Have vax mandates jumped the shark?

Last night, the Senate dealt a major blow to Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate for large employers, albeit a largely symbolic one. Fifty Republicans were joined by two Democrats, Joe Manchin and John Tester, in the vote to repeal the administration’s vaccine regulations, which have already encountered major legal problems in courts across the country. Given that the measure is not going to be picked up by the House, the Senate vote will not change the law.

Not so long ago, vaccine mandates were assumed by the White House to be good policy and good politics. The fact that more and more judges agree that the administration’s regulations happen to be unconstitutional somewhat undercuts the first claim. The movement away from mandates by a number of high-ranking Democrats undermines the second.

As Politico reported this week, state-level Democrats have cooled on rules that mandate vaccination in private businesses. Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer recently stated her opposition to the measures. New Jersey governor Phil Murphy also decided against a mandate for state employees. New York governor Kathy Hochul opposes “broad-based mandates for all private-sector workers in New York.”

An exception comes in the lanky form of outgoing New York mayor Bill de Blasio. His eleventh-hour measure is far stricter than Biden’s employer mandate: it applies to all private sector employees, no matter the size of the business, and has no testing opt-out option. De Blasio will also ask for proof of vaccination for children as young as five to enter indoor venues in the city. Given the chronically unpopular mayor’s dreadful political instincts, his last-minute embrace of mandates may not be a good sign for those rooting for more Covid rules.

The big question — for New Yorkers and those of us interested in which way the wind is blowing on mandates — is whether incoming mayor Eric Adams will keep de Blasio’s new rules. And we’ll have to wait for Adams to return from vacation in Ghana to get an answer.

*** Sign up to receive the DC Diary in your inbox every weekday ***

Democracy has joined the call

Can you feel the freedom in the air? Can you smell the norms? That’s because Joe Biden’s Summit of Democracies is officially underway. The big multilateral Zoom call has been central to Biden’s foreign policy plans since he entered the White House.

The criticisms, especially from the left, focus on some of the less-than-perfect democracies invited to the gathering. Snarkier takes contend that the US should fix democracy at home before it lectures other countries.

Others argue that only a hard-nosed realist view of geopolitics, especially the China challenge, will do, and that pontificating about the health of democracy is a dangerous distraction.

A few days of video conferencing will, fairly obviously, not rekindle the kind of liberal internationalism that feels like a thing of the past. (Do read Michael Ignatieff’s admirably frank assessment of what went wrong for his fellow liberal internationalists.) And the health of the West, or whatever your preferred grouping of liberal democracies, on the world stage, should ultimately judged by concrete actions in response to the various threats to peace, prosperity and freedom around the world.

But in an emerging cold war with China, it would seem a fatal mistake for the free world not to emphasize the differences between its values and those of an autocratic one-party menace. And insofar as it does that, the summit might prove helpful. The risk, however, is that it becomes a struggle session that underscores democracy’s present discontents. Ultimately, the real challenge is delivering results that prove the superiority of liberal democracy. As Biden himself said in his address to a joint session of Congress in April, “[Xi] and others — autocrats — think that democracy can’t compete in the 21st century with autocracies because it takes too long to get consensus.”

“Autocrats will not win the future,” he said. “We will. America will.” If he is to be proved right, then the sprinkling of idealism represented by today’s summit won’t be remembered as a crucial turning point.

The Hispanic realignment continues

The well-documented rightward shift of Hispanic voters shows no sign of slowing. A poll in the Wall Street Journal finds that on the generic congressional ballot, Latinos are evenly split between the two parties. A year ago, around 60 percent of Hispanic voters backed Democratic House candidates. According to this week’s Wall Street Journal poll, the figure is now just 37 percent.

What you should be reading today

Matt Purple: Missing Bob Dole in witless Washington
Dominic Green: Biden’s diplomacy of disaster
Bill Zeiser: Why shouldn’t conservatives ‘build their own Twitter’?
Brian Riedel, National Review: The worst spending bill in decades
Paul Mozur, Muyi Xiao et al, New York Times: How China censored Peng Shuai
Liel Leibovitz, Tablet: Watching the left give up everything I believe in

Poll watch

President Biden Job Approval
Approve: 42.3 percent
Disapprove: 52.0 percent
Net approval: -9.7 (RCP Average)

Proportion of Americans who say their political system…
Needs to be completely reformed: 42 percent
Needs major changes: 43 percent
Needs minor changes: 12 percent
Doesn’t need changes: 2 percent (Pew)

Sign up to receive the DC Diary every weekday here.