Progressives may soon be forced to choose between the two.

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Photo by Kayle Kaupanger on Unsplash.

Vaccine mandates were bound to produce a certain amount of pushback.

The Biden Administration, staffed as it is by very intelligent people, had to have known this. Going forward with vaccine mandates was always bound to be more popular with some- loyal Democratic voters- than others- everyone else. At least in the short-term.

There were sure to be constitutional challenges and legal challenges galore, along with bitter disagreements about everything from efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines to the advisability of endowing the U.S. government and public health agencies with this much control over individual medical decisions.

Leadership Democrats must have known there would be privacy concerns to be addressed. There must have been no shortage of purely logistical problems, either. There were no end of HIPPA guidelines to consider. Liability- for adverse reactions, for the legal costs of defending against lawsuits- had to have been on every brilliant political mind in the White House and beyond.

Vaccine mandates were never something to be entered into lightly. Every Democrat in leadership defending vaccine mandates today must first have considered the all important question: How would progressive voters feel if it was Donald Trump doing the mandating?

As, alas: Democratic President Joe Biden is every bit as unpopular with Republicans and Independents as Donald Trump was or is with Democrats and progressives.

During the height of the Trump years, when Russiagate was at its most breathless and speculative, long before the Afghanistan Papers or the Mueller Report, it might have been difficult for Democrats to imagine any president being as unpopular as Donald Trump; let alone one of their guys.

Democratic strategists from the DNC to the Washington Post are contemplating that reality now, and it is none too comforting. Worse, for these still-devoted acolytes anyway, is the undeniable reality that things are likely to get far worse on the ground before they get any better at all.

Gas isn’t going to magically get cheaper, a fact that will suit city-dwelling progressives just fine until they get the balloon payment notice on the back-end in the form of higher and higher prices on everything they buy…which is, of course, shipped via a globalized chain of petroleum-fueled methods.

President Biden recently asked OPEC to take measures to bring down gas prices and they said no.

As a result of rising energy costs and many other factors, inflation, contrary to early assurances and liberal use of the word “transitory”, is here to stay and getting worse by the day. Prices are about to rise even more.

Rents are up. And once rents go up, they tend to not go back down again.


There are shipping delays, port backlogs, a 50% spike in winter heating costs on the horizon; there are still Taliban beheadings to contend with and enough bad economic and foreign policy news to sink the Titanic.

It is into this environment- while proposing historical levels of government spending largesse and presuming to capture information about every transaction over $600 happening in U.S. bank accounts, with a labor shortage, small businesses barely making it, rising crime, and falling quality of life standards- vaccine mandates have fallen like a lead Zeppelin.

Democrats- knowing all this- still went ahead with vaccine mandates. But the law of unintended consequences is immutable. And even with all the number-crunching Biden Democrats must have done on this particular decision, not every angle can be anticipated.

No battle plan survives contact with the enemy and everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.

For instance, there are certain industries which can hardly afford to lose a significant percentage of their current workforce to vaccine mandates or anything else.

Police departments in major cities from Portland to New York City have seen an unprecedented amount of attrition over the past 18 months. Some departments have lost 20%, 30% of their previous workforce.

Many successful state and local efforts to defund police departments in the wake of the murder of George Floyd have since been scaled back, and police departments refunded, but the damage may have already been done.

Who wants to be a police officer in Chicago, Seattle, NYC, or San Francisco? Even when cops do make arrests, progressive district and state attorneys with a mind to reduce the U.S. prison population oftentimes refuse to prosecute in minor cases, and sometimes even in serious cases of violent crime.

A shootout which recently occurred in Chicago is one such case. The perpetrators of the deadly crime in which several people were shot, one fatally, were not charged because they were deemed by prosecutors to be “mutual combatants.”

“When there’s no accountability, meaning individuals who wreak havoc, who fire indiscriminately or fire at a target but without any regard for the sanctity of life and the health and well-being of others, if they do not feel like the criminal justice system is going to hold them accountable, we’re going to see a level of brazenness that will send the city into chaos,” said Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot of the DA’s decision. “We cannot let that happen.”

Police have been ambushed, shot, stabbed. They have worked crowd control at protests where they have had projectiles thrown at them. They have been called racist names. They have been doxxed, falsely implicated and maligned before any facts are known.

Beat cops- the lowest rung on the U.S. justice system ladder, working-class people barely scraping minimum wage- have been scapegoated by the justice for George Floyd movement- while the wealthy, influential perpetuators of racial bias, judicial unfairness, and the school to prison pipeline have been rewarded by these same organizations.

Uniformed cops are facing career criminals newly empowered to resist arrest. Police officers, even those acting in good faith, face new hazards on the job. The risks associated with making a mistake are bigger than ever; the environment- the loss of veteran officers, the slashing of training and crime-prevention budgets, little community support- makes the likelihood of making a mistake in the line of duty even greater as well.

Vaccine mandates may have pushed even more officers to leave the force. Progressives might respond with a resounding “good” until they notice what the sharply rising murder rate is doing to vulnerable communities filled with Democratic voters.

Many police departments are overwhelmed as it is; feeling lucky enough just to have to staff they have. Some police departments in places which have seen both a sharp decrease in police funding and corresponding increase in crime have all they can do to keep answering 911 calls.

Police departments nationwide can’t afford to lose officers over unpopular vaccine mandates. And it may be this crux where two issues important to progressives- criminal justice reform and 100% vaccination rates- come into direct confrontation.

Which will progressives choose? Will they continue to stand for vaccine mandates in the face of such inconvenient opposition or abandon vaccine mandates to stem the rise in crime threatening criminal justice reform efforts?

Whatever choice progressives make, it has the likelihood of influencing not just the next election, but the next five.

Progressives, for their part, are at least likely to choose wisely.

(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)