I want to use the word ironic, but apparently everyone uses it incorrectly (but it certainly seems ironic) that the party that gave us the most authoritarian president ever is going berserk over what they call mandates.
It’s not necessarily a COVID thing. Republicans lost their minds over the mandate provision in the Affordable Care Act, a provision that would have helped fund the health care act and would have made it more inclusive. They took their complaints about the unconstitutionality of a “mandate” in a democracy all the way to the Supreme Court. They have complained about seat belt laws which have saved untold numbers of lives. They have complained about using politically correct language on campuses when campuses became more diverse, and students felt included enough to ask for more consideration.
White dominance on college campuses had encouraged bad linguistic habits. Insults to nonwhite groups had become ingrained in white speech and white people resented having to train themselves to speak differently. Instead, they began a fierce campaign against political correctness which still gets cited by many conservative academics as the worst sin of the liberals (the Democrats). These academics know very well that words express whole schemas of stored experiences that affect the ways we interact with others. Political correctness was not even mandated behavior; it was socially determined behavior.
Republicans have forced liberals to accept gun laws which we consider dangerous, and which feel very much like mandates because we are not allowed to change any gun laws no matter how careful we are to preserve the rights of hunters and sport’s enthusiasts. Nothing will do, even when the nation lives in an almost constant state of grief, but to insist that any gun regulations go against the Second Amendment of the US Constitution. Perhaps not called a mandate, but it feels like one.
We are not living amidst a rebellion against England these days, and yet it feels that we are very close to a rebellion by one group of Americans against another group, or a Civil War. We already had a Civil War, and it was a bloody nightmare which we have never put behind us. In fact, as I write this the January 6 th Investigative Committee is live on TV replaying events that seemed like a rebellion to many of us. It is difficult to figure out what the militias are fighting for. Are they fighting to keep a president in power, even though he lost a free and fair election? Are they fighting to keep racial hate and to continue to insist that men who lost the Civil War are American heroes? Was this meant to become a mandate by force?
Are Republicans fighting because they were told that white folks will be in the minority in the future? Clearly no one minority group will hold a majority. These numbers add all minority groups into one monolithic voting bloc which would mean that all these groups agree to vote together and agree on every issue, perhaps to spite white folks. This is a myth created by Talk Radio and Fox News to rile up white people and stir up racism. Minority groups are not a single voting bloc.
Republicans are being asked to give up a lot, mostly things that are a negative drag on American society, and attitudes that should have changed long ago. If we could really conquer our persistent racism and put aside pseudoscientific research that purports to prove that the darker the skin the lower the intelligence, it would free America to be the example to other nations that we always pretended to be.
We wish we could mandate changes in prejudices, but experience tells us we can’t mandate people to change their minds, we can only brainwash folks, as the right-wing has done, to think differently. Democrats don’t really buy into brainwashing as a valid political tactic in a democracy/republic. Is brainwashing preferable to issuing mandates? Only when you don’t realize the strategy is being used.
Republicans have wrapped themselves in victimhood and see every act by Democrats as an attack against Republicans. It is not Democrats or Republicans who caused the COVID pandemic. It is not Democrats who determined that the disease travels by air from person to person. It is the nature of the disease. But Republicans hear the word ‘mandate’ and they decide that any mandate is just about the Democrats making the right-wing do something that will take away a right. What right does a mask mandate take away? Is the mandate political? The forty-fifth president tried to force Americans to work normally through COVID because of the economy. He basically wanted workers to suck it up and get back on the job. He didn’t mandate it, but you can bet he wanted to.
It seems that the entire objection is to the word mandate. Isn’t an Executive Action a mandate, a decree, a ruling. Trump signed 220, but every President has used executive orders. They are mandates without input from Congress. Trump fired five Inspector Generals in his last months in office to avoid any criticism and show that he had a mandate to govern absolutely. He just did not use the word mandate.
Americans need to decide. Is issuing mandates undemocratic? Are there times when mandates are necessary and acceptable? Should mandates last forever or time out? Who has power in a pandemic, the federal government, the individual states, or the individual citizen? Republicans already declared themselves the greatest patriots, the protectors of our constitutional rights, and yet they elected a man who came closer to the Big Brother figure portrayed in the book 1984 by George Orwell than any other president. Trump seemed to believe that he was founding a dynasty by divine right and should be treated as a king.
How sympathetic should we be to Americans whose behavior and what they say they believe is illogical and disruptive. ‘We love this authoritarian man and anyone who acts like him, but we refuse to follow health guidelines because they are mandates and mandates are authoritarian and these mandates have been issued by authoritarians we don’t like.’ The right-wing has been bullying the left.
Must we give up all mandates, even those which are promulgated to protect our health, or can we agree that, within careful limits, some mandates are necessary. Having sympathy for and excusing people who refuse to accept health mandates feels an awful lot like anarchy sometimes. Republicans have mandated that their interpretation of the US Constitution is the correct one and that their version is final. This seems like the biggest and most authoritarian mandate of all.