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One of the great topics of conversation among people who love politics tends to be centered around pragmatism and taking so-called “incremental” steps to achieve a goal as opposed to a so-called “all-or-nothing” approach.

Often a legislator will start with the goal of the “all-or-nothing” approach in mind and simply accept the farthest incremental step they can get enough others to take in passing legislation.

While I’m not a big fan of pragmatism and incrementalism, I recognize there are times when it is necessary. Besides that, not EVERY political issue can or should be viewed through the prism of “my way or the highway.”

But there are certainly exceptions.

It is the whole idea of having an open fist when it comes to issues and then a closed fist when it comes to other — perhaps more moral — issues. In the open hand are issues where there is room for negotiation. Time to take incremental steps.

But in the closed hand are issues that simply are either too life and death to “meet in the middle” or simply have a shot clock.

Anyone with a pulse and a kindergarten diploma (if there are kindergarten diplomas) could have predicted what has happened with COVID vaccine employer mandates way back in March. One would have to be willfully blind not to see what was clearly on the horizon. And I suppose some were. They likely didn’t want to believe it would come to this — Iowans having to choose between their job or having a drug injected into their body they do not want to have injected into their body.

Yet here we are. And, if we’re being completely honest, it was inevitable.

The bill addressing COVID vaccine employer mandates that passed through the Iowa legislature last month did two things. First, government intervenes in private business by forcing private businesses to accept medical and religious exemptions to the vaccine. So that whole “well, you know, government shouldn’t/can’t tell a private business what they can or can’t do” argument is completely out the window now.

Second, if an employee is fired based on their COVID vaccination status, they are not disqualified from unemployment.

That is seemingly it.

Now, there is hope that it could also result in wrongful termination lawsuits if someone is fired for their vaccination status. And there is hope that employers are now incentivized not to fire someone for their vaccination status.

But based on what Iowa employers are currently doing — forcing employees to pay for their required weekly COVID test if they’re unvaccinated, putting unvaccinated employees on unpaid administrative leave, making sure vaccinated employees can be identified from unvaccinated employees, offering financial incentives for workers to get vaccinated — it is all happening right now.

But some well-intentioned lawmakers will still defend the COVID vaccine employer mandate bill that passed last month by referring to it as an “incremental” step.



Let’s say you are the coach of a football team. Almost every coach would love to see their offense go on a 12-play, seven-minute touchdown drive where it picks up chunks of yards INCREMENTALLY.

It eats up time. Gives the defense a break. Keeps the opposing defense on the field. And results in points.

You will not find a football coach in the NFL who would not gladly take a game full of “incremental” offensive possessions.

But, and this is the kicker, there also comes a time in every football game where the incremental offensive approach is of no use.

Fourth quarter. Home team trails 22-17. Home team has the ball at its own 40-yard line with 18 seconds left.

A field goal might make the final score look prettier. It might even pad some kicker’s stats. Heck based on the point spread it could even make those gambling on the game happy.

But, grand scheme of things, anything short of a touchdown is a failure because it will lead to a loss. Period. End of story.

No coach goes into a game planning to run a Hail Mary pass play in the fourth quarter. But when the situation warrants such a decision, they do it because it is the most likely tool they can use to win a football game at that point.

Enter the vaccine mandate bill.

Perhaps it would’ve been a good bill — maybe a great bill — if it were done in March, April or May. But Iowans went through June, July, August, September and most of October facing vaccine mandates from employers.

And some Iowans are still having to embrace that reality today. The clock is ticking. The hourglass is nearly ready to be turned over.

Heck, many Iowans likely already made a decision. They either bit the bullet and allowed something to be injected into their bodies they didn’t want or they quit their job.

But deadlines are rapidly approaching. There is a lot of unknowns in regards to the Biden vaccine mandate.

And Iowa legislators may indeed return to the Capitol in early 2022 and add more protections to Iowans.

But it will be too late for many.

And that is the problem with taking an incremental approach to something that is inevitable, comes with deadlines and will have a drastic impact to countless Iowa workers.

Perhaps legislators believe these additional protections will be needed for the future? But if the protections are put in place after — AFTER — the mandate goes into effect and people are essentially coerced into vaccination or fired or placed on unpaid administrative leave or must undergo weekly testing or get tagged as an “other” in society… after any of that happens, it will not help.

Nobody is asking for help after being fired or after any of the above happens. They’re asking for help now. They’re simply asking for their ability to keep their job while also keeping their medical freedom and bodily autonomy.

In reality, they aren’t asking for much.

I would imagine that if legislation were passed taking “incremental” steps to ending abortion, if the babies who will still be aborted tomorrow could talk and protest, they would express their displeasure at the “incrementalism.”

While those unborn babies will never be able to make their voices heard, the Iowans who are being treated as second-class, third-rate citizens simply for their vaccine status do have a voice.

And when people are directly impacted in the ways this mandate is directly impacting them, we really shouldn’t be surprised when they tell us incrementalism isn’t good enough.

Author: Jacob Hall