Hypocrisy Over Lockdowns
At pickleball recently, I made the following point to a fellow player: every instance I can think of where a politician imposed or supported lockdowns yet violated the letter or spirit himself of herself is a Democrat. Art Carden talks about the hypocrites here. Notice the names: Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Washington mayor Muriel Bowser, Philadelphia mayor Jim Kenney, New York governor Andrew Cuomo, and California governor Gavin Newsom. All are Democrats. Art could have also mentioned Denver mayor Michael Hancock and U.S. Senator from California Dianne Feinstein.
My pickleball friend had a comeback. She said, “That’s because it’s Democrats imposing the lockdowns. Republican governors aren’t.”
I answered, “That’s not true. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts and Larry Hogan of Maryland have pretty extreme lockdowns and I haven’t heard or seen any evidence that they’ve been hypocritical.”
I made this point to a fellow libertarian the other day, a man who is generally nuanced. He answered, “I have no desire to defend Republicans.” Neither do I. I do want, though, to note and report evidence.
I think the hypocrisy about lockdowns is almost entirely one-sided: it’s Democrats.
This doesn’t mean that Republicans can’t be, and aren’t, hypocritical. Ted Cruz often talks about this father escaping from Cuba and there’s no doubt that he wants people to think it was good for his father to escape from Cuba. But Cruz has been horribly hypocritical recently in trying to prevent Chinese people from escaping from Hong Kong to come here.
So the hypocrisy is on both sides.
But on lockdowns, it’s not.
Dec 22 2020 at 6:16pm
Could be a public choice story. Both Baker and Hogan are Republican governors in very Democrat states. Being hypocritical would cost them their jobs.
Conversely, the list Art has are Democrats in very Democrat areas. They are unlikely to pay a price for their hypocrisy.
Dec 22 2020 at 6:24pm
Dec 23 2020 at 10:11am
Governor Hogan is term-limited and cannot run for reelection.
Dec 23 2020 at 10:44am
True, but that doesn’t mean his ambitions are over
Dec 22 2020 at 7:01pm
I take it we are ignoring the orange elepphant in the room? Strictly speaking the federal government provided guidance not lockdown orders, but it certainly wasn’t followed by the head of the government that issued it.
Dec 22 2020 at 7:49pm
Good question. I don’t think I’m ignoring him.
I thought Trump didn’t typically wear a mask, didn’t recommend masks, and even ridiculed people who wore them. But I might be remembering wrong.
Dec 22 2020 at 8:47pm
His personal statements (and even his mask wearing) have been inconsistent. But he sits atop a federal government that has issued a lot of guidance that he has been quick to undercut or criticize. Not the same as governors disobeying their own orders, I’ll grant.
Dec 23 2020 at 7:32am
[But he sits atop a federal government that has issued a lot of guidance that he has been quick to undercut or criticize.]
So? Many of the “federal government” guidance is initiated by career bureaucrats and deserving of criticism.
As to “undercut,” feel free to precisely describe the rather emotive term.
Dec 23 2020 at 9:32am
‘So? Many of the “federal government” guidance is initiated by career bureaucrats and deserving of criticism.’
A million times this. Heck, Fauci came out of the gates lying about mask wearing.
We still may find out that masks protect against droplets but are mostly counterproductive as they a) provide an excuse for pigs who continue to go out in public sick and b) help spread aerosols after trapping contaminated droplets and c) creating a false sense of safety among the vulnerable and vulnerable-adjacent.
The “experts” have been less correct about his entire fiasco than the plebes, I’d posit. The exception being the development of a vaccine, assuming it works well in the elderly.
Dec 22 2020 at 7:59pm
The predominance of Democrats ordering lockdowns still seems to the differentiator. There are category and identification issues: a Republican who decries lockdowns might sequester themselves and their loved ones without being hypocritical with respect to government powers, and their personal activities become less visible by definition. Limiting the scope of hypocrisy to this issue narrows prospects down to Republicans who order lockdowns, while flouting the rules, a minority of a minority.
Are Republicans who cite freedom and personal responsibility consistent in their application? That’s where you will find more examples of hypocrisy.
Dec 22 2020 at 8:01pm
Exactly. The example of Ted Cruz, which I gave above, being particularly egregious.
Dec 23 2020 at 1:06pm
In fairness to Senator Cruz, he is not against refugees from Hong Kong per se; he is worried about the CCP sneaking in a bunch of 5th column spies.
Granted, those cows left the barn a long time ago. But still…
Dec 23 2020 at 1:41pm
True, but there are straightforward solutions far short of a ban on refugees.
Dec 22 2020 at 9:36pm
There are definitely some Republican examples!
