Reviews | Will a Mask Debate Divide Blue States?

The line between zealous Covid precautions and an optional mask existence does not simply run between red and blue America, between regi...


The line between zealous Covid precautions and an optional mask existence does not simply run between red and blue America, between regions that voted for Joe Biden and those that voted for Donald Trump. Like Park MacDougald underline in a recent essay for online magazine UnHerd, if you’re a New York resident, you can experience two completely different realities just by traveling the short distance from uptown Brooklyn to where he lives in Queens – by moving from a world of ubiquitous N95s and careful vaccine card checking to a world where masking is perhaps a 50% proposition and, outside of hipster establishments, the rules for passing vaccines are “almost totally unenforced”.

This is also my experience of living in Connecticut. In New Haven neighborhoods adjacent to Yale, people seem more cautious about masking right now than at any other time during the pandemic, more likely to have swapped cloth for the surgical adjustment. But if you drive a little inland or go out to dinner at a seaside restaurant or just stroll through one of New Haven’s poorer neighborhoods, the masks diminish and sometimes disappear, and the world often almost looks like it did in January 2020.

Throughout the pandemic, there has been fear among conservatives and libertarians – as well as the tattered remnants of the libertarian civil left – that the measures adopted to combat Covid would become the basis of a surveillance regime. creeping biomedical, a system of health restrictions aimed first at anti-vaxxers but then easily generalizable to other forms of behavior deemed unhealthy or antisocial, with something like the Chinese social credit system as the ultimate destination.

In parts of Europe and Australia, the stringency of Covid restrictions and their digitized enforcement have given those fears some potency. In the US, however, since the initial lockdowns ended in the summer of 2020, what we’ve seen is something a little stranger.

We have a Covid surveillance regime, but it is not a general regime imposed by a select group of technocrats on the mass of Americans. Rather, it is a regime imposed by the elites themselves (and, of course, their service workers), in which the highly educated and highly vaccinated people are more likely to carry identity papers and rigorous self-policing while less-vaccinated populations in the outer reaches of New York or suburban New England (not to mention Arkansas or Alabama) are often left to fend for themselves. And going back and forth between these two worlds, a few minutes by metro or highway from each other, is to appreciate not the ever-increasing influence of Faucian technocracy but, for the moment, the less, the palpable limits of its power.

With one crucial exception, of course: public school systems, where statewide school mask mandates in states like New York and Connecticut have kept children masked in communities where otherwise the regime public health has little influence. Yet because children are one of the populations least at risk, this extension of power only accentuates the particularity of the whole dynamic: the only place where the professional class can impose its public health preferences is also where it probably makes the least difference. .

All this weirdness is not only interesting to observe; it is key to understanding the landscape of pandemic policy debate as Omicron recedes. In the coming months, one of the crucial divisions on Covid politics is likely to be within the Democratic coalition and not just between right and left. And the question of whether and when to relax school masking is likely to be a major flashpoint, with some voices (in this journal, at Atlantic, at NPR) already advocating for a relatively quick exit from politics while other forces (public health caution, bureaucratic inertia) work to support its extension at least until the summer. (And then if another disturbing variant arises, perhaps, in the fall and beyond…)

These conflicts have two important implications. First, they threaten an extension of the dynamic that has already created political problems for Democrats in states like Virginia and New Jersey: the alienation of inner-circle liberalism, with its advanced degrees and N95s, rotating precincts whose attitude towards the pandemic may be more like “vaccinated and done”.

Second, they threaten to reverse the scenario feared by conservatives: not the extension of the power of liberalism under the guise of public health, but an inward-looking elite institutions and communities, their retreat into a culture obsessed with security, more insular, virtually publicized and more unhappy than the society they aspire to lead.

A cynical Republican politician should probably support this scenario – a climate of abnormality in the strongholds of liberalism that persists even after Covid has become endemic, encouraging normal people to seek their leaders elsewhere.

But as a conservative citizen of liberal America, I sincerely hope my community makes a different choice.



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Newsrust - US Top News: Reviews | Will a Mask Debate Divide Blue States?
Reviews | Will a Mask Debate Divide Blue States?
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