Biden's Mandate Messaging Failure

[ Posted Tuesday, November 9th, 2021 – 16:44 UTC ]

We are currently in the midst of yet another Democratic failure to properly frame a political issue. This time President Joe Biden and his administration are largely to blame, although other Democrats should really be pushing back on the media's lazy acceptance of a false Republican narrative as well. When the Biden administration announced a new OSHA rule for all private businesses with 100 or more employees, it should have -- from the very start -- pointedly called it a "testing mandate." Because that is what it is, plain and simple. It is a requirement that all employees get tested once a week for the COVID-19 virus. And that's all it is -- that is the only thing it actually mandates.

Republicans, of course, went ballistic. It's what they're best at, these days. But in doing so, they have (so far) successfully painted the testing mandate as something it is not -- a vaccination mandate. They do this by either conspicuously failing to mention the testing at all, or just flat-out lying about it:

Last week, 41 Republican senators issued a lengthy news release signaling that they would formally oppose the rule, which Biden officially announced Thursday and which a federal judge later suspended. The release ran more than 2,600 words and included quotes from 28 of the senators. Only in two of the quotes and some background at the end was the weekly testing option even acknowledged. Much of it suggested that the choice was a binary one between vaccination and termination of employment for everyone involved.

"This week, President Biden's White House is expected to issue a Rule to officially mandate vaccination requirements for employees at private businesses with more than 100 employees," the release states, adding that the rule "will affect more than 80 million Americans, and imposes $14,000 fines for persons who do not comply."

Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) stated that "Biden issued an ultimatum to force countless American workers to get jabbed or be fired."

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) said Biden's "unconstitutional" vaccine mandate is "a gross overreach of power and forces Americans to make a choice: comply, quit their job or get fired."

Sen. John Neely Kennedy (R-La.) said the Biden policy "would force many Americans either to violate their consciences or lose their jobs."

The Iowa Republican Party, in a separate release on the policy, said administration officials had "unveiled their plan to mandate the vaccine for Americans."

As mentioned, none of this is true. While the Biden administration did previously institute an actual vaccine mandate on federal employees and contractors, that is not what this rule is. This is a rule for all medium-to-large private companies that mandates all of their employees need to be tested once a week for COVID. The employees can avoid these weekly tests (which they may actually have to pay for) by getting vaccinated. It is a vaccination opt-out for a testing mandate, and nothing more.

So why is the Biden White House seemingly incapable of making this basic point? They should have stridently used the phrase "testing mandate" from the get-go, and they should have strongly rejected any attempt by either Republicans or the media at large to call it what it is not -- a "vaccination mandate."

That's Political Messaging 101, really. It's pretty basic. So why hasn't it happened yet?

Forcing people to get tested for the virus is pretty popular with the public. One survey from April of 2020 showed that 68 percent of Americans -- including 60 percent of Republicans -- thought required testing was a good idea. A few months later, the concept got even more popular -- with 81 percent of the public agreeing that it was either "very important" or "somewhat important" to have "regular testing of everyone to ensure a safe work environment for you and your loved ones." Again, 66 percent of Republicans agreed. Polling in January of this year showed the figure of those agreeing with testing mandates still as high as 79 percent.

It's just common sense, really. After all, merely testing for the virus is minimally invasive (a swab sample must be taken), and does not involve injecting anything into the body. While the vaccine itself has become politicized (with red states and counties consistently reporting lower vaccination rates than those in blue areas), that's not what Biden's OSHA just mandated. All they are requiring is testing -- which is a lot harder to make any sort of political case against.

Biden should explicitly make this point. And so should everyone who speaks to the press from a White House podium in the near future. If asked about a "vaccination mandate" for private employers, the pushback should be swift and forceful: "I don't know why you are asking about some sort of 'vaccination mandate' when that does not exist. We are only mandating testing for COVID -- that's it. It is merely a 'testing mandate.' Any employee in a private company with 100 or more employees is free to choose -- or not choose -- to avoid these weekly tests by getting vaccinated, but no one will be fired for not getting their shots. Got that? No one will be fired for refusing to get vaccinated. Period. So how is that in any way a 'vaccination mandate'?"