Larry Hogan: https://www.baltimoresun.com/politics/bs-md-pol-hogan-thanksgiving-dinner-2020-covid-grandchildren-20201112-zisb57fmiffrrphmt22cying6y-story.html
Not for Thanksgiving, possibly because he’d already been caught flouting guidelines:
(not as bad as the examples listed because Thanksgiving and holiday travel seem more salient, but still on the hypocrisy spectrum)
Baker looks clean from a quick google perusal, but there are definitely others. E.g., all the folks at the Barrett super-spreader. Yes, most of them are inoculated from hypocrisy by not ever urging (or mandating) any sort of social distancing, but at least a few (president of Notre Dame, Tom Tillis (https://apnews.com/article/election-2020-virus-outbreak-donald-trump-senate-elections-amy-coney-barrett-7d007f1c0fe307f48988fac345cf3e1f)), and Chris Christie) were enough on the record for masks and/or distancing that they felt obligated to apologize after getting caught violating the guidelines.
Also, I’d second Michael. It seems a little odd to excuse the entire executive branch when they’re issuing guidelines and recommendations that many of them are flaunting. Trump, sure, because he’s not very hypocritical about this particular thing. But how about Pence and the rest? He at least pretended to take covid seriously for a while, but it doesn’t really make the news anymore when he flouts the guidelines because the hypocrisy is baked in by now. But it’s still hypocritical.
It’s almost sort of funny that Birx is getting raked over the coals for her own Thanksgiving hypocrisy while the rest of the administration does what they want with very little attention. But I think that sort of illustrates the point. She’s in a non-partisan role and the media has some respect for her so it’s a story when she does the wrong thing. The White House Christmas parties are way more irresponsible, but… shrug? It’s being covered some (https://ktla.com/news/nationworld/trumps-spiritual-adviser-tests-positive-for-coronavirus-within-days-of-attending-white-house-christmas-party/) but it’s just not really surprising anymore. (not that Democratic hypocrites are either! I agree with you that hypocrisy is quite universal!)
Dec 23 2020 at 12:41am
If it turned out that a libertarian had been hiding in his bed all day and just pretending to be getting on with his life, writing about all the times he’d left the house and played pickleball, then he’d be a hypocrite. But if this guy secretly agrees with the authoritarians, why pretend to be one of the libertarians and put up with so much abuse from the authoritarians?
Imagine a graph with four quadrants. In one square are the authoritarians who enjoy whatever pleasure they get from bullying people while also continuing to enjoy a big Thanksgiving get-together like normal, plus being able to do all the necessary preparations for selling some real estate and everything else they want to do in violation of their pronouncements.
The opposite quadrant is empty except for our hypothetical libertarian, going crazy under house arrest and all the while just absorbing the insults from people who aren’t aware that he is, secretly, just as authoritarian in private as they are in public. Why would he do that to himself? Why make himself a target to all the hypocrites paying lip service to what he fervently believes?
Dec 23 2020 at 7:40am
[If it turned out that a libertarian had been hiding in his bed all day and just pretending to be getting on with his life…]
Firstly, there is nothing that stops a libertarian from deciding for themself that they think lockdown (or “hiding in bed”) is their choice. That is precisely something a libertarian advances: maximising individual free choice.
Secondly, if such a libertarian were “pretending” then sure it would fairly be viewed as hypocrisy. But you have already presupposed such “pretending” with your premise.
Dec 23 2020 at 9:10pm
I’m trying to make sense of the concept of a person who could become the mirror image of all the authoritarian hypocrites, someone who would say publicly that people should engage in human interaction and be a human in the world with plans and a life beyond that of a battery hen, caged up with her wings clipped.
It’s really easy for the authoritarian to fall into hypocrisy, and fall short of the inhuman hermit ideal, completely cut off from the world. If your hero is the Julianne Moore character in Safe, then inevitably you will fall short. You will make concessions to reality. But if the standard you hold up is a fully human existence, then what would hypocrisy look like in your case?
Dec 23 2020 at 4:26am
First,. I figure it’s roughly the same reason it’s always Republicans who (even back in the day when some Dems talked about traditional sexual morality and hetero-marriage). If you were a democrat inclined to go have homosexual hookups you could just not push traditional sexual morality with minimal electoral consequences so you didn’t.
In this case it’s the democratic governers and mayor’s who have strong political incentives to impose harsh lockdowns. If you’re a republican executive you’ll probably only ban activities to the extent you feel strongly that they are really risky and people shouldn’t be doing them while democratic executives will likely find themselves banning activities that (on an emotional level) they have mixed feelings about. Unsurprisingly, people are a lot less inclined to violate rules they feel strongly about.
Second, if it was totally random we’d expect hypocrisy to be proportional to both number of states with lockdowns and the extent of the lockdown (more rules to break and you lack partial substitutes that are allowed). Looking at this graph from NYT all the states that are mostly closed seem to be democratic. And even not taking into account degree of restriction these observations seem quite plausibly within pure random variation.
Dec 23 2020 at 4:27am
It should have read it’s always Republicans caught hypocritically having a homosexual hookup.
Dec 23 2020 at 7:21am
I think the hypocritical Democratic government officials are behaving much like their own voters. Both the officials and their voters want the lockdowns to restrain other people who, they imagine, are careless and stupid (I mean — some of those other people are red-necks and Republicans after all). For themselves? They’ll do what they can get away with because they imagine they are still being careful in their moderate and judicious violations of the rules. I’m reminded of a classic Onion headline that read something like “Majority of Americans Favor Mass Transit for Other People”. Cross out ‘Mass Transit’ and insert ‘Lockdowns’ and there you go.
