The GOP didn’t suddenly discover her spine
Republicans in Congress have collapsed like a deck of cards in the face of the pandemic and are still behind the ball.
“The political elite has changed their minds” is about as self-evident a truth as single men with large fortunes seeking women. Every year spring returns to melt the snow; every time it comes up to protect big business, Senator Mitch McConnell signs it; and every election season, opinions that were anathema a month ago spring from the most unlikely lips.
As TAC Editor-in-Chief Micah Meadowcroft pointed out, we should be wary of Democrats who suddenly start sounding centrist. We should also be wary of those to the right of center who appear to have finally found their quills – particularly on Covid-19 policy issues. After nearly two years of being bullied by its constituents at home, the big ole party has now turned the script on Covid politics only because its Democratic betters have decided that ‘endemic’ is suddenly cool and fun. (Remember that the Church of Science appoints only bright priests, but that doesn’t stop Republicans from trying to get in.)
A bit like the Baptist Church, the Republican Party’s problem is not its failure to step in lockstep on Covid policy, but that its step is always a good 100 feet behind, trying to catch up. Take the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for example. It took most level-headed people about a month after March 2020 to realize that CDC guidelines are more often based on politics than science: masks don’t work, now they do, now you’re a criminal if you put yours under your nose draw .
By the time The American Conservative reporting Israel’s September 2021 discovery of natural immunity, which showed that prior infection provided better protection against the virus than vaccination, it was not uncommon for those looking for serious studies to look beyond the CDC. Still, it took most Republicans in Congress until this week to say that natural immunity offers better protection than vaccines — but only because the CDC said so. (Florida’s Ron DeSantis and a handful of state houses, meanwhile, moved on months ago.)
At least Rand Paul really was confirmed in his claim that cloth masks don’t offer much protection against the virus, which he made before the CDC admitted this was true. Most other senators were not as brave as the gentleman from Kentucky.
Who can forget the lab leak theory? The corporate media’s favorite smear of berating Republicans before evidence of a genetically engineered virus first discovered at the Wuhan Institute of Virology became inescapable was a favorite for good reason. After a handful of Republicans, including Senator Tom Cotton, advanced the “fringe theory” that we should investigate whether the virus could be a bioweapon from China, Cotton was quick to rebuff it in the face of media criticism. The theory remained anathema to all good Republican congressmen until Dr. Anthony Fauci admitted 15 months later that the idea may have received some credence. Speak the truth to those in power (except when they abuse you).
With vaccine mandates in particular, the GOP was too late in raising the warning flag that should have been raised in the first place due to the speed and harmfulness of the 2020 lockdowns. As recently as July 2021, senior members of Congress were urging their constituents to get vaccinated, hoping that appeasement would be a winning strategy to avoid the mandates conservatives had been prophesying for months. Days later, Mayor Bill de Blasio issued a vaccination mandate for New York City, and statewide staff mandates and the military mandate followed in quick succession. Rather than forestall the issue, the grand ole party once again opted for a laissez faire Strategy, content, to complain about “tyranny” after the fact, rather than trying to prevent it beforehand.
So, before your inbox gets flooded with fundraising emails from the Republican National Convention and Republican congressional leadership, full of capital letters, asking you to help bring them back to power and win back the majority in November, think Remember this whole Covid madness started with a Republican majority in the Senate and a Republican President. Remember, lockdowns and masks have been all but universally praised by politicians in Washington, even after their constituents at home began shaking the cage. Keep in mind that whatever Kevin McCarthy tweets about Congress being a one-party system, these people were still elected and may still be challenged in primaries by candidates who might better serve the American people.
Yes, Republicans should want to win back the House of Representatives in November, and no, politicians will never be perfect. But there comes a point, especially after the last two years, when we need to draw a clear line between talk and action. The pandemic has raised important issues that have been largely ignored by those in power — issues of the tension between public health and public trust, or the appropriate role of our drug companies and federal health agencies — for which we men need good judgment.
How many of our Republicans lacked such judgment, especially when it came to putting the entire nation on lockdown overnight or imposing harmful and discriminatory vaccination regulations? If they can be blown away by any strong wind, they are little better than the Democratic majority, which they spend half the day complaining about, no matter what letter their name is.