The Very Model of a Modern Covid Authoritarian

Few Americans embody the Covid regime as well as Dr. Richard Pan. He acquired his power through courting contributions from the pharmaceutical industry and then used his power in government to demand censorship of his opponents. While Americans suffered under lockdowns and mandates, he demonstrated an ongoing disdain for constitutional freedoms and disregard for human suffering.

He spouted untruths while accusing his opponents of misinformation, and he used the cudgel of “public health” to justify his attacks on the American way of life. All the while, he appeared obtuse to the profound damage his policies had on children.

Pan, a former California State Senator, evidently believes he deserves more power as he has announced his candidacy for Mayor of Sacramento. The election in March provides an opportunity for a referendum on the Covid regime’s most fundamental tenets: censorship, lockdowns, school closures, mask policies, vaccine mandates, and the influence of the pharmaceutical industry.

The Archetype of the Regime

As a California State Senator, Pan authored Assembly Bill 2098, a law that authorized the California Medical Board to strip doctors of their medical licensing if they shared Covid “misinformation,” which he defined as any statement that “is contradicted by contemporary scientific consensus.” Governor Gavin Newsom later repealed the law after a federal district court found it unconstitutional

Pan did little to hide his disdain for free speech. He called on the California Medical Board to revoke Dr. Jay Bhattacharya’s medical license for opposing AB 2098. In an op-ed for the Washington Post, he called anti-vaccine advocacy “akin to domestic terrorism” and demanded that social media companies ban users and groups that challenged government-approved Covid narratives. 

In the article, he accused those who didn’t share his vaccine fanaticism as being corrupted by “a financial interest.” Pan’s career path, however, suggests conflicts of interest of his own. 

Pan entered the California State Senate in 2014 after winning a tightly contested primary. The Sacramento Bee reported that Pan “raised more money than his opponents” and “also benefit[ed] from big spending by outside interest groups,” including health care lobbyists. 

The following year, Pan received more contributions from the pharmaceutical industry than any of his colleagues as he introduced legislation to heighten vaccine requirements. Big Pharma and its trade groups “gave more than $2 million to current members of the Legislature,” The Sacramento Bee reported that year. “The top recipient of industry campaign cash is Sen. Richard Pan, a Sacramento Democrat and doctor who is carrying the vaccine bill.”

In 2018, Pan proposed the “Online False Information Act,” which would require anyone who posted news on the internet to verify their information through registered “fact-checkers.” It was an explicit call for prior restraint, a repudiation of the First Amendment’s freedom of the press. 

Two years later, he relaunched his war on dissent under the pretext of “public health.” AB 2098 targeted three categories of Covid-related speech. First, it threatened doctors who deviated from orthodoxy on the nature of the virus, including the danger it posed to healthy young adults. Second, it regulated how doctors could treat patients suffering with covid. Third, it focused on controlling medical narratives surrounding the Covid vaccines. 

The legislative record revealed that he and his colleagues hoped to address the “problem” of doctors who “call into question public health efforts such as masking and vaccination.” Their proposed solution was to end the debate in the professional sphere. 

The law’s broad definition of “misinformation,” subject to change at any moment based on the capricious whims of bureaucrats, was a deliberate attack on free speech. It stood athwart two centuries of First Amendment jurisprudence and American tradition. The Supreme Court wrote in 1943, “If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.” 

Under the façade of “public health,” Pan sought to establish a malleable orthodoxy designed to silence his critics. After a district court issued an injunction against the implementation of AB 2098, Governor Newsom repealed the law before an appeals court could confirm its unconstitutionality. 

All the while, Pan spread politically convenient lies surrounding Covid. 

He claimed that “unvaccinated 10- to-14-year olds [were] driving the pandemic in the United Kingdom,” calling for teenagers to receive more vaccinations and continue wearing masks. He said that athletes at the 2022 Olympics should perform their sports wearing facial covers, arguing that “exceptional performance is not a problem wearing a mask.” His evidence was that “neurosurgeons perform hours-long intricate brain surgery wearing masks.”

In February 2022, he called for continued mask mandates for California school children and introduced a bill that would “require a Covid-19 vaccine for school enrollment.” while eliminating all of the state’s personal belief exemptions. He insisted that “natural immunity is clearly rubbish” and that “puberty blockers” are “reversible.”

Reclaiming the Republic

Pan may be the most direct referendum voters get on the Covid response. On every issue that redefined our world beginning in March 2020 – lockdowns, school closures, masking, the influence of the pharmaceutical industry, the politicization of science, vaccine mandates, and censorship – Pan proudly supported the regime. 

The recent election in New Zealand suggests that voters crave a referendum on the Covid response. On the eve of the election, the New York Times conceded, “the dog years of the pandemic have dragged on, and there is a strong sense that the country has never been further off track. And so, when they head to the polls on Saturday, polls show, most will vote to punish the governing center-left Labour Party, which under Jacinda Ardern won a historic majority just three years ago.”

As Prime Minister, Ardern was one of the world’s most fervent supporters of lockdowns, censorship, and vaccine mandates. New Zealanders delivered a forceful rebuke to her party’s rule, and she will now come to the United States as a fellow at the Kennedy School of Government. There, she will serve as a model for the incompetence and arrogance at the center of the authoritarianism that took over the world in 2020. 

In America, we have thus far been denied the opportunity to have meaningful referendums on the wide-ranging usurpations of our Bill of Rights. Our Intelligence community, responsible for lockdowns and suppressing free speech, remains impervious to democratic accountability. 

White House officials like Rob Flaherty have cashed in on the revolving door between private and public corruption after using the threat of government retaliation to coerce social media companies into carrying out the Biden Administration’s censorship demands. 

Biden and Trump, both unrepentant for their role in the Covid response, remain their parties’ leading candidates for the 2024 nominations, so we may have to look to the local level to deliver democratic accountability for the despotism from 2020 onward. It is still with us. 

The struggle underneath many headlines and events in our times – and this is true of the reshuffled alliances with hot war in the Middle East – is the desperate clamor to avoid accountability for those who opened the Pandora’s box of hate, division, state power, propaganda, and violence. That appears to be evolving into a civilization-wrecking dynamic of all against all, even as the instigators cower in the shadows. 

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