The Covid pandemic this year has profoundly transformed the relationship of government to American citizens. Constitutional leashes have been obliterated as state and local politicians and officials have issued endless decrees that were vastly more effective at destroying freedom than at curbing a virus. And the Biden administration may soon take further leaps towards making our political system into a Cage Keeper Democracy where citizens’ ballots merely designate who will place them under house arrest.
Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito aptly declared last month, “The pandemic has resulted in previously unimaginable restrictions on individual liberty.” But the sheer extent of this rollback has been missed by many activists who seem to have little or no concern about what has happened to average Americans. Pop singer Fiona Apple recently called for a mass release of jail inmates and urged people to sympathize with those behind bars: “Anybody out there could find 1 or 2 instances in their lives when they felt a little bit alone, afraid, disbelieved, forgotten about. Magnify that by an unimaginable amount. And ask why you’re not doing something.”
Stalin reputedly said that one death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic. The same is apparently true when politicians destroy millions of people’s freedom – it is a mere statistic that progressive minds dismiss.
Earlier this month, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti banned all unnecessary “travel, including, without limitation, travel on foot, bicycle, scooter, motorcycle, automobile, or public transit.” The mayor offered no evidence that people strolling on sidewalks or parks spurred a tsunami of Covid cases. Garcetti also “ordered all residents living in the city ‘to remain in their homes’ forcing businesses that require in-person attendance to shut down.” Perhaps as a contingency in case Trump does something especially ornery, Garcetti’s order exempted “participating in an in-person outdoor protest while wearing a face covering, maintaining social distancing, and observing the Los Angeles County Protocol for Public Demonstrations.” Intercept reporter Lee Fang noted that the order also contained an exemption for people who work in “‘music, film and television production’ and private golf courses that follow state guidelines can stay open.”
Politicians around the nation are issuing decrees that look like they were designed by angst-stricken focus groups. Governor Ralph Northam dictated last week that all Virginians must stay indoors from midnight until 5 a.m, with narrow exceptions for people traveling to work and for people suffering medical emergencies (nice public relations brushstroke on that one). If Northam has the right to ban people leaving their homes for 5 hours a day, then why would he not have a right to lock everyone up 24/7 until everyone gets a mandatory vaccine? Virginian Republican legislative leaders said Northam’s edict “smacks of martial law” and was “blatantly unconstitutional.” But there was no criticism of the edict from liberal mainstays such as the Washington Post. On the other hand, if Northam issued the midnight curfew to curb the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, he would have been vilified by progressives across the nation.
Covid restrictions are supposedly justified based on evidence of specific ways that the virus is transmitted. But the contact tracing in many parts of the nation has collapsed as the surge in cases has buried bureaucratic efforts to track down the source of infections.
But politicians are increasingly banning activities and businesses regardless of what the data reveals. District of Columbia contact tracing data attributes less than one percent of Covid cases to gyms and fitness activities but last week Mayor Muriel Bowser still banned high school sports and shut down indoor fitness classes.