Will the United Kingdom's return to normal force Biden's hand?
Tick, tick, tick...is the end nigh?
The prime minister of the United Kingdom was facing an immediate political death sentence, so what did he do? He declared the pandemic over.
The question now on this side of the pond: Will Joe Biden — himself facing a political death sentence, though admittedly a few months away — learn anything from Boris Johnson?
As the already relatively weak omicron variant wheezes towards its nadir, the calls to end COVID-related restrictions — to remove the elephant that has been sitting on the congested chest of the world — have grown louder and more insistent.
This increasing clamor has already appeared to cause an attitudinal shift among the denizens of the "caring industrial complex," with the groundwork to prepare the pandemic pathologicals among us for the upcoming change already begun. Reporting "with COVID" instead of "from COVID," death rates instead of case rates now being referenced, and quarantine timings being shifted — all of these recent changes in media coverage and the CDC's pronouncements are a hint of what is coming.
Looking at the evidence: Britain's action, Denmark's decision Wednesday to follow suit, massive public protests over the weekend, and a piece from The Lancet (the formerly well respected science publication that unscientifically crushed the discussion of the COVID lab leak hypothesis) on the coming end of the pandemic. There can be no doubt that a paradigm shift (in the actual meaning of the term) is underway.
All of this makes the argument within the administration even stronger for Biden to take the risk and claim victory by ending the pandemic. While it is true that Johnson — for political reasons — was unable to finesse the timing and had it thrust upon him (just as Marge Simpson's sister, Selma, had celibacy thrust upon her), the decision can still be instructive to the Biden administration.
The Biden team will be watching the public reaction to the move intensely, for it will allow them, to use a football analogy, a "free look at the defense" before they throw what could be seen as a political "Hail Mary." Furthermore, they can now point to the U.K. and say, "Hey, they did it, and it worked out fine," bolstering their own argument, reasoning, and talking points, and the inevitable "no, this is obviously not political" claim. Finally, it will also put pressure on Biden to declare the pandemic over because keeping the status quo in the face of a "successful" end will become even more difficult. (If it's a disaster, that's a whole different cup of tea.)
Timing is still a serious and delicate issue, with a number of political observers on the left fuming over the possible end to their "emergency" powers, while observers on the right find it hard to believe that, due to the massive political advantage bestowed on the Democratic-entwined power brokers, the pandemic will ever end. But it should be noted that, while timing an announcement for Labor Day will leave people irritated for the entire summer, that scenario has one significant advantage: due to its proximity to Election Day, it could be claimed that it would be too late to change the current "pandemic" voting systems.
That way, the pandemic is still officially over, but the systemic edge — everyone gets mailed a ballot, drop boxes, harvesting, etc. — that has so indisputably and clearly benefited Democrats up and down the ballot could remain in place.
Declaring victory earlier could make for a more comfortable summer (spring, even?) and a nice bump in the polls, but it's unknown how that would translate into November voter support, something Biden and his party desperately need. It would also mean that an even vaguely "legitimate sounding" (not actually real-life, honestly legitimate, just legitimate-sounding) argument for keeping the systemic advantages in place would become far more difficult to make.
Finally, oddly for Biden, his calculation must consider, not so much his political opponents' reaction, but that of his supporters. People who have been calling for this for months and years will simply shrug and wonder what took so long. People who have lived their lives in stunted fear and abject obedience could take a long time to return, kicking and screaming, to reality.
So happy Labor Day, my Felericans! (As Joe Biden would say.)
Thomas Buckley is the former mayor of Lake Elsinore and a former newspaper reporter. He is currently the operator of a small communications and planning consultancy and can be reached directly at email@example.com. You can read more of his work at https://thomas699.substack.com.