Polling forces an about-face on mandates

Governor Phil Murphy At The Coronavirus Press Briefing in Trenton, US
TRENTON, UNITED STATES - APRIL 3, 2020: New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy (D) speaks at the Coronavirus press briefing in Trenton.- PHOTOGRAPH BY Michael Brochstein / Echoes Wire/ Barcroft Studios / Future Publishing (Photo credit should read Michael Brochstein / Echoes Wire/Barcroft Media via Getty Images)

This Week: The Briefing, Vol. X, Issue 7

  • Add mask mandates to Democrats’ 2022 woes
  • Trump backs challenger to a House GOP incumbent
  • Kelly, Hassan attempt a desperate gas-tax gambit


Democrats’ COVID blues: In recent weeks, we have looked at two issues that are dogging Joe Biden’s administration. One of them, from last week, was crime. The problem of spiking violent crime and murders has gotten so bad that Biden was forced to come out and give his speech on it. It was an awkward spectacle, given that his party no longer really believes in crime suppression any more, having decided that it is a racist contruct. 

Previously, we also looked at the other quiet but underrated issue of inflation, which is eroding the paychecks of ordinary American workers. The revelation last week that inflation hit a 40-year high is a massive red flag for Biden, whose policies so far and whose policy goals are also all inflationary.

These are both kitchen table issues that affect people every single day. A lack of public safety in one’s neighborhood and a lack of security in one’s finances are both troubling situations that motivate voters — heaven help the politician who ignores them. This is why Biden and Democrats are attempting to talk about them preemptively.

But this week, yet another dangerous issue for Democrats has arisen — or at least, Democrats have belatedly realized that it’s a serious problem for them. That is COVID policy.

There is no reason COVID ever had to become a partisan issue. But Democrats seem to have let their inclination to scold and control overrule their obeisance to scientific reality.

The mask mandates especially, but to a limited extent the vaccine mandates as well, are beginning to backfire politically, to the point that Democratic governors are just simply abandoning them spontaneously without any adequate explanation for the shift. 

The reason why is evident: focus groups conducted by Democrats, reported on in the New York Times, have revealed an electorate that is absolutely furious and wants the pandemic restrictions to be over yesterday. These people are not just tired of the virus in some generic sense; they are tired of liberal politicians using it as an excuse to regulate their lives in ways that do not comport at all with scientific reality or medical necessity.

The political danger to Democrats is acute enough that multiple Democratic governors have abruptly, and for no discernable reason other than poll results, announced that they are abandoning mask mandates within the next two months, both in schools and outside of them. This includes the Democratic governors of New Jersey, Oregon, Delaware, Connecticut, Nevada, and even California (although the teachers’ unions there may yet prove too powerful). 

Note that nothing about the science or data of COVID has changed at all. But the polls certainly have, and Democrats are as responsive to polls as anyone. They now have eight and a half months to get voters to forget their role in needlessly extending stringent, unscientific COVID restrictions.

Leading from Behind: They are moving so quickly that the Biden administration cannot keep up, and this has produced an unintentionally hilarious result. Biden’s CDC is still sticking with the unscientific, teachers-union-demanded school mask mandates, even though there was never any evidence that masks inhibit any significant amount of transmission of the virus within schools. On COVID then, as many have joked, Biden is “leading from behind,” as the old Obama-era adage goes.

But it remains to be seen whether Democrats can make the country forget the lockdowns ( completely ineffective, as a new study shows ) and mandates that have turned American life upside down over the last 24 months.

This is not just a question of Biden’s unpopularity, however. Democrats are beginning to recognize that covid safetyism is costing them a lot of public support. The recent Revelation that more Americans consider themselves Republican than Democratic now is a consequence in part of Democrats inability to let go of the COVID-smothering. Do not underestimate the ability of this issue to move elections in the fall.

House 2022

South Carolina-1: In yet another Trump-related challenge to an incumbent, 2018 Republican nominee Katie Arrington is challenging Republican Rep. Nancy Mace from the Right. Arrington lost her general election under very unusual circumstances after defeating Mark Sanford in the Republican primary. She is embroiled in a controversy regarding her cybersecurity job in the Department of Defense, but she has the endorsement of former President Trump, which could cover a multitude of sins in a Republican district within a Republican state.

Bear in mind that the winner will be running in an altered congressional district, so all things are not equal to prior races.

Governor 2022

Iowa: It appears that no prominent Democrat will get into the race to challenge incumbent Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds. Indeed, with state Rep. Chris Hall bowing out last week, the only candidate in the race against her is Deidre DeJear, an also-ran with less than $10,000 cash on hand. Reynolds, as we noted previously, has $4.8 million cash and must be heavily favored to win. 

The primary is June 7.

It is hard even to believe that Iowa was a Democrat-leaning state prior to the Trump era, just as it is hard to believe that Colorado or Virginia were recently Red states. But this is how the map changes.

Senate 2022

Missouri: Sen. Josh Hawley, R, endorsed Rep. Vicky Hartzler in the crowded, tangled Republican primary to succeed retiring Sen. Roy Blunt. Given that she polls third or worse in most surveys, this may only help confirm the party’s current predicament. Former Gov. Eric Greitens, who was forced to resign from office in disgrace, may be able to win with a meager plurality over a divided field.

New Hampshire and Arizona: Democrats are broadly worried about how high gas prices will affect their prospects in 2022, there is no surprise about that. But the level of desperation may go beyond what anyone had previously anticipated. 

Two of the Democrats’ most vulnerable senators — Mark Kelly  of Arizona and Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire — are floating a ridiculous, gimmicky proposal for a gas tax holiday through the end of 2022. This is quite unlikely to be adopted, but that isn’t the main problem. The gas tax pays for infrastructure, and President Biden recently signed an infrastructure bill. A temporary easing of heightened gas prices is not going to do much except deplete the fund that is supposed to keep roads paved and bridges standing. Tax holidays are temporary measures which are unlikely to improve the economic situation. However, as an instance of naked political pandering, they might make people slightly less upset about the prices they see at the pump this summer. 

All in all, this is not a promising reform measure, and as an instance of political pandering it is probably too transparent to do much good for either of these senators facing re-election.