Dec 23 2020 at 8:08am
Your suggestion here is at least somewhat supported by Scott Alexander describing his interactions with people in San Francisco:
Dec 23 2020 at 11:33am
Same here. I live in Ann Arbor, and — not surprisingly — have various friends who are big supporters of Whitmer and her lockdown orders. But they flout the rule against having people from more than two households together inside and the requirement to wear masks whenever they’re indoors with anybody at all from another household. And some of them are planning to see their parents over Christmas. Nor are they particularly sheepish about any of this it. They think they’re being careful enough but that the lockdown orders are needed for others.
Dec 23 2020 at 8:53pm
“Other people” is magic, isn’t it?
To me it wouldn’t make sense to believe, simultaneously, that the mayor is fully justified in banning haircuts and also that the mayor is fully justified in getting her hair cut.
But if you identify with the mayor or you think of her as your TV friend then you can square the circle and imagine she’s not one of those “other people” to whom her rules apply.
Dec 23 2020 at 8:05am
Is it hypocrisy to criticize behavior the violation of a rule that one thinks is sub optimal, especially if the critic has not indicated whether the behavior would have been a violation of the optimal rule?
Dec 23 2020 at 8:16am
Nothing more than some personal grumbling in this comment, but for me, the Pelosi incident was by far the most irritating. She claimed when she went to the salon to get her hair done, she didn’t know that she was acting in violation of the ordinance.
Now, when peasants like you or me break a rule we didn’t know we were breaking, we are told that “ignorance of the law is no excuse.” However, that excuse does seem to work when it’s applied by actual lawmakers and law enforcement officers. The people whose literal jobs are to make and enforce the law are allowed to excuse themselves by claiming they didn’t know what the law required. But ordinary citizens get no such grace.
Dec 23 2020 at 8:56am
As a Massachusetts resident, I would argue that the state lockdown was not as extreme as others, and Baker has been much slower to reimpose than others. I will note that new restrictions go into place on Saturday, but the curve already seems to be flattening. It may wind up being a very short time at this level.
Dec 23 2020 at 10:14am
David – I totally agree with you on the hypocrisy angle. What I would really like to know is how you would address the current situation in California as ICU beds in hospitals reach capacity.
Dec 23 2020 at 11:16am
I’ve actually written about this a few times. The standard answer economists and operations researchers give to this problem is to build more of the bottleneck resource. That could mean temporary visas to nurses and doctors from the Philippines and China, for example.
Dec 23 2020 at 4:20pm
Dec 23 2020 at 4:31pm
I would prefer permanent. I’m suggesting something to deal with the current bottleneck though.
Dec 24 2020 at 10:53am
All ICUs are required by law to be able to expand to a minimum of 125% capacity, but most are built to stretch to double capacity. If the ICU get stretched beyond that point they ship patients to other hospitals that aren’t nearing capacity. Very few people know this because, unlike everything COVID, it’s not reported in the news 24/7, but ICU capacity is stretched every year by Influenza. So, the real question is if ICUs are being stretched more than in prior years. Extremely unlikely. How do we know this? In the early days of the epidemic, the military was deployed to soak up extra patients. There weren’t any. Not in NYC, not in Seattle, nowhere. The military is not currently being deployed. The hospital ships remain in their home ports and can at any moment be deployed to handle an overflow of patients.
The whole idea of lockdowns was not to prevent spread entirely (we’re long past that and were when we first became aware of COVID), but to prevent overwhelming the hospitals by becoming infected all at once. The curve was flattened and they’ve had 9 months to increase medical capacity. Have they? No, they have not. I’ve spoken to hospital administrators across the country and not a single step has been taken to expand capacity for the coming waves of COVID.
There’s no need to import medical staff. We have plenty. Most hospitals aren’t busy at all and medical staff can be enticed to move temporarily to where the need is greatest. There’s no such program in place. In the 9 months since this nonsense started no changes have been made to ensure additional capacity and a mobile medical workforce. There doesn’t seem to be any need for it and ICUs are coping just fine. It’s like a busy flu season. All of these news stories are designed to terrify everyone into obedience to house arrest.
Dec 24 2020 at 6:41pm
Wow! Thanks for that input. I hadn’t known about the 125% rule. I wouldn’t be surprised if Newsom doesn’t know about it either. He doesn’t seem like the brightest bulb.
Ideology Eats Everything
Dec 23 2020 at 11:07am
I’m disappointed by your omission from the list the people of principle, anti-lockdown leaders following their principles and thereby avoiding that mirrored hypocrisy.
Perhaps you did not because every cause has it’s martyrs. Two people gave their lives for these values, for not choosing the route of hypocrisy: David Hinch, the incoming Speaker of the House in New Hampshire and Herman Cain. In lambasting hypocrisy, it would seem worthwhile to note these people who put their lives where you put your pen.
Dec 24 2020 at 6:42pm
I didn’t note these people because they aren’t relevant to my argument. I was discussing hypocrisy over lockdowns, not non-hypocrisy over lockdowns.
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