(This article first appeared in the American Spectator)
Since last May, numerous Pennsylvanians have wanted Dr. Rachel Levine removed as health secretary for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. At the height of the COVID surge last spring, a number of politicians and pundits throughout the state called for Levine’s resignation because of the health secretary’s disastrous decision to move COVID-infected patients into Pennsylvania nursing homes, where the death rate exploded to levels worse than even in the state of New York.
But Levine did not go. Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, a cultural radical, refused to let Levine go. Instead, liberals rallied to Levine as nothing short of a transgendered hero being victimized by the brute sin of “relentless misgendering.” They sought to make Levine a martyr. Levine’s critics protested that their objections had nothing to do with “misgendering” Levine but rather with Levine misdirecting COVID patients into nursing facilities. Their objections fell on deaf ears — or at least Wolf’s deaf ears. Levine stayed.
But alas, coming to the rescue of Pennsylvanians is an unlikely ally: President-elect Joe Biden.
The day before his inauguration, Biden heralded a new era for “transgender” rights when he tapped Rachel Levine to be his incoming assistant health secretary. So Pennsylvanians’ demands that Levine leave are resolved. Rachel Levine is headed to Washington. In so doing, Joe Biden is being praised by cultural revolutionaries for fulfilling the bold proclamation he had made to them a year ago: “Let’s be clear: Transgender equality is the civil rights issue of our time.”
And have no doubts, to liberals that’s what matters most.
“Biden selects transgender doctor Rachel Levine as assistant health secretary,” said the headline in the Washington Post, which quoted the incoming president: “She is a historic and deeply qualified choice to help lead our administration’s health efforts.”
Pennsylvanians beg to differ — and on precisely that matter of qualifications. Of course, they need to know that when Biden and fellow progressives talk qualifications, it’s identity-politics qualifications they have foremost in mind. Nothing, truly nothing, animates the modern liberal mind more than identity politics. You are a person to be placed in a category, period. What matters most is the identity group in which they want to place you.
Outsiders unfamiliar with the Pennsylvania situation need to know that Levine largely avoided everyone’s radar throughout her four-year tenure. It was not until the COVID scandal that many of us even knew who Levine was. I can personally attest that I knew not a thing about Levine, including that Levine identified as transgender, until the COVID-nursing home scandal thrust the health secretary onto the front pages (and I’m someone well-informed about politics).
I wrote at length here at The American Spectator last May about Levine’s nursing-home scandal in Pennsylvania. I encourage readers to go back and read that entire article. I’ll summarize just a few of the troubling highlights:
By late last May, as COVID took off in the northeast, Pennsylvania had registered a staggering proportion of its COVID deaths in nursing homes. The estimates were 70 percent. A devastating investigative piece was published in the Bucks County Courier Times. Titled, “States ordered nursing homes to take COVID-19 residents — Thousands Died,” it documented the starkly disproportionate death rate in nursing homes, which was way higher than surrounding states, even exceeding Emmy-award-winning Angry Andrew Cuomo’s New York, which, with a nursing-home death rate of 17 percent, looked idyllic by comparison.
The report noted that on March 29, Pennsylvania joined New York and other northeastern states in “ordering nursing homes to admit medically stable residents infected with the coronavirus,” despite warnings from groups like the American Health Care Association that such “health directives” could “unnecessarily cost more lives.”
Yes, obvious warnings. Who, after all, but a fool would move infected COVID-19 patients into nursing facilities? What was the other option, moving them into Walmarts?
And who was responsible? The report singled out Dr. Rachel Levine:
On March 18, Pennsylvania Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine directed licensed long-term care facilities to continue admitting new patients, including those discharged from hospitals but unable to go home, and to readmit current patients after hospital stays.
“This may include stable patients who have had the COVID-19 virus,” according to a copy of the guidelines.
Continued admissions was ordered “to alleviate the increasing burden in the acute care settings,” according to the directive.
We Pennsylvanians were shocked by this. We knew of the irresponsible stupidity of what Andrew Cuomo had done in New York. It never occurred to us that the same inexplicable recklessness might be taking place in our state — until we noticed the alarmingly high number of deaths in nursing homes, and then read reports like this.
Moreover, we learned that Dr. Levine’s own 95-year-old mother was (wisely) simultaneously removed from a nursing home. “My mother requested and my sister and I, as her children, complied to move her to another location during the COVID-19 outbreak,” Levine confirmed in a press conference.
You bet, Dr. Levine. Can we move our mothers, too?
I asked in my piece for The American Spectator:
So, who’s responsible? Who made these decisions? To what degree should Rachel Levine be blamed, or Tom Wolf? Are the reports accurate? Certainly, hard questions need to be asked. And the politics of Wolf and Levine probably helps explain why the liberal national media has gone easy on them…. In fact, Levine is a liberal darling as the nation’s first (and arguably highest ranking) transgendered public official.
In the interim, questions were demanded of Levine by media sources and pundits from the left and the right, but Levine’s protectors rallied because of the transgender issue, which seemed to trump all other considerations and was used to beat back Levine’s critics.
Now here we are in January 2021, and Joe Biden has chosen Rachel Levine as his assistant health secretary. He does so invoking the transgender status. And liberals? They cheer, they rave. What matters most to the cultural revolutionaries is just that — Levine’s transgender status.
“Dr. Rachel Levine will bring the steady leadership and essential expertise we need to get people through this pandemic — no matter their zip code, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability — and meet the public health needs of our country in this critical moment and beyond,” said Biden in a statement. “She is a historic and deeply qualified choice.”
No, Joe. If this was about Levine’s work with the COVID pandemic, this would not be the essential, historic, and deeply qualified choice. Levine’s handling of COVID would actually be a disqualifier to those more concerned with the health secretary’s work on the pandemic than Levine’s gender.