The distribution will be a very complex and historic public vaccination operation targeting hundreds of millions of Americans – and several millions of them have resisted following basic safety protocols such as wearing masks because Trump encouraged them not to do so. The vaccination campaign will require a high level of public trust and will involve intense ethical discussions among officials about who should get the vaccine first. The entire program could be damaged if it is politicized. But unless something changes, the Biden team may face the task of addressing these issues all over again, in a frantic catch-up process.
The victims of this neglect will be thousands of Americans who health experts expect to die or get sick in the absence of a coordinated national response to the winter spike in infections and workers trapped in new business restrictions by local leaders trying to get the virus under control – as well as the millions of schoolchildren who are left behind. Indeed, while the classes are still closed.
Unlike Trump, who is swaying in his sense of personal injustice and anger at what he sees as a humiliating loss, Biden has a sense of urgency and new proposals, and he calls for a concerted national effort to mitigate the horrific impact of the war. High infection rates nationwide.
But while he has the moral standing of winning the election, he does not have the strength to carry out his plans until inauguration day on January 20.
Instead, his legal appeals, making little progress in the courts, appear to be explicitly aimed at promoting conspiracy theories among his supporters, maintaining his grip on the Republican Party, and ultimately making Biden’s term illegitimate. The failure of many of the Republican leaders in Washington, who remain hostages to Trump’s political base, to unequivocally refer to Biden as the president-elect or to rebuke Trump for his undemocratic behavior, only undermines the next administration.
Two weeks after the election, it is still surreal and extraordinary for the president to refuse to accept a Biden victory, which matches the 306 electoral college votes he collected himself in 2016. And that he will act that way in the middle of the grave of the national crisis, with 246,000 Americans already dying from Covid-19 and millions. The unemployed is a more visible glimpse into the mind of the president who has consistently prioritized his own goals and satisfaction over the traditional view of the national interest.
Transition tension is a change from recent years
It is not uncommon for there to be animosity between outgoing and incoming administrations, especially when a president is removed from office. The transition from President Herbert Hoover to President-elect Franklin Roosevelt in 1932-1933 – in the midst of another crisis, the Great Depression – was thorny.
There are also expectations that the president will take foreign policy steps, including tougher tariffs on China or tougher sanctions on Iran, that would reduce the forthcoming negotiating room in the White House.
Another departure from norms
In recent years, presidents of both parties have prioritized a peaceful and effective transition of power over personal political criticism, recognizing their duty to secure the health, security, and well-being of the American people.
So the behavior of the current president, apparently out of anger at his defeat and the conspiratorial belief that the investigation into his team’s suspicious and multiple links with the Russians was part of a plot to make his presidency illegitimate, is a stark departure from modern norms.
Trump wants credit for the vaccine
One of Trump’s last few indications of the worsening pandemic was a tweet Monday demanding that historians acknowledge his role in the vaccine breakthroughs.
The president instructed government agencies not to offer traditional cooperation with the incoming administration or to allow the release of millions of dollars in funding, agency office space, and briefings from government officials.
Biden initially responded cautiously to the move, seeming anxious not to further antagonize Trump while the president reconciled with his frustrated hopes of winning a second term. But the president-elect is increasingly warning of the damage caused by the impasse and highlighting the vaccine in particular.
“The sooner we get to the department’s distribution plan, the more smoothly this transition will go,” Biden said in Wilmington, Delaware on Monday.
Biden’s Covid-19 advisory board member, Dr. Luciana Borio, told CNN reporter Wolf Blitzer, on Monday evening, that blocking the administration of the vaccine could have a dangerous effect on its eventual distribution.
“It is very important to know the schedules for manufacturing vaccines,” said Borio. “It won’t be easy; this is a complicated task.”
But the Oregon Governor is a Democrat. Kate Brown told CNN reporter Jake Taber that during a call between state leaders and the White House Coronavirus Task Force on Monday, Vice President Mike Pence made no mention of the transfer of responsibility for distributing the vaccine.
“The vice president has clearly articulated a strategy to distribute vaccines across the country,” Brown said. “But the conversation was very disingenuous when we had a new administration coming in a matter of weeks. There was no discussion about what the handover would be and how they would have ensured that the Biden Harris administration would be so. Quite ready and ready to accept the wand.”