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The Glorious End of DC’s Vaccine Mandate

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Amidst dark times – a New York Times columnist has called this the “dark century” but he is at a loss to figure out why – we should pause to note genuinely good things that happen. Among them is the sudden collapse of vaccine mandates in Boston and Washington, DC. 

With no real explanation that I can find, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser just flat-out said it: the mandate is gone. 

Wonderful. But think about it: how often does a government imposition on this scale get rolled back so dramatically, so quickly? Honestly I cannot think of an instance in my lifetime. Government impositions are sticky: once the bureaucrats seize control, they don’t like to give it up. There is a built-in bias such that (as Reagan said) nothing is as permanent as a temporary government program. 

We can think of few cases of rollback in the last 100 years. Prohibition was repealed but only after 12 years. Industrial regulations in particular sectors were removed in the late 1970s but only after an economic crisis. Clinton scrapped the 55 mile per hour speed limit that had passed in 1974. It had remained in place for 20 years. There has been progress in legalizing cannabis. US wars abroad have had no clear beginnings or endings but rather gradually leave the headlines. 

Rollbacks of major government programs are rare in any case. 

I had presumed that any city that imposed these egregious mandates, for a vaccine that stops neither infection nor spread, would last and last until they become an expected part of our lives. Or at least it would take many years to relax them. 

Instead, one day, boom, they vanished. In DC, they lasted only two months. 

Here are the factors involved, based on my reading. 

Two weeks earlier, there was a massive protest in DC against all mandates and restrictions. Tens of thousands showed up. It was 100% peaceful, nonpartisan, packed with experts who spoke with clarity and precision. 

Because of the mandates, many if not most of the people who came stayed and ate in Virginia and Maryland, causing a huge loss of revenue to DC small businesses and hotels, just at a time when they are trying to get back on their feet following the end of lockdowns. They could have used the business. 

The voices of these merchants were finally heard. God bless commerce, especially undercapitalized small businesses that still have something to gain from freedom. I’m willing to speculate that their influence weighed heavily in the decision to quickly roll back the mandate. 

On the sudden repeal, the Zoom-class reporters at the Washington Post were clearly unhappy. “About three-quarters of DC residents support the city’s vaccine requirement to enter certain businesses, a policy that Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) ended Tuesday,” the news reporter scolded. 

In the poll, “Majorities across the city support the vaccine requirement, including 86 percent of White residents, 63 percent of Black residents.” Very interesting that one-third of blacks do not support the mandate. Also interesting that the Washington Post sees fit to completely disregard their opinions. 

The Washington Examiner drilled into the poll data a bit more to reveal a theme that has generally defined the pandemic response:

The more “privileged” the demographic, the higher the support for masking, according to the polling. Whereas 85% of white college graduates supported the mandate, barely 3 in 5 black noncollege graduates did. Just 2 out of 3 parents with children in public or public charter schools supported the mandate, compared to nearly 4 in 5 of those without them. Nearly 2 in 5 residents of Wards 7 and 8, both the poorest in the district and each with a 90% black population, opposed the mandate, compared to just 1 out of 5 residents of the rest of Washington.

The group most supportive of Bowser’s coronavirus regulations? White women, overwhelmingly. Just 11% of them thought the mayor had imposed too many rules. In fact, unlike the question specifically of the vaccine mandate, which was divided by race, gender was actually the most significant factor in whether residents believed Bowser to be too stringent in her pandemic response. While 22% and 16% of white and nonwhite men, respectively, thought Bowser imposed too many restrictions, 11% of white women and 12% of nonwhite women did.

There we have it. The poor, the minorities, the underprivileged despise the law that seems only to benefit elites. Just to be clear, this is not just about public opinion. This is about access to basic freedoms. Apparently the “liberal” elites think only of themselves and not the general good, a truth which has become unbearably obvious throughout the pandemic.

Perhaps too this has something to do with the demographics of vaccination in DC. 

Consider the implications here please. In the town where Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his famous speech, two-thirds of black residents ages 18-24 have been barred by law from public accommodations. In general, half the black population has been shut out of public life by law. They could not go to restaurants, museums, libraries, bars, or theaters. This went on for months with absolutely no comment from the DC ruling class. 

It’s utterly bizarre that this could have happened. You could say: this was about health, not racial discrimination. But in the private sector, if a hiring practice has a disparate impact as it relates to community demographics, it raises serious concerns about systemic discrimination. Yet I don’t recall reading any word from a high-end DC pundit on this subject as it pertained to the vaccine mandates. 

The mayor undoubtedly understood this. How in good conscience can such a rule stay in place? It’s still in place in New York City of course, which is also closed to half the black residents. Just incredible. And unconscionable. 

But so it has been throughout this dark period. The elites make the rules and everyone else is supposed to endure the burden, however intensely it falls so disproportionately on the less privileged populations.. Unless they speak out. Unless they make their voices heard. Unless they gather and say what they believe. Unless some leader has pangs of conscience. 

The smearing of the DC protesters, and brutal suppression of the Truckers Convoy and protests, have been painful to watch but the impact has been clear. The mandates are being repealed in cities and provinces, and the impact is being felt around the world, including in DC. 

Perhaps for now, they won’t get their vaccine passport system, their newly segregated society, the erasure of bodily autonomy, and a permanent caste imbalance between the rulers and the ruled that the Enlightenment long ago condemned as despotic. 

It’s just one victory but it raises a point of light: maybe there is hope after all. 

Author

  • Jeffrey A. Tucker, Founder and President of the Brownstone Institute, is an economist and author. He has written 10 books, including Liberty or Lockdown, and thousands of articles in the scholarly and popular press. He writes a daily column on economics at The Epoch Times, and speaks widely on topics of economics, technology, social philosophy, and culture.


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