An important rule in politics is that you adopt the best policies and slogans of your opponent only after you have destroyed that opponent. Till that moment you pretend he is the devil, but afterwards you re-label his best ideas and call them your own. A great Australian example is how John Howard in 1995 ran on a ‘never ever GST’ platform, and then introduced it himself in 2000.
Are we now seeing the same happen in the US when it comes to covid? Are the Democrats adopting Trump’s attitude to the virus now that he is no longer around and temporarily muzzled in the media as well? It would be the best news on the covid-mania front in months. Where the US leads on this, many will follow. Consider the signs.
The biggest sign is from the biggest state, California, where its Democratic governor has just lifted all stay at home orders and is allowing restaurants to open, despite very low vaccination and high case numbers. The Democratic New York Governor has similarly stopped talking doom and gloom and is demanding re-opening despite rising active case numbers.
Montana’s governor has done away with nearly all Covid restrictions and has now joined Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and South Dakota that abandoned covid-mania months ago or even managed to avoid it almost entirely in the case of South Dakota.
In smaller steps, Massachusets’ governor Charles Baker, is opening up restaurants and businesses; Washington, D.C. is going to allow indoor dining; Maryland’s governor said schools will reopen no later than March 1; Michigan is going to allow indoor dining on February 1; Chicago’s mayor is announcing an immediate opening of restaurants and bars, and threatening teaching unions to resume teaching.
The mainstream media is also showing a dramatic shift in tone. The New York Times ran a long piece on the cost to children from lockdowns and school closures; National Radio claimed the peak of covid was over, and the Washington Post is starting to talk about T-cells and natural immunity as if they are important things people should discuss rather than fringe theories by holocaust covid-deniers.
One suspects all this is Joe Biden at his best: a consensus figure who worked out a long time ago that the lockdowns were a nonsense but had no political alternative than ride the line that Trump was an evil idiot and that he hence could not possibly be right about covid-mania. Now that Trump has been silenced, at least temporarily, Biden and the Democrats can take his most sensible ideas (as they have also done on such issues as defense spending in the EU, btw) and claim them as theirs. By signing high-profile but largely symbolic low-impact orders related to covid (on vaccine production and such, again copying Trumps’ playbook of commanding private companies) he can claim the ‘tough on covid’ mantra while on the substance doing the opposite.
Most tellingly perhaps, Biden said on Fox news (yes, formerly the media home of Trump) that “There’s nothing we can do to change the trajectory of the pandemic in the next several months.”
Note that ‘nothing we can do’ includes both vaccinations and lockdowns! Imagine if candidate Joe Biden had said the same words before the elections. How the covid-maniacs would have howled, but interestingly they are remarkably silent in the US now. As is normal in many wars, once one is clearly lost and found out to be entirely inappropriate in the first place, its generals quickly develop amnesia and find some new target to distract us with. The howling hangers-on find something else to howl about.
Let’s hope the signs are right and that we’re not looking at another false dawn as we’ve had last summer in this saga. If it is a new dawn deliberately brought to us by the new POTUS, then well played, Joe! And what a delicious irony for Trump. I was never a Trump fan but you’d almost feel sorry for the guy that his most sane insight should be the one related to his downfall and then usurped by his opponent. There is a Greek play in that.