I’ve rarely seen a party rushing to get on the wrong side of voters like Republicans are now. They’ve given up on listening to experts and rely instead on pundits. If they don’t believe the coronavirus is a hoax, they believe the response to it is overblown. They are more concerned about the property destruction following the protests than the underlying causes. In short, they are on the opposite side of voters on the most pressing issues of the day.
Republican leaders and pundits have spent far more time bashing Governor Roy Cooper’s response to the pandemic than offering solutions or educating their base. They want the state to open up and claim that Cooper has politicized virus. GOP gubernatorial nominee Dan Forest is suing Cooper for his executive orders keeping certain businesses closed. Conservative organizations like Civitas and John Locke routinely slam him for everything from not taking questions from conservative journalists to lack of transparency.
At the same time they’re criticizing Cooper, they are tolerating conspiracy theorists and disinformation. While their anti-Cooper tweets and columns abound, they do little to encourage wearing masks or correcting misinformation. One pundit told me that measures like social distancing and masks were not proven to reduce spread of the virus and directed me to a “non-partisan view of things.” The author of the medium piece was a former Amazon CFO who predicted that in April the number of cases would shrink dramatically and that we would have a total of 80,000 deaths over the next “year or two.” As I told him, I’ll take the epidemiologists who have been mostly right over the free-marketeers who have been mostly wrong.
They routinely downplay the risks despite a spike that former Trump FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb tells us will see the death toll rise to more than 1,000 per day again. They’re calling on Cooper to open up bars despite the Republican Governor Texas saying that opening bars too early contributed to the massive spike in cases in the state. They cheered Florida for opening up the whole state but are silent as the state sees record numbers of cases every day.
While conservatives and GOP leaders take a cavalier approach to the virus, the voters are not. Polls consistently show that voters are more concerned about spread of the virus than the economic impact. They support a cautious approach to re-opening the state and give Cooper high marks on handling the virus. Almost 75% of people believe masks should be required and almost two-thirds believe social distancing has helped reduce the spread. Almost 60% of people worry about getting the virus themselves and almost 70% a concerned about their loved ones.
On the protests and statues, the GOP and conservatives are on the wrong side, too. Pundits, columnists, and social media warriors decry the violence and destruction of the protesters regularly. They’re jumping on Trump’s law and order theme. The general public has a different view. By a 10 point margin, more North Carolinians support than oppose the protests. Sixty percent believe police violence is the result a broader pattern. By large margins, people believe that systemic racism is a problem that leads to African Americans facing discrimination in our criminal justice system.
On the most pressing issues of the day, Republicans are rushing to oppose healthy majorities of North Carolinians. I can only surmise that they believe as time goes on, voters will move their way. As people get tired of being isolated and the economic fallout hurts families, they reason, voters will turn to Republicans to get the economy going again. Excesses by the Black Lives Matter movement will drive people to demand order and protect more of the status quo. Maybe they’re right.
Republicans either believe the political environment will shift their way or they are living in conservative bubbles that ignore the changes taking place in our society and the fear people have of the virus. The gamble is probably a long shot, but the bubble is potentially crippling. Either way, the if the election were held today, Republicans would face a devastating defeat at the ballot box. They are openly and aggressively on the wrong side of almost every problem facing the voters.
Thomas Mills is the founder and publisher of PoliticsNC.com. Before beginning PoliticsNC, Thomas spent twenty years as a political and public affairs consultant. Learn more >