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How the organized Left got Covid wrong, learned to love lockdowns and lost its mind: an autopsy

It is hard to destroy your own cause and feel righteous while doing so, yet the American left has done it. After more than two centuries at the vanguard of the struggle for freedom, the American left, broadly defined, executed a volte face and embraced anti-working-class policies marketed as purely technical public health measures.
 
by Christian Parenti
 
Part 12 - California, Virginia, and the political course correction
 
Indeed, as political medicine the Covid crisis worked: Trump’s mismanagement of the pandemic helped get him out of office. But then the Democrats and liberal journalists got stuck in an ever more hysterical overreaction to Covid.  There seemed to be no off switch. Even when overly aggressive lockdowns in California triggered a recall election, Governor Gavin Newsom’s victory caused the politicians, pundits, and consultants to double down on Covid hysteria. Asked what his win meant for Democrats nationally, Newsom said, “We need to stiffen our spines and lean in to keeping people safe and healthy. That we shouldn’t be timid in trying to protect people’s lives and mitigate the spread and transmission of this disease. That it’s the right thing to do, but it’s also a motivating factor in this election.” 

Then came the November 2021 debacle of the Virginia governor’s race, where a heavily-funded corporate Democrat was defeated by a Republican in a blue-trending state. The same almost happened in solid blue New Jersey. Mainstream press tended to describe the 20-point swing to Republicans in Virginia as the result of racist whites afraid of critical race theory in the schools. Indeed, education was a top issue, but the Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin’s closing argument, an opinion essay for Fox News, revealed one of the most salient education issues: “Virginia’s excessive and extended school closures ravaged student advancement and well-being.” 

Across the country, the autumn of 2021 saw a rising, right-wing supported, grassroots movement against school boards; 215 school board members across the country faced recall elections – 400 percent more than in a typical year. In many, if not most, of these recall races Covid restrictions were the main issue.

By New Year’s 2022 it seemed that the Biden administration had realized the political danger of the left-liberal Covid fixation. Rochelle Walensky of the CDC suggested cutting quarantine times in half and publicly noted that deaths and hospitalizations were low relative to the increase in case numbers. Biden also told the world that there was “no federal solution” to the Covid crisis. But some key teachers’ union locals were still pushing for school closures.

During his State of the Union address Biden signaled it was time to unmask. Yet repressive mandates that were responsible for firing of tens of thousands of people – almost 3,000 public workers in New York City alone – remain in place as does left support for these repressive measures. Covid will never end, the disease is endemic and the repressive reaction to it can be turned on again when needed. But the left needs to abandon its embrace of repression in the name of Covid.

The public health response to Covid and the left’s inability to offer a critique of it have been catastrophic. Left refusal to acknowledge the legitimacy of the populist critique of mandates, passports, lockdowns, and censorship is alienating large swathes of the working class. Vaccination rates are not the same as approval rates for mandates. Many people get the shots only because their jobs and thus physical wellbeing are threatened. 

The Lockdown Left, being mostly members of the Professional Managerial Class generally has no idea about such things. Its members enjoyed the lockdown – telecommuting from their second homes, spending more time with the kids, getting into homemade meals. One friend praised lockdown’s new “life-work balance” and described convivial socially-distanced outdoor cocktail hours with neighbors on their sundrenched side street in Berkeley. Lost in its own foggy war against the deplorables, Lockdown Leftists are confused. They think that because they trust Fauci, most everyone else does too.  

Many working-class people have taken vaccines under duress, carry their vaccine papers because they must, and deeply resent the lockdowns, mandates, and high-handed directives from unaccountable bureaucrats like Fauci. Many people feel that their society is being destroyed. One working-class former student at my university, described being forced to take the vaccine (thanks to the union’s bullying) as feeling akin to rape. And many people in similar situations see the Democrats and The Left as responsible.

Where I live in rural New England, I know many level headed people who voted for Bernie Sanders but are now so outraged by the Covid lockdowns that they are prepared to vote Republican just to send a message. This sort of trend is not studied by pollsters but it will contribute to massive defeats at the midterm election of 2022. Signs of the coming wipeout are seen in the many Democrat politicians who are resigning rather than face re-election struggles. Even previously safe seats are being given up.

The presidential election in 2024 also looks ominous for the Democrats.  There is a real risk that reaction to Covid hysteria will help usher in a long period of ironclad minority rule by the GOP.  It is now not entirely impossible that the GOP achieves trifectas in two-thirds of the states and passes constitutional amendments to abolish the income tax; privatize Social Security, the Post Office, and public schools; gut environmental regulations; make it almost illegal to organize a union, and so on. If this comes to pass, all the social democratic left’s desideratum – protecting the environment, reducing inequality, empowering workers, ending prejudice, and increasing access to healthcare and education – will drift even further from our reach. And Covid repression, overreach, and fanaticism will be partly to blame.

Just as disturbing is the fact that populations around the globe have been conditioned to accept new and unprecedented levels of repression if it comes wrapped in bio-medical justifications. From now on, political elites and pharmaceutical profiteers will be eager to re-engage rule by pandemic.

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