher than public support for either masks or vaccines. What is the harm in taking a test, after all?

More to the point: who is going to quit their job (or force their employer to fire them) just for the freedom not to be tested? That is the question that is really missing from the political debate, at least the one happening over the airwaves.

Biden did kind of confuse everyone, because he announced several initiatives on the same day, including some actual vaccination mandates. But the only people Biden mandated must get vaccines (with exemptions for medical and religious reasons -- not even a total mandate) are: federal workers, federal contractors, teachers paid by the federal government (think: Head Start), and medical workers at facilities that take money from either Medicare or Medicaid (which is almost all of them). These employees will no longer have the opt-out of just being tested once a week. They will have to either claim a valid exemption, get vaccinated, or find other work.

This is not the same as Biden's mandate for employers. In the first place, the private-sector mandate only covers businesses with 100 or more employees, so mom-n-pop businesses aren't even included. But two-thirds of the American workforce will be, which will help the fight against the pandemic. And so far, big business seems to be mostly on board with this effort -- many businesses are going to use the federal order to do what they already wanted to do anyway. It takes the political heat off of the people who run these companies, to put it another way. And a lot of them are actually thankful.

This testing mandate is really a carrot as well as a stick, though. Yes, getting tested will be required. But there is one way to avoid having to submit to weekly tests, of course: get vaccinated. The reward for getting your shots is not having to go through the weekly testing anymore. This could serve to separate those who are strongly anti-vaccine from those who are just lazy or still unmotivated to get their shots. The serious anti-vaxxers will have to be tested to continue employment at a large company, but those who for whatever reason just haven't gotten vaccinated until now will be faced with the choice of getting that test each and every week, or just getting one or two shots in the arm and never having to be tested again. Which (as Biden no doubt hopes) could spur millions to actually get vaccinated.

Those who support Biden need to do a better job of identifying what the real choice is going to be for these employees. Republicans would much prefer to rail about "getting fired for refusing a vaccine," but this just isn't true. Anyone getting fired will be getting fired for refusing testing, and Democrats would do well to point this out as loudly as possible. Maybe sooner or later even the hosts of television political shows will start adjusting their own framing of the issue. Being against getting a vaccine is seen (for better or worse) as being a reasonable stance to take, but being against merely getting tested? My guess is that that is going to sound pretty unreasonable to just about everyone.

Which is why Democrats should practice a stock response, for whenever the subject comes up: "It's not a vaccine mandate, it's a testing mandate. And who in their right mind could be against just testing?"

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


12 Comments on “It's Not A Vaccine Mandate, It's A Testing Mandate”

  1. [1] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Why is this messaging stuff so difficult for Democrats?

  2. [2] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    apropos to nothing in particular, what if bezos, gates, soros, etc. decided to open massive factory towns in wyoming, north and south dakota, with 200,000 workers each, relocated based on partisan affiliation.

  3. [3] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    maybe throw in montana and maine as well. thats one million americans relocated, and what are the electoral results of the move?

  4. [4] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    today's population is more mobile than it's ever been, and it would take relatively few american migrants to flip solidly red states into solidly blue ones.

  5. [5] 
    John M wrote:

    [1] Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    "Why is this messaging stuff so difficult for Democrats?"

    A better question would be:

    Why are simplistic messages so effective with such a large slice of the American electorate?

  6. [6] 
    John M wrote:

    [4] nypoet22 wrote:

    "today's population is more mobile than it's ever been, and it would take relatively few american migrants to flip solidly red states into solidly blue ones."

    Actually this is what has been slowly happening already with states like Arizona, Georgia, Virginia and Texas based on their milder climate and cheaper cost of living.

  7. [7] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    @john m,

    my point is, this process can be pretty easily manipulated with a little investment.

  8. [8] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    John M,

    So, you're saying that Democrats can't even come up with simplistic messages? :)

  9. [9] 
    Don Harris wrote:

    Liz, Nypoet-
    The Deathocrats are good at the messaging- people are just not catching on.

    The Deathocrats (like Republilkillers) have sent a clear message for decades that they will represent the big money interests if elected by taking big money to run their campaigns.

    The problem is that everything they say is designed to obscure that simple fact and citizens pay more attention to what they say instead of what they do.

    Citizens need to "relocate" their votes by demanding small donor candidates and enforcing that demand with their votes.

    Much cheaper than actually relocating and much more effective in electoral results than relocating to another state to vote for the big money candidates from either CMP.

  10. [10] 
    TheStig wrote:

    John M (5)

    Why are simplistic messages so effective? Preconditioning in the pews has a lot to do with it.

  11. [11] 
    goode trickle wrote:

    Don Qui-

    Before anyone here is going to even think about "relocating" their votes you are going to have to back up your claim that all votes are counted.

    Since Bashi and I are wrong by virtue of your declarative statements...( despite what various laws state).

    Why don't you go to any one of the 34 states that require you to be registered as a write in candidate and find the statistic of total ballots cast vs ballots cast for a candidate that will then explain your premise that ALL ballots are counted vs just valid ones.

    When you have that in hand. Provide the link so we can check it out.

    This should be an easy one for you...seeing as how you have already researched this to enable you to say Bashi and I are wrong.

  12. [12] 
    Don Harris wrote:

    Because what you are arguing is not relevant.

    States where write in votes are allowed will get it started.

    In states where write in votes are not allowed or counted only for official write in candidates we work to change it.

    If in those states the information is not available when asked for by freedom of information for an election that has happened it will provide the impetus for the courts to order the states to provide the information in future elections and/or invalidate the write in restrictions.

    Unless you have a link to something somewhere that says that laws cannot be challenged or changed.

    I seem to remember that in 2016 there were reports from Wisconsin about many people that voted down ballot but left the vote for president blank.

    Those ballots were counted as non-votes for president or there would not have been reports of it.

    Stop trolling or go away.

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