The single biggest job for our government right now is to distribute the vaccine….and it isn’t going very well. The Trump Administration projected 20 million Americans would receive the vaccine by the end of 2020, but we ended up with less than 3 million people. Mitt Romney has called out the incompetence: “That comprehensive vaccination plans have not been developed at the federal level and sent to the states as models is as incomprehensible as it is inexcusable.”
The federal government is uniquely suited for vaccine distribution- it is not something that should be left solely up to the states. Many of the states are on the edge of financial catastrophe and do not have the infrastructure for this type of situation. It is reflective of Trump’s failure to actually develop a coherent strategy to deal with Covid and his abdication of responsibility. When Republicans rail against “big government and big taxes”, they are limiting the ability of the federal government to handle large, ambitious projects like this. Trump’s continual attacks upon our foundational institutions (FBI, Department of Justice, Electoral College, CDC etc.) has paralyzed or weakened them at the time we need them the most.
One of the reasons that Trump’s attacks have been so successful is that the Democratic Party does not do a good job of messaging around the role of government. Too often it is viewed as the enabler of handouts and lazy behavior. Thomas Frank wrote about it in his book “What’s the matter with Kansas?” More and more rural, white Americans distrust the federal government even though they support many of the individual programs (Medicare, Medicaid, stimulus). The great accomplishment of the modern Republican Party is to convince so many Americans to vote against their own economic self-interest.
A huge segment of the Republican Party has gone along with Trump’s rampage and his chief enablers are in Congress. The actions of Mitch McConnell, Marco Rubio, Lindsay Graham, Ted Cruz and the rest of them will go down in infamy. They had an opportunity to put country above party and failed to do so. Hundreds of thousands of Americans will have died for no reason and millions of lives have been devastated by their failures.
The way we protect our citizens, get kids back in school, reopen businesses and return to a semblance of normal life is through a massive, rapid rollout of the vaccines. One of the most heartening things about a Biden Administration is the large number of efficient, competent managers who will be joining it and know how to handle such a rollout. The incoming Administration is obviously going to be hampered by the unprecedented lack of cooperation from the Trump Administration during the transition. In 18 days, we will get to see what it looks like to have competent federal leadership that actively works to protect all of our citizens and get everyone vaccinated. It is time to use every resource that the Federal government has at its disposal.