You know who we don’t hear much from anymore? ReOpenNC. You know why? Because they were wrong, wrong, wrong. Had we re-opened like they demanded, we would look like the states they cited as examples, Florida, Texas, Georgia and South Carolina.
Now, after snubbing North Carolina for the Republican National Convention because Governor Roy Cooper demanded a plan to keep people safe, Donald Trump has cancelled the RNC in Jacksonville because of the rapid spread of the coronavirus. Florida is ground zero for cases and hospitalizations increasing. The stories out of Texas sound eerily like the ones out of New York back in the spring with bodies stored in refrigerator trucks and mortuaries running out of body bags. Had North Carolina had a Republican governor, that could have been us. Fortunately, we have Cooper.
Conservatives were telling us back in May and June that Cooper was opening too slowly. The virus was mainly killing people with serious “comorbidities,” as they were fond of saying. We should be taking a surgical approach of protecting the vulnerable while letting the rest of us go about our business as usual. They sat silently while their right-wing base declared mask mandates an unconstitutional violation of their rights. Like so much else, they were wrong about almost everything.
In Florida, Gov. Ron DiSantis did what they wanted. He locked down the nursing homes that had caused so many problems in New York. He shunned mask mandates and he opened the state for business. Public health officials criticized his approach, warning that it would lead to spikes in cases. By late May, DiSantis was demanding an apology since their predictions had not come true—yet. A month later, the folly of his approach was clear. While he cases and hospitalizations seemed delayed, they came nonetheless. Today, they are spiking and Florida is a hot spot for COVID-19.
Now, those same conservatives who have been wrong about almost everything related to COVID are demanding we allow our children go to school in-person and full-time. Roy Cooper offered a hybrid approach that would allow for schools to have some in-person instruction and some remote instruction. In Israel, schools reopened in May and likely led to a massive spike that the country is now trying to get under control. If we follow conservatives’ lead on schools, expect to sacrifice the lives of a lot more people, including children.
Conservatives are ill-suited to lead in a crisis like a pandemic. The instincts that drive them are wrong for the situation. The market is a terrible vehicle to determine who should succeed and who should fail when the nature of the pandemic reduces the ability to collaborate and create. Stifling the virus takes collective action, not individual responsibility. We saw what happened when conservative individualists declared that wearing masks violated their rights. They insisted on putting the rest of us at risk, while conservative leaders who should have known better stayed silent. Their aversion to government intervention ignores what has worked in countries that have contained the virus better than us.
Roy Cooper is the right leader for this moment.