Republican Tyranny Writ Large

Picture by Hilary Stone Ginsberg

[T]his unconstitutional move is terrifying. This is still America, and we still believe in freedom from tyrants. — Mississippi Republican Governor Tate Reeves

Memo to Governor Reeves:

Tyranny? Really, governor? Requiring a jab in the arm, which is proven effective and which in the above tweet you also call “life-saving,” is tyrannical? Are you not aware that the current Delta surge is a pandemic of the unvaccinated? While you and others erroneously refer to President Joe Biden’s announcement of measures to contain the coronavirus as a mandate, are you not aware that your own state mandates that all children must be vaccinated against a whole host of diseases? Do you not know that Mississippi does not permit any exemptions to this mandate?

Tyranny? Puh-leeze! Give me a break! A shot in the arm, and, while we are discussing tyranny, a piece of cloth over your face hardly constitute tyranny. No, rather, both are merely sound public health policy.

Governor, do you and your colleagues among the other Republican governors want to discuss tyranny? Fine, let us have that conversation. 

What about the tyranny of Texas and other states denying the pregnant control over their own bodies? Is it not tyrannical to force a pregnant person to carry to term the result of rape or incest? To not allow that person to decide the most personal of issues? Is that not tyranny?

What about the tyranny of denying whole groups of citizens the right to vote? Is it not tyrannical to rig elections — as Texas has, and other states are mimicking — so that a minority of voters can insure the undemocratic outcome they want? Some of these laws allow legislatures to overturn the legitimate results of an election. I do not know about you and your definition of tyranny, but throwing out legitimately cast ballots just because voters preferred your opponent strikes me as what tyrannical rulers do all the time. What do you think?

And, while we are discussing tyranny, governor, let us not forget the former president, Donald Trump, who insists to this day that a free and fair election he lost was stolen. Is it not tyrannical for him to attempt to bully Georgia state election officials to “find” enough votes to deny Joe Biden Georgia’s electoral votes and give them to him? Is it not tyrannical for Arizona Republicans to outsource an electoral recount — after three previous reviews confirmed Biden’s victory — to an organization with no experience in tallying votes but which is headed by a Trump loyalist who embraces the former president’s baseless theories? Do you not see a problem with handing control of the recount to an entity that does not follow the normal protocols for protecting the sanctity of the ballots? 

And, finally (although I could go on, but you get the point), what about the tyranny of a defeated candidate who “summoned” and “assembled” a mob, in the words of fellow Republican Liz Cheney of Wyoming, and then directed it to the Capitol in a futile (thankfully) attempt to intimidate and prevent members of Congress from fulfilling their constitutional duty to certify the election of the next president of the United States? Was it not tyrannical for 147 Republicans members of the House and Senate to vote to overturn the election results? A majority of Americans — including me — voted for Joe Biden for president. Do you not think we would find it tyrannical if your fellow Republicans had succeeded in overturning an election that we — a majority — won? 

Excuse me if I am befuddled by your definition of tyranny if none of the above strikes you as tyrannical, while you easily label a vaccine prick in the arm tyranny?

There is much that is absurd about your calling Biden’s directives tyrannical. For one thing, while you call the president’s “mandate” tyranny, Biden, in fact, did not mandate anything regarding workers in private businesses, which is what you and other governors appear to find most objectionable. Biden gave workers in businesses with 100 or more employees an opt-out clause. If a worker does not want to get vaccinated, he or she must submit instead to weekly COVID-19 tests. Mandates require a citizen to do something without exception. Biden’s directive provides a choice for those opposed to the COVID-19 vaccine.

Secondly, your complaint, governor, that Biden’s directive is unconstitutional is rooted in a bad interpretation of law. The Supreme Court has twice upheld vaccine mandates. The first ruling came in a 1905 case involving smallpox. Justice John Marshall Harlan wrote in that decision that a “community has the right to protect itself against an epidemic of disease which threatens the safety of its members.” Moreover, the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 permits the Labor Department to issue standards regarding workplace health, which is what it has done requiring workers in businesses with more than 100 employees to get vaccinated or regularly tested.

Third, I suspect, governor, that you are secretly pleased with Biden’s directives. The president has given you and your Republican colleagues cover to continue to rail against a “tyrant” who “mandates” vaccines, allowing you to shore up your right flank, while Biden’s directives curb a pandemic that is killing your constituents. Voters in your state, governor, will be pleased when the infection rate comes down, and, I suspect, they will not remember the reason. Come election day you can, then, remind voters that you stood unflinchingly against Washington’s “tyranny.”

I find your cynicism in this matter appalling, governor. You are playing Russian roulette with the lives of your constituents, encouraging them to refuse a vaccine you know is safe while you also know that mandates are constitutional and that your state mandates vaccines for all its children.

You are amoral, governor. But thank goodness for you and the rest of us, President Biden knows what to do.

Posted September 14, 2021

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