Republicans and conservatives are recklessly or stupidly or (INSERT YOUR FAVORITE DEROGTORY ADVERB) resisted orders issued by many state and local governments mandating facemask wearing in various circumstances to fight the CCP Virus more effectively. No less than Paul Krugman, one of The New York Times‘ uber-liberal uber pundits, says so. So do a number of Republicans – especially those from the nearly extinct Bush wing of the GOP. And special ire is reserved for Prsident Trump, who until July 11 refused to wear a mask in public, and who still hasn’t issued a blanket endorsement of the practice, and remains opposed to a federal mandate.
In the interests of full disclosure, I wear masks (as required by law) when I patronize indor businesses in Maryland (where I live), and would don them in crowded outdoor areas, too (not required). And I’d abide by any mask regulations elsewhere. Evidently scientific evidence on mask effectiveness has been mixed enough to prevent the World Health Organization (WHO) from encouraging their use until June 5. But these coverings make intuitive sense to me, and although I find tem sort of uncomfortable, they’re anything but unbearable.
What I do find irksome is how the Mainstream Media and most of the rest of America’s chattering classes have decided that it’s only one half of the political spectrum that’s to blame for shortfalls in America’s mask-wearing record. Because evidence abounds that there’s lots of opposition, or at least indifference, to masks among Democrats and liberals, too. And the experiences of Florida and California – two big states whose governor have taken dramatically differing approaches to handling the CCP Virus – make the point nicely.
In case you’re ignoring national news completely, Florida deserves special attention because of the “ha-ha factor.” As in “Ha ha – Republican Governor Ron DeSantis had been bragging about how the Sunshine State had suppressed the virus with a light regulatory touch, but lately it’s become a major hot spot.”
Specifically, the indictment against DeSantis began with his refusal to close the state’s beaches for spring breakers and Florida natives who relish the shore, continued with his decision to reopen the beaches and the rest of the state after a shelter-in-place order had been in place fairly briefly, and has been reinforced by his own opposition to order mask-wearing state-wide, which is blamed at least in part for Floridians’ continually casual attitude about face coverings and related practices like social distancing, and the state’s recent spike in cases and deaths. (See here and here for examples.)
But if you look at the pattern of infection in Florida, it quickly becomes clear that Democrats as well as Republicans must be ignoring mask-wearing and distancing en masse. After all, the five Florida counties with the biggest numbers of registered Democratic voters are (in descending order) Miami-Dade, Hillsborough, Broward, Palm Beach, and Orange. Indeed, together, they account for nearly 45 percent of the Florida Democratic total. They also happen to be the state’s five most populous counties, adding up to just under 42 percent of its population.
Yet this Big Five has contained more than 54 percent of the 80,236 new CCP Virus cases recorded in Florida during the week ending yesterday. In other words, these Democratic strongholds punched significantly above their new cases weight. And Democratic voter champ Miami-Dade all by itself, whose population represents 12.65 percent of Florida’s total, is home to more than 24 percent of those new Florida virus cases. And with the exception of one tiny black majority panhandle county, it’s also Florida’s most lopsidedly Democratic county. So its even greater “out-perform” is all the more noteworthy.
One possible counter-argument is that these five populous Democratic counties are also more densely peopled than state counties with much smaller populations, where the virus’ impact has been slighter. But that sounds like an excuse to me. If Democrats are less selfish and/or stupid and/or reckless than Republicans, and therefore more committed to mask-wearing and social distancing and the like, then they should be making much greater efforts to tone down their recreational or social lives to slow the spread, and save the lives of their fellow Floridians.
Obviously, not every resident of these counties, or every registered Democrat, is ignoring the need to fight the pandemic. But the prevalence of Democrats in these counties is just as obviously signaling that many are.
California’s a somewhat different story – and an even stronger challenge to the narrative. Unlike Florida, where the Democratic-Republican ratio overall is only 1.06:1, in California, it’s Democrats outnumber Republicans by a 1.90:1 margin. Not surprisingly, the Golden State is governed by a Democrat – Gavin Newsom – and its lockdowns came much earlier, and were much more pervasive, than Florida’s. So Californians were by no means receiving the kinds of mixed messages about responsible behavior from their statehouse than DeSantis has been accused of sending.
But many of the state’s residents evidently decided to ignore them – and pretty quickly. For example, as early as late April, so many Californians were crowding the state’s beaches in violation of social distancing protocols that Newsom decided to close them. A little over a month ago, after major increases in the state’s CCP Virus case numbers, deaths, and deaths followed Newsom’s cautious reopening program, Newsom charged that the problem wasn’t a too hasty lifting of economic restrictions, but Californians’ irresponsible behavior:
“Simply put, we are seeing too many people with faces uncovered — putting at risk the real progress we have made in fighting the disease. California’s strategy to restart the economy and get people back to work will only be successful if people act safely and follow health recommendations. That means wearing a face covering, washing your hands and practicing physical distancing.”
Much of this incautious beach-going is surely going on in Orange and San Diego Counties, where the Democratic-Republican split is smaller than in the state as a whole. So even though both counties combined boast nearly 1.3 million Democratic voters, maybe all of theirDemocrats were well-behaved.
But no such case can reasonably be made for Los Angeles County, the state’s most populous by far, and a jurisdiction where registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans by more than three-to-one – much higher than the state average. Here, the virus’ comeback has been strong enough that Los Angeles City Mayor Eric Garcetti is warning that he is “on the brink” of imposing another stay-at-home order. And for good measure, he laid much of the blame at the feet of the public:
“It’s not just what’s opened and closed. It’s also about what we do individually. It’s about the people who are getting together outside of their households with people they might know. It might be their extended family, it might be friends. They might think because they got a test two weeks ago that it’s OK, but it’s not… We have to be as vigilant right now as we were the first day…bring 100 percent of our strength the way we did the first or second month.”
Even before the debut of the the Trump face covering, Republican and conservative resistance to mask-wearing had been crumbling, and despite my continued uncertainty that the results will be game-changing it’s a trend I applaud. And I suspect it would be accelerated if America’s Democratic and liberal leaders admitted that their supporters have considerable work to do on this front, too.