Friday, July 30, 2021

No, Karen, we’re not masking again: A winning GOP message for 2022 & beyond

By Glenn H. Reynolds | New York Post

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest confused pronouncement about masks is another blow to the embattled agency, whose track record hasn’t been exactly brilliant.

For months, the CDC has married a god-awful communications strategy with a determination to cater to the most irrational whims of the paranoid, triple-masking urban gentry: the whims of the archetypical Karen, in other words.

The latest stutter-step is an embarrassment for the public-health establishment and for a Team Biden left trying to explain what the CDC meant. But there’s also an opportunity here for Republicans heading into the 2022 election: The GOP should run as the anti-lockdown party — the anti-Karen party.

A recent Rasmussen poll indicates that broad swaths of America are skeptical of the lockdown response to the pandemic. What’s most interesting is that the skepticism is highest among groups that are key Democratic constituencies.

Overall, a majority of voters — 55 percent — agree that “despite good intentions, shutting down businesses and locking down society did more harm than good.” Only 38 percent disagree, with the rest unsure.

But the really interesting part is the racial breakdown: White Democrats reject the idea that lockdowns did more harm than good by a 30-plus-point margin. Nonwhite Democrats, on the other hand, are evenly divided.

The divide widens on the question of whether government officials will hold on to too much power in the future: 62 percent of voters say yes. Nearly two-thirds of white Democrats disagree. But note well: By a whopping 64-27 margin, black Democrats fear that officials will abuse their vast new powers.

Those worries sound like what we hear from Trump voters, and I’m reminded of the “Saturday Night Live” skit around the 2016 election, in which downscale black voters and a white Trump voter (played by Tom Hanks) realize they share much more than what divides them on cultural and economic matters.

Perhaps that explains the Democrats’ race obsession in recent years. As the Democratic Party becomes a party of the white metropolitan class and its government-dependent clients, the GOP has emerged as a multiracial party of the working class. Democrats no doubt hope that sharpening racial divisions will help slow that process, but former President Donald Trump did alarmingly well with minorities, from Dems’ point of view.

There is a great deal of pent-up frustration and resentment over the inconvenience, the loss of freedom and the general climate of hectoring that the government’s pandemic response has created. It’s irritating to be lectured by officials who claim to be smarter than you. It’s infuriating to be lectured by government officials who claim to be smarter than you — but clearly aren’t.

The on-again/off-again claims on masks and vaccination are just part of it. Tired of masks? Get vaccinated, they told us. Now they’re saying wear a mask, even if you’ve been vaccinated and even if you’re associating with others who’ve been vaccinated.

And there’s talk of more lockdowns, which a growing body of scientific evidence suggests were perfectly useless and downright harmful.

Even the World Health Organization says that lockdowns aren’t a valid approach, except in very limited cases. According to senior WHO envoy Dr. David Nabarro, “We in the World Health Organization do not advocate lockdowns as the primary means of control of this virus. The only time we believe a lockdown is justified is to buy you time to reorganize, regroup, rebalance your resources, protect your health workers who are exhausted. But by and large, we’d rather not do it.”

So essentially, one of the most used, and most destructive, responses to the coronavirus turns out to be held in odium by WHO. We hear a lot about following the science here, but all too often, that phrase is a political synonym for: Silence, peasant!

Republicans would be foolish not to capitalize on this well-earned distrust of public-health officials, especially among key Democratic constituencies. The Democrats, beholden to the laptop class and to bossy interlopers, are likely to favor extended and intrusive interventions and a long-lasting power-grab by health bureaucrats. 

Republicans can extend the inevitable backlash. And all it takes is a simple, consistent message: The pandemic is over. The vaccines have crushed the virus, with deaths and hospitalizations trending down precipitously. Say no to masks, to irrational rules, to the ways Karen and her bureaucratic servants would suffocate ordinary people’s lives, especially working-class Americans who can’t work remotely.

Will the GOP take this opportunity?

Glenn Harlan Reynolds is a professor of law at the University of Tennessee and founder of the blog.