Mask Mandates and Midterms
Mask mandate strike downs will shape the midterms.
Biden has struggled in approval ratings on issues as varied as crime, the border, and the economy. The response to COVID-19 was the one area where he maintained positive polling. As recently as March last year, 22% of adults strongly approved of his response, ten points clear of the 12% who strongly disapproved.
In Democrat circles, the response to COVID-19 had been something beleaguered Blue State governors and mayors have leaned on as a major source of support. The support for masks and vaccinations was seen as a strong contrast with the GOP. Now the mask mandate has been struck down, this seriously undermines this strategy. Within hours of the mandate being struck down, videos circulated online of passengers tearing off masks on planes. There were quite spontaneous explosions of relief, and one video showed a flight attendant fighting back her emotions as the announcement was made. This seems to suggest that the Democrats may be out of touch with independents on COVID-19, at least in terms of masks on planes.
The mask mandate is (or was) one of the last remaining visible reminders of the terrible COVID-19 pandemic. Unlike in other countries where support for masks was always strong, masks had become something of a wedge issue in American politics. To Democrats, support for masks and vaccines was a way of showcasing “pro-science” credentials and maintaining the narrative of being compassionate to at-risk people. To Republicans, masks and vaccines were seen as unacceptable infringements on personal liberty. It was seen as an issue that both political parties could use to rally their base.
Now the mask mandate is gone, the potential to do this is gone, but it will disproportionately undermine the Democrats, for whom COVID-19 was a major rallying point.
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