Why The Mandate Failed

Video version of this blog post.

We are now a few weeks out from the collapse of the Biden administration’s plan to require nearly everyone to get a COVID-19 vaccine. On January 26, 2022, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration formally withdrew their emergency temporary standard [1]. This was just after the Supreme Court shot down the rule [2], which followed a bunch of lawsuits filed by various states last November [3].

Why did the vaccine mandate fail? The answer is, in fact, profoundly simple:

If people do not trust you, they will not follow you.

Millions upon millions of Americans do not trust this administration. Millions upon millions did not trust the previous administration, and there is a lot more overlap than you might think among those two groups.

There are many well-reasoned arguments about why a vaccine mandate is a good idea [4] but people don’t care about the quality of your argument if they don’t trust you. There is, of course, a long history of vaccine mandates in America [5], not to mention all kinds of other mandates like seat belts and traffic laws and food labeling and registering for the draft but again precedent doesn’t matter if people don’t trust you.

It gets even worse. Because if people don’t trust you and you try to make them do something…they will trust you even less.

This is where we are. We do not trust, so there is a patchwork of rules. Some employers require vaccines, others do not. Some schools require masks, others do not. There are entire cities where you have to show your vaccine paperwork to enter a restaurant, and other places where that would be unthinkable.

We don’t know who to trust, and for the most part, we don’t trust anyone we don’t know. And that decision is for good reason: over and over again, our leaders have proven that they do not keep their word and do not act with integrity.

This is why the mandate failed. And it’s why so many institutions—including our government—are failing us as well.

Trust is the answer. But only if we can find leaders who are worthy of it.


[1] https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2022/01/26/2022-01532/covid-19-vaccination-and-testing-emergency-temporary-standard

[2] https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-59989476

[3] https://www.healthcarefinancenews.com/news/eleven-states-file-lawsuit-over-vaccine-mandate-private-businesses

[4] https://www.healthaffairs.org/do/10.1377/forefront.20211029.682797/full/

[5] https://www.chicagotribune.com/coronavirus/sns-stacker-vaccine-mandates-us-history-20211021-uukb4yssaff37fzqfoolh4diki-photogallery.html

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