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Reviews |  When politics is not a question of principle

Something like this divide existed early on, with conservatives like Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas worried about the epidemic while liberals denounced the potential racism of a “Wuhan virus” panic. But by the end of spring 2020, the whole dynamic reversed: the liberals backed tough government interventions to fight the virus, the right was full of fierce libertarians, and so it stayed most of the time.

You can blame Donald Trump’s early recklessness for establishing this pattern, or the way Covid hit blue metropolises hardest while taking much longer to take root in rural areas. But it’s also useful to do a group / non-group analysis, which suggests that conservatives were more willing to support the limitations on freedom that weighed on foreigners and international travelers – for them, external groups – but balked at restrictions that seemed to fall. most often on their own groups, from owners of closed businesses to pastors of closed churches to parents of young children deprived of school.

For many Liberals, it was the opposite. At first, the idea of ​​a travel ban or quarantine rule seemed overbearing and fanatic as it seemed likely to punish their own constituencies, especially immigrant communities in large cities. But the restrictions that were imposed from March were developed within one of liberalism’s most intimate groups – the expert class, the public health bureaucracy – and adapted in different ways to the needs of others. liberal constituencies: The professional class could adapt to jobs, teachers’ unions could for the most part keep their paychecks without risking their health, and the young anti-racist activists of the spring and summer of 2020 were conveniently seen as exempt from rules that prohibited other types of gatherings.

This same pattern appears in the debate over vaccine mandates. The mainstream right clearly found it easier to be uncomplicated pro-vaccine when anti-vax sentiment was coded as something for crunchy ‘left-side’ parents, as opposed to skeptical conservatives at the due to public health bureaucracy and sharing of ivermectin Facebook posts.

On the other hand, the American Civil Liberties Union, or at least its Twitter account, has ruled that the vaccine mandates “actually more civil liberties” rather than emulating them. It seems somewhat difficult to reconcile with many of its pass government overbreadth fears in the event of a pandemic – until you consider that those fears likely implied a right-wing government acting punitive against immigrants and racial minorities, while now the imaginary target of the mandate of the Biden administration is white, rural and Republican.

The point of noting this dynamic is not simply to condemn everyone involved for hypocrisy. First, many small-scale democratic policies are inevitably only negotiation between different groups on the basis of their immediate interests rather than high principles, and this should not unduly alarm us that the principle often bends to accommodate the defense of his own camp.

Second, there can be a terrible and icy consistency among the people who not change their point of view at all when internal and external groups seem to change. Some of the most consistent people in politics right now, for example, are former Bush Republicans and 9/11 era hawks who talk about Trump supporters who think the election was stolen like they talked about terrorists. foreigners and the national left. In one sense, their principle is admirable, but in another sense, they seem to have learned nothing from the excesses of their own past alarmism, from their mistakes in the war on terror.