Should Biden Resign Over COVID-19 Deaths?
Joe Biden has failed the pandemic leadership standards he set for Trump. If he heeded his own words, he'd no longer be president.
In July 2020, presidential candidate Joe Biden stated that lacking “an effective plan” to contain the spread of COVID-19 was an “unjustifiable failure of leadership that costs lives every day.”
During the final presidential debate of 2020, Biden went a step further:
Anyone who is responsible for [220,000] deaths should not remain as President of the United States of America.
Fifteen months after Biden threw down the gauntlet, the highly-contagious Omicron variant is shattering infection records and ushering in another nightmarish January. America’s coronavirus death toll now exceeds 840,000. Many of those deaths were preventable. In a civilized country, there would be grave repercussions for failing to protect citizens from a once-in-a-century pandemic. Yet no Republican or Democratic leader has taken responsibility or faced accountability.
Biden was absolutely right that Donald Trump didn’t belong in the White House. Trump should be liable for the preventable coronavirus deaths on his watch. And if Biden heeded his own words, he’d have to resign for presiding over the doubling of Trump’s death toll. But in our capitalist system, nothing matters as long as the billionaire class is making money.
Amid the COVID-19 chaos and confusion, two things have remained constant: more suffering for the people, more riches for the super-wealthy.
Capitalism sees everything as a profit opportunity, mass death included. Early in the pandemic, Eric Trump tweeted (and later deleted), “In my opinion, it’s a great time to buy stocks or into your 401k.” The CEO of Levi Strauss told CNBC in April 2020, “I like to say that crisis creates an opportunity.” WarnerMedia’s CEO said the pandemic was ”really good for ratings.” He later apologized. If there’s anything you can count on from our system, it’s that lives will be sacrificed to enrich the 1%.
Politicians of both parties have jumped on the COVID-19 money train. According to Business Insider, “as the pandemic raged, at least 75 lawmakers bought and sold stock in companies that make COVID-19 vaccines, treatments, and tests.” That includes Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who grandstands as an anti-vaxxer while buying vaccine manufacturer stocks.
Other countries managed to provide monthly stipends for their citizens, but Republicans and Democrats could barely muster a couple of checks for struggling Americans. Biden’s presidency began with a whirlwind of spin, as his administration tried to convince the public that a promise of $2,000 stimulus checks really meant $1,400.
Biden campaigned as the anti-Trump, offering bold assurances that he would tame the pandemic. In October 2020, he touted his plan to “get this virus under control.” But with all his bluster, Biden’s strategy (aside from pushing vaccines) has mirrored Trump’s: Keep the workers working, the people waiting for crumbs, and the 1% raking in the dollars.
“Whatever differences Americans may think each president has had in their lives,” writes Richard Morgan in the Washington Post, “their pandemic track records have been roughly equivalent: an average of 1,218 dead compatriots every day regardless of who is in power. Nearly one death per minute.” One coronavirus death per minute for nearly two years is a staggering statistic. What’s infuriating is that if the pandemic presidents and their parties had prioritized lives over capital, many of those deaths could have been prevented.
Trump’s pandemic plan — if you can call it a plan — was a hodgepodge of denial, disinformation, and outright recklessness. He presided over roughly 400,000 coronavirus deaths and has faced no consequences for that devastation, let alone for anything else he did as president. (The theatrics of impeachment-lite are not a meaningful consequence.)
The Republican Party has reinforced Trumpism, doing everything in its power to propagandize its base, push conspiracies, and stoke hostility and resistance to vaccines. Against the backdrop of that abysmal GOP record, Biden took the reins and said “hold my beer.”
In a Mission Accomplished moment, Democrats forecast independence from the pandemic by July 4th. A Bloomberg story said “a triumphant President Joe Biden all but announced an end to the pandemic in the U.S.” Joe Manchin predicted, “you're going to see it's getting back to normal.” “Doesn’t the air smell so much sweeter without our masks?” asked Jill Biden.
Six months later, the virus is rampaging across America and Biden has all but given up trying to contain its spread, adopting a callous approach favored by the right: “Send the kids to school and the workers to their jobs and let them get sick.”
Like Trump, Biden could have done much more to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, and much sooner. But Democrats wanted their victory lap, so they promoted vaccines, told people to take their masks off, pretended the pandemic was over, and hoped for the best. A vaccine-only strategy was foolhardy and we’ve been paying a steep — and predictable — price for it.
Most Democrats will bristle at the suggestion that Biden should resign for his pandemic failures, even if he set the standard in his debate with Trump. They pin the blame for the ongoing disaster entirely on people who refuse to get vaccinated, spinning the Omicron wave as a “pandemic of the unvaccinated.”
While data supports the argument that the anti-vaccine movement has prolonged and worsened the pandemic, if you follow Biden’s own standard, the Democratic Party’s laissez-faire strategy of uncontrolled spread is criminal. The disabled, the immunocompromised, those who lack healthcare, and children who can’t get vaccinated or whose parents won’t vaccinate them are paying the price:
Biden officials knew full well that there would be opposition to their pandemic plan among Trump supporters. They had months to prepare, and spent those months making grandiose promises about ending the spread of the virus. Confronted with a mounting death toll and the proliferation of dangerous variants, the Democratic Party determined that corporate donors came first. There would be no other mitigation measures.
We’ll never know how much pain and grief could have been prevented if Republicans and Democrats had focused more on saving lives than lining the pockets of their big donors. But we can say for certain that egregious missteps and misdeeds by Trump and Biden have exacerbated the COVID-19 catastrophe. Will either of the pandemic presidents pay the price?