Sadly, Republicans have been winning this messaging battle up until now. The media has adopted their framing, calling it a "vaccination mandate" up front, and then only reluctantly or tangentially mentioning the "testing option" later on in the story.

Again, Biden and his team should push back: "I object to the way your news organization is portraying this new rule. It is not 'a vaccine mandate with a testing option' -- instead it is 'a testing mandate with a vaccine option.' That's the truth, and I think the news media should tell that truth to the American people rather than buying in to a false Republican narrative, don't you?"

In fact, they should go further in this pushback effort: "Why are you asking me a question that is not based in fact when you haven't bothered to question the ones spreading this falsehood? Why haven't you asked the Republicans who have been fearmongering about people getting fired for not getting vaccinated why they are lying to the American people? Don't you think it is newsworthy that they are lying? At the very least, please don't repeat their lies when you ask me a question about the testing mandate."

This may sound rather academic, but it's not. Republicans are trying to make Biden's reasonable rule sound like something it is not, in order to whip up a public outcry against it. So far, they are succeeding, at least when it comes to the mainstream media. Republicans make statements about the "vaccine mandate" in interviews, and the journalists don't challenge or even bother questioning this falsehood. If Biden and his Democrats were pushing back on the media, perhaps they would sheepishly realize they have bought into some partisan propaganda and change their ways.

But that's the only way the situation is going to change. The media is not going to wake up to the false narrative they have been bamboozled into using on their own -- that much seems clear, at this point. It is going to require a concerted effort to point this out, or else it is just not going to change. Nobody in these private companies is going to get fired for not getting vaccinated, period. Nobody. Because that is not what the rule says. Anyone getting fired will be let go because they refused to get tested weekly. That's a different kettle of fish than the gigantic political fight over vaccination. People can make reasonable arguments against getting vaccinated (reasonable to them, at any rate), but it is almost impossible to make a reasonable argument against merely getting regularly tested for the virus. Refusing the vaccine is one thing, but refusing to get swabbed once a week is another.

It is time for President Joe Biden and everyone who speaks for his administration to make this a clear as day. Because so far, they are utterly failing at this basic exercise in political messaging.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


17 Comments on “Biden's Mandate Messaging Failure”

  1. [1] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    there are plenty of other vaccines people are required to take in order to go to school or work, so what's the big deal?

  2. [2] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Precisely! This should be part of the messaging, Joshua ...

  3. [3] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    I just heard about the radio host who is currently on a hunger strike until Congress passes the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.

    I hope everyone here gets on board with this and calls their congress people!

  4. [4] 
    Don Harris wrote:

    Yet no one here seems to think that the trolls that post the same kind of nonsense about One Demand should be called out.

  5. [5] 
    Don Harris wrote:

    NYpoet (1)-

  6. [6] 
    Don Harris wrote:

    Liz (2)-
    Did you read the article?

  7. [7] 
    Don Harris wrote:

    "Refusing the vaccine is one thing, but refusing to get swabbed once a week is another."

    Refusing to take the One Demand vaccine is one thing, refusing to discuss it is another.

  8. [8] 
    Don Harris wrote:

    "So why is the Biden White House seemingly incapable of making this basic point?"

    It almost makes one suspect that Biden and the Deathocrats are just playing their part in the show.

    So why is the media seemingly incapable of making this basic point?

    It almost makes one suspect that the media is just playing their part in the show.

  9. [9] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Immitation is the highest form of flattery, or something. :)

  10. [10] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    immolation is the sincerest form of flattening?

  11. [11] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:


    Well, eventually. Ashes will flatten if they get a little jostling from the breeze.

  12. [12] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    Just a...justa...justa...justa.. just-a just...a LITTLE RESPECT

  13. [13] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    Plus, dunno how old you are but "Imolation" suggests Buddhist Monk setting fire to himself in 'Nam to this Boomer.

  14. [14] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    Hey, me and CRS appear to be the old guard here in Weigantia. Don's getting there but seems sub-60. Elizabeth Kick et al are younger than us, t'would appear, but WTF do I know.
    No matter what, it's all well if'n indeed, the Arc of History...

  15. [15] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    I'm with Don. Ahem.

  16. [16] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Well, I attended my first and only PRiSM concert in, ah, 1977 ... :)

  17. [17] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    looks like you and i are at FAR opposite ends of gen-x

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